One of the reasons many students drop out of school in India is because they have to earn a living. And completing school will not get them a better job. This may change soon, if the Union ministry for human resource development can implement its ambitious plans for integrating vocational education into the school syllabus. The National Vocational Education Qualification Network (NVEQF) aims to make every school passout employable.
The NVEQF will award students seven levels of certification starting with level 1 after Class IX. Best of all, students will have the option of taking up a job after Class XII and later returning to complete their certifications. Those who earn the level 7 certification, equivalent to graduation, will be able to join polytechnics for further education.
Vocational education has always existed — through ITIs and other such institutions. But the NVEQF is an attempt to give it coherence in terms of approach, areas, accreditation, certification etc. That apart, for a large number of children who do not wish to pursue standard higher education after Class XII, productive work-based education (as formulated in the National Curricular Framework 2005) would be extremely useful, says Vinod Raina, member of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). It is estimated that NVEQF will not only empower about 20 crore students, including dropouts, but also help secure career opportunities for about 15 crore who may not even have access to higher education by 2020.
We are introducing vocational subjects as mainstream subjects in CBSE schools first. We havent got any feelers from ICSE, but if they want they can also be a part of NVEQF, says S.S. Mantha, chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Meanwhile, a pilot programme under the NVEQF is going on in Haryana and West Bengal.
To decide what will be taught in the vocational courses, the National Skills Development Council (NSDC) has set up Sector Skill Councils (SSC) for each industry. The SSC has representatives from each section of that industry. Take the automobile SSC; it has representatives of blue chip companies like Tata Motors and Maruti Suzuki, auto component manufacturers, auto repairing centres and even garages. This group of people sits together and comes up with the list of job profiles in the industry and skills required for them. That becomes the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for that sector and governs what is taught in the vocational courses for that industry. SSCs for four sectors — IT, security, retail and automobiles — have been formed till date and these are the vocational courses that will be introduced in the pilot projects. NVQEF aims to bridge skill gaps and provide trained manpower to emerging service sectors in India.
Industry through its SSCs is now being integrated with educational institutions at various levels through the NVEQF. This will drive employer-driven, competency-based training in these institutions, and make students learn just those skills that industry is looking for. It is expected that this will enhance the employability of those emerging out of the education system, says Basab Banerjee, head — standards & QA, NSDC.
Indian parents prefer their wards to graduate rather than do a vocational course. So while we have a lot of educated youngsters, they are not all employable as there is a skills gap. With NVEQF, a student can get various levels of certification in vocational courses even as he or she pursues school and college education, says HRD minister Kapil Sibal.
Besides being armed with a vocational degree, students will also be taught communication and other soft skills that make them easily employable. The courses that will be offered under NQEVF include agriculture, BPO / ITeS, construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, chemical industry, banking, finance, electronics, travel tourism, retail, sales and marketing, telecommunications, security and facilities management and motor vehicle engineering.
Experts feel that if vocational education goes mainstream, more than jobs, it will create independent or collective entrepreneurs. The implementation of NVEQF could greatly help boost rural economies, if market management is included along with skills education in its ambit, says Raina.
The question is: will the NVEQF be implemented in a way to realise its ambitions?