India lagging behind: skills mismatch and the future of work
Debates on rising unemployment, skills deficit and ever-widening mismatch between what industry wants and the available low skilled workforce have raised several questions on our education system.
Such discussions and debates are becoming increasingly relevant in India as the number of unskilled, unemployed youth waiting to enter the world of work count in millions.
Insights and trends captured from research through various surveys and reports reveal some very disturbing facts.
At 23.7%, the youth unemployment rate in India for 2018 is a shocking revelation for an economy boasting of a favorable demographic dividend. The 8.5% of the overall unemployment rate (NSSO RESULTS 2018) further paints a poor picture of an economy where 12million youth will enter the labour market for the next two decades.
Data on skill and training as per the National Skill Development Report for 2018 show that hardly 4.69% of the workforce is skilled or has received training.
Besides the Labour Force Participation in India is very low at 49.8% (PLFS, 2018) which means almost half of our population remains out of jobs not contributing anything to the economy.
The above statistics are a wakeup call that our education system needs to change. What was introduced by the colonials to serve the purpose of administration continues till date as ‘education’, ironically nothing much has changed.
No doubt, since independence we established professional institutes in areas of science, management and continue to in the field of technology. From IITs and IIMs to the IISER several students excel academically passing out with 90+ percentages. These institutes have gained international fame too.
So where is the problem? What really plagues our system? Our schools/colleges help us acquire basic communication and numerical skills that befit only clerical jobs. The deep-rooted ‘rote learning’ helps our students only score marks but not ‘observe’, ‘think’ and ‘learn’.
Where Is The Root Of All The Maladies?
Our schools and colleges exist in a state of inertia. The teachers loudly engage in armchair criticism but pose resistance to any changes in subject, syllabus or teaching methods. The reason? They too have to learn and keep pace with changing needs of education. We need industrialists, entrepreneurs, and activists in teaching positions, not salaried people trying to hold on to jobs for the sake of income.
Learning by rote, kills creativity, ability to think and the scope for self-education. Academic institutions are not keeping pace with industrial needs.
The brilliant students, several of them leave India for studies and woe never to come back. Yes, brain drain is an old story yet ghosting us till date.
There is a dire need to fix our education system. So, let us revisit the inbred reasons, which have become roadblocks in the way of our education system. Searching for sustainable solutions we suggest some steps:
Memorizing is no learning
The biggest flaw in our education system is perhaps that it incentivizes memorizing above originality. Over-emphasis on ‘theory’ and the absence of ‘learning by doing’ does not add to knowledge.
Our system of education needs to shed the colonial pattern of creating clerks and impart knowledge with greater emphasis on practical sessions. A hand on experience is the only way to create entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, scientists, and thinkers. The only way to establish a knowledge-based society.
The Missing Link: Skilled Based Education
With just 4.69% of the workforce as formally skilled (Ministry of Skill Development And Entrepreneurship), Vocational education and skill-based programs are the need of the hour. These views are echoed by Stephen Sudhakar J, Senior Vice-President at Hyundai India who says :
“lack of understanding of business domains and the skill mismatch are due to educational institutes not keeping pace with changing business models thus rendering their curriculum and practices irrelevant.”
Educational qualifications are essential for entering the labor market, but it is the skills that will finally determine one’s employability quotient.
The Path to Tread on: Embracing Technologies and Infrastructure
Raising a skilled workforce of 500 million, as estimated by National Skill Policy 2009, demands to amalgamate technology with education. Digital technologies are redefining the mechanisms of delivering knowledge globally.
An article published in the Business Line on the dismal state of the Indian education system and growing joblessness quotes the Nasscom President R Chandrasheksr, who expressed:
“There is a perennial problem about the quality of (engineering) students. The levels of automation have increased and there is dire need for leading–edge skills like cloud analytics, robotics, process automation, and so on which the engineering graduates do not have.
Let’s adopt low-cost gadgets like tabs, smartphones, and computers at schools and colleges. Gear up broadband facilities to facilitate the internet and take the wealth of knowledge to the masses, rural areas and the most deprived.
Deliver personalized Educational Programmes
Mass education may have its merits. Not all are made for professional courses. Separating the bane from the banal, institutions should focus on innovation and impart knowledge linked to jobs. Courses based exclusively on banking, insurance, accounting methods, logistics, mass media, etc., are just a few of the worth mentioning fields of specialization to enrich and directly target efficiency and productivity of even clerical jobs.
Should We Allow Private Capital In Education?
Why not? Education for philanthropy is ennobling. But in times of globalization and private investments, allowing profit-making will encourage educationists, scholars and genuine entrepreneurs to enter the educational sector.
We have to mention here Skill India Mission launched in 2015 and its flagship programs the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana for its commendable efforts.
Similarly, public-private efforts like the World Bank approved the US $ 250 million for SIMO to help skill young workforce paves the way to bring in technology, technical know-how and state of art skills training with ease.
Chalking Out Strategies for Man Power Planning
Man Power Planning demands visualising the requirements for the right type of skills, both short and long term, for coming five to ten or fifteen years. This gives vision to the educational institutions to plan ahead what is to be taught. The digital skill gap is the most critical skill gap that Healthcare, Automobiles, Logistics, IT and other key sectors should take note of. Consider this:
Big data and Data Analytics help store and analyze huge data which is critical to the health care industry. The automobile industry is being swayed by AI-enabled IoT which ‘connected mobility’ – the self-driving cars. Planning tomorrow’s needs well ahead today is the essence.
Finally, the outcome of all education whether vocational or professional, is, self-control, development of character, social awareness, personality development and preservation of culture for youth. It is our responsibility to see that education delivers these goals.
We have highlighted some of the most pressing issues that have weakened our education system and how the nation can address them. If you have anything interesting to add, email your views on firstname.lastname@example.org.