India is now globally acknowledged, and applauded, as the nation of the young. It is a huge perceptional change from the days India was being blamed, rather cursed, for its ‘population growth’. A recent UN report estimates that India has a share of 356 million in the 1.8 billion young on the planet. The ageing societies are looking towards India to fill in manpower gaps. Indian policymakers and implementers are aware of the opportunities emerging abroad before the young of India. Within the existing system of education and skill development, there are numerous issues that need to be examined in all seriousness to meet the manpower needs within the country and the extent to which our educated and skilled young persons could be prepared to take up off-shore assignments and bring credit to their country. Think of any sector of major activity and the reality of inadequate manpower position would be glaringly visible.
When the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) is organised, the pass percentage ranges from one to seven or eight only. Railways, defence forces, teachers, police, medical profession, in every sector India is suffering frightening levels of vacancies. Procedural and administrative lacunae could be blamed, but only partially. Within the education system, the blame is invariably put on the learner. If the result card shows poor learner attainment, parents and the entire family blame the child without ascertaining the factors responsible for it like non-availability of suitably equipped teachers, inadequate professional readiness of para teachers, lack of basic amenities in schools, or several other factors that impinge upon the process of teaching and learning. Most of those lucky enough to get into higher and professional education are turned down by the employers as bereft of appropriate knowledge, skills and articulation. These young persons suffer uncertainty, find no place to go and upgrade their professional ‘attainments’, and are under severe family pressure to ‘settle down’. One shudders to think of the fate that awaits hundreds of thousands of young who pay through their nose, get a management degree or technical qualification from private institutions and deemed universities but are ill-equipped for the job market. The ‘private entrepreneur’ cares little about the plight of the product. Their dividends are assured as the young shall continue to seek entrance in their institutions.
Those managing educational institutions rarely recognise their role as partners in the preparation of generations ahead and as contributors in the ever-evolving process of human civilisation. They seldom realise their obligation to transform every young person into a personality. That requires preparation of competent, confident, committed and performing young persons in an institutional climate that nurtures values and develops character. The difficulties in the process of knowledge transfer and acquisition towards ‘elevation of human life’ are many, but unrelenting efforts must continue without pause.
Famous philosopher John Dewey said, “Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim in living… the bad man is the man who, no matter how good he has been, is beginning to deteriorate, to grow less good. The good man is the man who, no matter how morally unworthy he has been, is moving to become better. Such a conception makes one severe in judging himself, and humane in judging others.” It is such an approach that needs to find a place in educational policy formulation and in conceptualising the essence of what Swami Vivekananda put before us so succinctly that education is the making process. The entire process must support the learner. A new education policy is said to be on the anvil. One hopes that it brings back the learner at the centre, gives him the right environment to discover the ‘treasure within’, and become an active contributor in enhancing human capital.
Rajput is a former director of the NCERT