Explaining the Wardha scheme of education, Gandhiji said, “Taken as a whole, a vocation is the best medium for the all-round development of a boy or a girl and therefore the syllabus should be woven around vocational training.” In independent India, his philosophy was translated as ‘SUPW’ period in schools (Socially Useful Productive Work). If we had implemented these words of the Father of the Nation in letter and spirit, India would have been an entirely different country.
As per the 12th Five Year Plan document, just 5% of people between the ages of 19 to 24 received vocational education. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his first Independence Day speech in 2014, laid clear his priorities for an Atmanirbhar Bharat. He said, “Ramping up skills, particularly in trades, through vocational education has emerged as a recurrent and increasingly critical priority for India.” He also highlighted the unique demographic dividend of India when he listed the 4D factors (Democracy, Demography, Demand and Decisiveness) that make India an attractive destination for investors.
To address this, the ministry unveiled the National Educational Policy 2020 to honour the vision of Mahatma Gandhi and also Modi. For the first time, the policy speaks at length about the measures to be taken by the ministry in the field of vocational education. The policy talks about revolutionary changes that are being brought in the entire educational system with respect to vocational education. I will throw light on the important aspects.
The NEP 2020 aims to break stereotypes and bring a change in the perception of vocational education. Let me explain how it does so. First, it says that the scope of school education will be broadened to facilitate multiple pathways to learning, involving both formal and non-formal education modes. For the first time in the history of modern India, non-formal education is also included in the policy.
Secondly, it advocates the removal of separation between vocational and academic streams, and students will be given increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study, particularly in secondary school—including subjects in the arts and crafts, physical education and vocational skills. The hard separation has resulted in stereotyping of vocational education. The time has arrived to end this. Subjects such as vocational skills, in addition to science, humanities and maths, will be incorporated throughout the school curriculum.
Thirdly, in middle school, introduction of vocational education will start in Grade 6. It says every child should learn at least one vocation and be exposed to several more. With exposure at early ages in middle and secondary school, quality vocational education will be integrated smoothly into higher education. Sampling of important vocational crafts, such as carpentry, electrical work, metal work, gardening, pottery making, etc., as decided by states and local communities will be done in Grades 6-8.
Fourthly, local trades available in the neighbouring areas of the school will be identified. All these years, there was a disconnect between what the society needs and what the school teaches. The society needed a carpenter, but carpentry was never taught in school. Local artisans and experts were never encouraged to teach in schools. This policy breaks this. A 10-day bagless period sometime during Grades 6-8 to intern with local vocational experts such as carpenters, gardeners, potters, artists, etc., is being allowed. Similar internship opportunities to learn vocational subjects will be provided to students throughout Grades 6-12, including holiday periods.
Fifth, at the high school level, there is a distinct disconnect between schools that offer vocational trades and those that don’t at present. Also, vocational courses are not available in all schools. To offset it, the policy proposes that vocational education will be integrated in the educational offerings of all secondary schools in a phased manner over the next decade. ‘All schools’ is the key word. Towards this, secondary schools will also collaborate with ITIs, polytechnics, local industry, etc.
Skill labs will also be set up. Sixth, in the realm of higher education, institutions will offer vocational education either on their own or in partnership with industries and NGOs. Vocational courses will also be available to students enrolled in all other bachelor’s degree programmes, including the four-year multidisciplinary bachelor’s programmes. HEIs will also be allowed to conduct short-term certificate courses in various skills including soft skills. ‘LokVidya’, i.e. important knowledge developed in India, will be made accessible to students through integration into vocational education courses.
These measures will ensure that by 2025, at least 50% of learners through the school and higher education system shall have exposure to vocational education. Seventh, to oversee this, the Ministry of Education will constitute a National Committee for the Integration of Vocational Education (NCIVE), consisting of experts in vocational education and representatives from across ministries in collaboration with industries. Let me conclude with the PM’s words that to be relevant in the modern age we need to “skill, re-skill, upskill”.
Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’
Union Cabinet Minister for Education