A strong focus on vocational education in NEP 2020
India is a very youthful country with 64% of its population in the working age group of 15-59 years. Therefore, a high-quality high-throughput Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system was always a pressing need for meeting the requirements of skilled manpower for India’s economy and for achieving the aim of inclusive and equitable growth.
The country has made enormous strides in the provision of TVET since 2008 with considerable infrastructure for offering short-term training courses having been set up during the past decade. These courses cater largely only to demand from industry for training and placement of youth in specialised, narrowly defined, entry level jobs. The main vehicle has been the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) set up in 2008, and its vast ecosystem of Training Providers and Sector Skills Councils. Longer-term training courses are being offered through the ITIs and the polytechnics, with the latter having existed since before independence. However, these have grown much more slowly relative to the large capacity for short-term courses that has been created in just over a decade. Schools have also been engaged in the provision of vocational education at the higher secondary level since the early 1990s but the number of students being reached so far is still well below 10 percent of the cohort.
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 heralds the potentially explosive growth of vocational education in the country since it requires ALL educational institutions to integrate vocational education into their offerings. This will bring in a very large number of schools, colleges, and universities - a little over 280,000 secondary and higher secondary schools and more than 40,000 higher education institutions - into the fold of potential TVET providers during the coming decade, making TVET available to millions of students. This will augment the capacity to provide long-term vocational education and training to students considerably. The foremost challenge that educational institutions will need to overcome, for the successful implementation of the NEP, is the mindset prevalent today among key stakeholders such as students and parents, that TVET is inferior to regular school and college education and suitable only for those youth who are unable to cope with mainstream education.
UNESCO recently released its State of the Education Report for India 2020: Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) on December 8, 2020. Titled ‘Vocational Education First’ the report provides an overview of the state of TVET education in the country today and describes the challenges facing educational institutions in fulfilling the mandate of the NEP while also making several suggestions and recommendations for the way forward. Some of the additional challenges to skill development described in the report include the need to provide inclusive access to TVET, particularly for women; the need to overcome the large digital divide and the need to create adequate opportunities for upskilling, reskilling, and lifelong learning, particularly in new and strategic areas such as Industry 4.0 and greening. The report also highlights the need to focus on preserving and promoting India’s vast reserves of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, an activity that has the potential to create livelihoods for large numbers of its citizens while also instilling a sense of pride and ownership among its youth.
The report, authored by Dr Leena Chandran Wadia and Prof. Neela Dabir, both of whom are adjunct Professors at TDU, makes the following ten key recommendations that can help to achieve the stated vision for TVET:
Place learners and their aspirations at the centre of vocational education and training programmes
Create an appropriate ecosystem for teachers, trainers, and assessors
Focus on upskilling, re-skilling and lifelong learning
Ensure inclusive access to TVET for women, differently abled persons, and other disadvantaged learners
Massively expand the digitalisation of vocational education and training
Support local communities to generate livelihoods by engaging in the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage
Align better with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Deploy innovative models of financing TVET
Expand evidence-based research for better planning and monitoring
Establish a robust coordinating mechanism for inter-ministerial cooperation.