Vocationalisation of Education in India: Current Scenario, Key Challenges and New Directions

By LEAD Research Team

“Every handicraft has to be taught not merely mechanically as is done today, but scientifically. This is to say, the child should learn the why and wherefore of every process.” – Gandhi’s Philosophy of Education
The greatest challenge in Indian education system today is to provide skill based education to the youth. This is exacerbated by a mismatch in demand and supply for the skilled workforce. The penetration of vocational education and training remains poor not only in rural areas, but also in urban regions where there is a higher installed capacity to impart the same. This post is an attempt to make the readers understand the need of vocational education in India. Also, this is an attempt to summarise a few recommendations on the same. 
A recent survey (61st round) conducted by the NSSO found that: 

1. The percentage of population that completed primary education was 70%, but less than 10% went on to complete a graduation course and above. Almost 97% of individuals in the age bracket of 15–60 years had limited exposure to technical education, which is another indicator of low skills sets among Indians.
2. According to the occupational profile of India’s workforce, 90% of the workforce population is employed in skill-based jobs, whereas more than 90% had no exposure to vocational education or training even though more than half of the seats remain unutilised in vocational education.
3. There is a lack of training facilities and skills development in as many as 20 high-growth industries such as logistics, healthcare, construction, hospitality and automobiles.
4. India has roughly close to 5,500 public (ITI) and private (ITC) institutes as against 500,000 similar institutes in China. As against India’s 4% formally trained vocational workers, a country like Korea had a 96% vocationally trained workforce. Even relatively under-developed countries like Botswana had a surprisingly decent score of 22%.
Trends in the Labor market:
Over the past few decades, there has been a gradual decline in the labour force market for skilled workers that do not possess higher educational degrees. Today’s industrial sector demands workers to possess at least a graduate degree in addition to vocational training. A diploma holder undergoing vocational training desires vertical mobility and hits a glass ceiling after a few years. Thus, while the employers complain that the worker does not stay longer, the employee complains that he does not see growth in the current job. The net result is a decrease in demand for skilled workers with lower degrees.
Current Scenario and key challenges:
Skills in India are largely acquired through two main sources: formal training centres and the informal or hereditary mode of passing on cascading skill sets from one generation to the next. Nowadays, vocational courses are becoming quite popular among youth because it is believed that taking these courses would provide more and better employment opportunities than those provided by conventional academic courses. While there remains a requirement for skilled professionals in the industry, the supply for the same is hampered by:
1. High dropout rate at Secondary level: Vocational Education is presently offered at senior secondary level but the students at this level aspire for higher education
2. At present, the vocational system doesn’t put much emphasis on the academic skills, resulting in lower incidences of vertical mobility
3.  There is a lack of participation by private players in the field of vocational education
4.  Vocationalisation of education is not in line with industry needs
5.  There is a lack of opportunities for continuous skill up-gradation
6.  There is no clear provision of certificatio
ns and degrees for the unorganised/informal sector
7. Challenges faced by ITCs and ITIs are poor quality trainers, lack of flexibility and outdated infrastructure
New directions:
Vocationalisation should not be attempted in an unsystematic or haphazard manner. The need of the hour is to understand the trainees’ apprehensions and challenges regarding Vocational Education and training (VET). Thus there is a huge opportunity for a vocational training institute that can address these challenges. This will favour the organisations willing to enter the vocational education market as well as the students wanting to take up vocational courses to increase their employability.  In summation, it is critical to redefine the essential elements of VET so that it becomes more flexible, inclusive, relevant and contemporary.
Over the past few years, various recommendations have been suggested by researchers and scholars.  I’ve summarised the same in the flowchart below:

(Click on images to enlarge the text size)