When I wrote We don’t need no education in mid-2010, I urged:
cut down school content, start school later, end it earlier, focus on growing the mind, building teamwork and other “21st century” skills, enabling our children to become responsible and knowledgeable citizens with a global perspective, reshape the assessment tools and frameworks that we have today to evaluate richness and variety of expression in our young minds, build new avenues and focussed curricula to strategically align with what we really need, get industry to recognize vocational education on par with regular degrees – basically – give our children a break, they don’t need this education.
Little did I know that our government would move so fast in this direction with regard to the introduction of vocational education curricula in schools. Kapil Sibal, the HRD Minister, has done it with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools in India. He plans to introduce vocational curriculum from grade IX to XII (ages 15-18).
There are many possible reasons and implications of this move. Vocational education in IT and other sectors has traditionally been addressed by private sector and government schemes at largely the class 10+ or 12+ levels. With 2-4 years of vocational training at the school level, these post school training courses will become more or less obsolete.
For the employability issue that India faces with the kind of demographic dividend that we have, this will also reduce the number of students that need to be trained to become employable through these courses at the +2 level.
The language that Kapil Sibal is using also targets sectors like Automobiles, which if you look at the National Skill Development Council reports, is among the largest skill requirement sector for the next 10 years. This shows a clear alignment between different parts of the government and the hope that there is increasing cohesion among decision makers today.
That it will also be instrumental in providing students specifically from economically weaker sections (EWS) to pursue non-academic careers that result in direct employability post school, also seems part of the strategy. It is perhaps a pacifist act as well given the non-cooperative attitude of the private school system towards the Right to Education law.
But vocational training will require infrastructure provision that schools are not equipped to achieve. This will require them to invest on acquiring new set of skills and adapt to the new requirements if they want to remain affiliated to the CBSE. Like the Right to Education, this will thus, be also subject to delays and obstructions adding to the general chaos around the Right to Education Law implementation.
Some interesting possibilities may ensue. OEMs, private training companies and public vocational training bodies may be called to play a greater role in the new curriculum. The same organizations may then be better placed to exercise influence over the rest of the school curriculum and this presents great opportunities. At the same time, they would have to update their existing programs to provide a curricular path post the 4 years of vocational training and this is has its attendant problems in infrastructure provision, availability of instructors, new vocational degrees etc.
I would have also like a bridge system for students who would want to cross-over between pure academic and vocational streams at some point of their education or work, like in Australia. This does not seem to be addressed.
But meanwhile, Mr. Sibal, please read this blog post and give in to my other demands as well :)!