Shweta Maheshwari, who hails from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, completed her bachelor’s degree in technology in 2013. She had hoped that her graduation would help her to secure a job, which didn’t happen. After waiting for a year, she applied for a master’s degree. She expected that a higher degree might help her to secure a job. But she remains unemployed. Maheshwari informed BE, “I was rejected in the interviews. They said I lacked skill and experience.”
India has 785 universities but most lack in skill education and instead, give more emphasis to rote-learning methods. Industry insiders feel that there is a dearth of job-ready people at the entry level.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) is implementing a scheme called, “Introduction of Career Oriented Courses (COCs)” in universities and colleges to encourage incorporation of skill-oriented and value added-courses at the Certificate/Diploma/Advance Diploma levels. The COCs are run concurrently with conventional degrees like B.A./B.Com/B.Sc.
Under the scheme, the UGC provides financial assistance to educational institutes eligible to receive grants from it for the introduction of the COCs. The institutes which have introduced COCs are provided with a financial assistance of `Rs.7 lakh for five years for humanities and commerce streams and Rs.10 lakh for five years for the science stream. As of now, six universities and 516 colleges have been approved by the UGC for grant-in-aid for 793 courses under this scheme.
Imon Kalyan Lahiri, a professor of International Relations at Jadavpur University (JU), Kolkata, told BE “Our university has Career Oriented Courses like editing, radio production, cognitive science where students get high placements. What universities can do is to combine their specific course syllabus and the UGC syllabi. That will be beneficial for the students. Work experience matters. That is exactly why internship programmes should be made compulsory. Students should be more inclined towards professional courses and should have a specialisation.”
The demand for general courses is as much as for professional courses. Rochana Das, a professor of International Relations at JU, told BE, “It is neither possible nor desirable to make all courses professional. Students have different mind-sets and varying aptitudes. A broad section of students pursuing general courses opt for higher studies and research. Needless to say, this is absolutely needed for the growth of rich human resources. However, colleges and universities should create more space for students who want to pursue professional courses. Students pursuing general courses do get placed in different institutions, media houses, and in the corporate sector. Besides, they have the option of freelancing.”
While talking about how courses can be made more job-oriented and more attractive for the market, she said, “There should be more opportunities for project work, internships, and industry interactions. In each course, one module should be set apart for field experiences. Constant upgradation of one’s knowledge by taking recourse to online courses is a must. Finally, the method of teaching should be more students friendly. A proactive placement cell is the first and foremost necessity. The university should be in constant touch with different industrial houses to know their requirement. There can also be a joint body of university officials, faculties, students, and representatives from the industry to look into placements.”
There are many universities that believe in wholesome education and not making their students excel in one field. Zaad Mahmood, a professor of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata, told BE, “Wholesome education for a student is very important for them to excel in the professional field. If they focus on just one topic they will not be able to learn about other things. We have a placement cell in our university where students get proper exposure. We believe in overall development.”
As per reports by the CII, only 25% engineering graduates are directly employable from the campus. According to the Human Resources and Development ministry, India has 6,214 engineering and technology institutions, which are enrolling 2.9 million students. Around 1.5 million engineers are released into the job market every year. But the dismal state of higher education in India ensures that they simply do not have adequate skills to be employed.
Professor Ajoy Kumar Ray, Director IIEST, Shibpur told BE, “The syllabi offered in colleges and universities need to be constantly updated and be relevant to the needs of time and society. The students must have adequate skills to face the challenges they will be confronted with. They will look for jobs in different sectors - industries of small, medium and large scale, transport, services, agriculture, education and so on. During their college days, the students should be imparted the kind of education, which will help them develop an analytical mind and appropriate skills, including communication skills to enable them to be effectively employed.”
The education sector is keeping pace with the new developments and demands of the age. New offbeat courses are becoming popular. Some of these include wine tasting, ethical hacking, digital marketing, gemology, robotics, AI, data analytics, tea tasting, pet grooming, footwear and leather goods designing, mountaineering, spa management, food technology, gerontology, rural studies/development, forest and wildlife conservation, and leadership programme in politics.
Right to Education
“I want every Indian to dream of a better future and live the dream”, said the then Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on April 1, 2010. He was speaking before the 86th amendment of the Constitution was to happen. It provides free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. This article means that every child has a right to receive full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school, which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on April 1, 2010. The RTE Act clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance, and ensure the completion of elementary education for every child in the six to fourteen age group. ‘Free’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or bear any expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. It also has provisions for admitting a non-enrolled child to an age appropriate class.
The RTE Act requires surveys that will monitor all neighbourhoods, identify children requiring education, and set up facilities for providing it. The World Bank education specialist for India, Sam Carlson, has observed, “The RTE Act is the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrolment, attendance and completion on the government.”
This Act was designed to boost the literacy rate in India and make Indians more competitive in the world. But has it been able to serve its purpose? Seven years later, there is widespread acknowledgement that the Right to Education Act, far from helping to realise a dream, is actually a nightmare. This law was supposed to be the solution to India’s problems in primary education but it has failed to do so and has itself, become a problem. It has opened a lot of new avenues for corruption. Dr Jayaprakash Narayan is of the opinion that the Act was supposed to increase the enrollment in government schools but in reality the enrollment percentage has gone down by 11%. On the other hand the number has gone up by 40% in private schools.