The New Education Policy 2020 (NEP) has been approved by the Indian Cabinet. It is expected that it would get legal status easily. The purpose of the discussion has been the place of skill development in the country and the role of the NEP in it.
Anyone can comprehend that without achieving different types of skills, people of a country cannot expect development at a desired level. The NEP has covered many important areas which can aid the country’s development, provided the policy is implemented correctly. Skill development has not been separately emphasised in the NEP. But there is a section where a compulsory programme for vocational training for school students is listed. It is true that if a student is imparted vocational training early, it can increase his/her skills in different ways. This has been fruitful in many countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China and even in the US. Every such country is successful in the field of industry. But it is not quite a new idea as many states in India - West Bengal, for example - had inserted vocational training in schools at the final examination level. Many schools through their curriculum trained students in various handicraft works from class six to eight. But that gradually lost steam and was virtually stopped in many states.
Some salient points of the policy of vocational training in NEP
The NEP has pointed out that at present, the students of vocational streams are not vertically integrated, that is, after passing a level, students find it difficult to have scope for connecting to higher courses. Therefore, many students have to re-enter into the general stream and after that they cannot adjust with the general stream. But this is really a problem.
Purnendu Bose, Minister in Charge, Technical Education, Government of West Bengal, pointed out this problem before the reporter a few months ago and informed that in West Bengal, the vocational curriculum has been changed accordingly. Vocational students of the state could continue vocational study seamlessly. Kerala along with some other states have also similar policies.
Another important element in the NEP has been the statement that, “By 2025, at least 50% of learners through the higher education system shall have exposure to vocational education, for which timeliness will be developed.” The policy also declared, “Vocational education will be integrated into all schools and higher education institutions in a phased manner over the next decades. Focus areas for vocational education will be chosen based on skill gap analysis and mapping of local opportunities.”
All these steps are welcome. But the question is, whether the vocationally trained students would be absorbed in the job market or not. Actually, training should be according to the need of the economy. If the contribution of industry in India’s GDP is not appropriately increased, vocational courses would not be successful.
Importance of human skill in development
Human skill or human capital is most important for development. Jati Sengupta, Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, stated in his book ‘India’s Economic Growth - A strategy for the New Economy’, “The engine of growth is the accumulation of human capital of knowledge and the main source of differences in living standards among nations is the difference in human capital. Physical capital accumulation plays an essential but decidedly subsidiary role. Human capital accumulation takes place in schools, in research organisations and in the course of producing goods and engaging in trade.......learning on the job seems to be by far the most central.” This shows that proper implementation of vocational training from the school level has a huge importance.
Kapil Sibal, former HRD Minister, Government of India and a Congress leader, commented on the NEP. He thinks that the talks on educational training and skill development starting at the school level involves hasty plans. He wrote, “There is very little homework done to standardise the same. It will take a long time before this is put into practice. We could have easily provided alternative solutions by setting up vocational and training centres in collaboration with the industries.”
The government seems to be in a hurry to implement the plan and it involves huge money and setting up of huge infrastructure in schools. The states' role becomes important here.