Education is meant to bring out the best in a human being and make her/him productive and self-reliant. In a democratic country like India where the availability of elementary education comes under the purview of fundamental rights, several steps have been taken by our constitutional framers and education policymakers to make quality education available to all. The literacy and education rate has risen, but still, for many children educational access and retention continue to be a distant dream. India being a developing country has made progress in a number of arenas and has carved a niche for itself in the global community, but still a lot has to be done to get completely rid of problems like poverty and unemployment. In order to do away with unemployment, individuals should be prepared for the job-market which can be done by developing their ‘employability skills’. In our country, there is a significant number of educated unemployed because their education doesn’t match the requirement of the job market. Keeping in mind the current situation the government has been taking pivotal steps and making educational reforms to decrease the gap between education and employment. The doctrine on which the reforms are proposed to be founded is that Education is at once the cause and cure of unemployment. One such significant step is providing individuals with vocational education which develops the skills and knowledge required for taking up a job.
When we think of the realm of vocational education one significant personality who comes to our mind is the father of the Nation — Mahatma Gandhi, who through his remarkable educational tenets explained how crafts based-education can make individuals self-reliant and self-sufficient. Gandhiji paid a lot of emphasis on vocationalisation of education so that individuals can be trained to earn a living. He explained how not just acquiring theoretical knowledge but also the learning of practical skills should be made a part of formal education.
Vocationalisation of education is not new in the Indian context and its significance has been highlighted by several education committees and commissions. The secondary education commission (1952-53) for instance had put forward the goal of providing and expanding vocational education for students at the secondary level. With the changes taking place in the socio-economic fronts that came up with the progress of globalisation there has been a growth in demand for a skilled workforce. The availability of such a skilled workforce is closely associated with the kind of vocational education and training system existing in the country (Mandal,2013). In the year 1988, a centrally sponsored scheme was devised for school based vocational education and is aimed at providing an alternative to the pursuit of higher academic education.
“The share of vocational education in India is beginning to grow, but only slowly. It is not surprising, therefore, that only 2 percent of India’s workforce had acquired any form of formal vocational training, and an additional 8 percent of the workforce had acquired vocational training informally on the job. In other words, only 10 percent of the workforce and 20 percent of the non-agricultural workforce had acquired vocational training of any sort, formal or informal kind” (Mehrotra et al, 2013 as cited in Mehrotra,2014). Lack of awareness regarding the benefits of vocational education and also about the diversity of vocational courses being offered is one major reason behind the slow growth of vocational education.
The government as well as several non-governmental organisations and private actors are taking crucial steps to expand vocational education and generate awareness about its nature and scope. The goal of expanding vocational education for skill development and employment has also been put forward in the country’s five-year plans. In the year 2009, the Skill development policy was formulated by the government. It emphasised on offering special courses by Industrial training institutes in partnership with the private sector. In the year 2015, the Skill India Mission was put forward which aimed to train 40 crore people in different skills by the year 2020. This mission aimed at vocational training and certification of Indian youth to train them in skills relevant to the market. This initiative incorporated the use of various schemes and training courses. The governmental department of training and technical education has opened its industrial training institutes (ITIs) which are spread across the country. These institutes offer a variety of vocational courses such as Cosmetology, Carpentry, Commercial Art, Computer Hardware & Network Maintenance, Dressmaking, Digital Photographer, Beautician, Electrician and many more. The NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) which is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of HRD, Government of India, has devised several vocational courses catering to both rural and urban populations. The vocational courses being offered by NIOS has been expanding as per the changing needs of learners and the demands of the market.
The recently framed National Education Policy 2020 has also categorically focused on “exposure to vocational education at a higher as well as secondary and middle-level education”. It states that school children should get exposed to vocational education for the smooth integration of vocational education at higher level. It proposes that every child should learn “at least one vocation” and be exposed to several more.(NEP, 2020). This policy aims at making use of vocational education for developing of expertise of individuals in a particular field based on their aptitude and interest.
Thus in India, it is being realised that providing good quality of vocational education to individuals will have a positive impact on the employability of individuals and may play a role in tackling the issue of unemployment. Several steps are being taken to expand vocational education- upgrade its reach to the masses and uplift its status.