New Delhi: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is looking to help students who finish school find jobs. The CBSE plans to hand out vocational degrees to students finishing class XII in its affiliate schools, a first in the history of the school education system in India.
Vocational courses taught at the school level will come attached with a certificate jointly awarded by the board and an industry partner to enhance the job prospects of students and make them employable. Some educationists argue that the plan would counter efforts to promote academics and research in Indian universities.
“What we are looking at is a minimum industry certification for students who take up the course,” CBSE chairman Vineet Joshi said in an interview. “That’s why we are trying to forge industry linkages for these courses. We are also trying to ensure guaranteed employment for them, some sort of a help given to kids in terms of jobs. Not every child likes to take up research.”
The courses, currently being evolved in consultation with industry lobbies such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and the Confederation of Indian Industry will be offered in hospitality management and catering, healthcare and aviation.
For courses in hospitality management, the board is in talks with the National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology, an autonomous body under the ministry of tourism that runs the Institutes of Hotel Management across the country.
The course in aviation, Joshi added, is being worked out after repeated requests from the Punjab government. “There is clearly a demand for such courses and we are trying to create a basket of such courses for students to choose from,” he said.
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, Kendriya Vidyalayas, private schools and schools run by the Delhi government are affiliated to CBSE. So far, they have offered vocational courses at the class X and XII levels in subjects such as computer science and economics, but none with separate certifications. The subjects have so far been evaluated and included in the marksheets along with regular subjects. The board’s plan stems partly from pressure exerted by industry chambers that have expressed concern at the lack of a sufficient number of skilled workers in an expanding economy. Even the most conservative estimates put the overall gap in the number of skilled workers at 10 million and growing. India adds about 12.8 million workers per year, of which 40% are illiterate, about 25% have primary education, and only 35% have middle or high school education.
Ficci, which has teamed up with CBSE to develop courses for the healthcare sector, says such courses are primarily targeted at creating a pool of low-level, blue-collar workers—so-called class III and class IV employees—for the services sectors. They are tailored for students who would not be pursuing higher studies because of economic or family reasons.
“There is shortage of people at all levels across the sectors,” said Sobha Mishra, a member of Ficci’s education committee. Educationists argue that the classification of jobs for which the students would be eligible risks creating inequality in the education system.
“You could introduce a course, but you must not decide what these students will be after doing the course,” said Anita Rampal, professor of education at the University of Delhi. “If you are slotting them as class III and IV jobs, it’s problematic. One must not tell students that they have no options to go further.”
With early exposure to employability, experts argue that the thrust on research and academics would also be blunted at a time when Indian universities and even institutions of excellence such as the Indian Institutes of Technology are struggling to find competent faculty to teach and persuade students to opt for research.
Clubbing education and employability is also regressive because it creates more social stratification, says Rampal. “Throughout the history of education, we have seen segregation of vocational and academic courses, which is very damaging. Work has a strong presence in the Gandhian model of education, but I think we need to seriously rethink the nature of work. If skills training happens after class X, it is not as problematic as in classes lower than this, but one must not reduce them to non-academic courses by calling them skill development courses. We must combine skill and knowledge instead,’’ Rampal says.
Mishra says Ficci has asked CBSE to coordinate with various ministries to make sure that such courses also help students gain access to university education.
“When we were developing healthcare courses, we asked them to get in touch with the health ministry to make sure there are further avenues for such students in higher education and research,’’ she says.
But Mishra said the effort faces the hurdle of a lack of resources. “With projects like these, one needs manpower and money. There has to be a financial model but mostly, such issues have been overlooked,” she said.