India wants to train 500 million people in vocational and technical skills over the next few years. This is, on paper, the most ambitious vocational skills training agenda anywhere in the world.
This is old news and the details are well known. The announcements, and subsequent splurging of money have been well documented: The creation of an opportunistic vocational training industry in India, where training firms were created overnight to take advantage of this windfall of public money, is less so. The fact that such efforts have actually gone nowhere in the last few years is usually kept under wraps, because it serves no one to admit that things have gone wrong.
However, the need to change things are rather urgent. India's competitiveness is under threat as the skills bottleneck drives up costs and wastage, limiting opportunities for Indian businesses. Besides, expansion of mining activities and industrialisation is driving out a huge rural population into the cities, and without a strategy to integrate this excess populace into a modern economy, India will face not only economic problems but social unrest as well. So far, the Indian government has tried to deal with the modernisation of economy in a very traditional way - by expanding its welfare system - but this is clearly unaffordable beyond a point for a hugely indebted Indian state.
While the need of productivity boost through skills training was clearly understood, how to do this was clearly not. As with other things in India, this became a thing to be announced quickly, by the policy elite for the policy elite, and with little discussion or understanding of the issue involved. As an example, while the big announcement was made - that India needs to train 500 million people - and the money was allocated (with the usual suspects lined up to receive the largesse), the government forgot to ask what skills may actually be needed. Besides, the skills development agenda, as the government saw it, was to be driven by training organisations, alongside training divisions of employing organisations, based in Indian cities. These organisations, many of whom may have done excellent work in training 'white collar' workers in IT, hospitality, retail and other trades, were surely unconnected and clueless about the intended audience of this new 'opportunity', the disenfranchised rural jobless with little intention to move to the city.
So, what happened since is all too predictable. Most of these organisations have not gone anywhere near the projected numbers: The usual complaint is that people don't want to take the training they offer. Tales from the field tells one about the emergence of a new phenomenon: The ghost learner. These are people who may turn up for the first one or two days of training, but then drops out, as s/he figures out that the training is not for them. However, the person remains on the training company's books, because they have little incentive to report the drop out. And, if underachievement of the numbers, alongwith the fact even the reported number include more than 30% ghost learners (in some cases, 100%), is bad enough, the skills they learn is out of sync anyway: It is reported that 500 auto-mechanics were trained in UP to work on carburetors, whereas auto companies have stopped manufacturing cars with carburetors for last two decades and use Multi-point Fuel Injection instead. Needless to say, none of the 'trained' personnel could find a job in any auto service station.
The government and its agencies are reportedly well aware of the problems. Their search for solution has been to create more top down mechanisms, such as UK-style Sector Skills Councils, involving the industry, and to sign more MoUs with overseas agencies and providers to get more expertise and better training. Indeed, these show that the Government has no idea what the problem is - that the people being trained can't be reached - and the officials are more interested in creating news than getting anything done. How else would the Sector Skills Councils justify its existence, when the trades are mostly unorganised? How do MoUs with foreign providers enhance the proposition when the local ones can't find enough people to train?
Apparently, there are two problems here. One is a global problem of skills training. It is almost always poorly done by training providers, and particularly by big ones. The officials overseeing skills development, usually well-educated policy people who has never really been out there (except for well-staged photo opportunities), don't, can't, recognise that skills are socially constructed and only developed over a longer period of time. A skilled plumber becomes skilled not for a three week (or six months, or even a year's) training programme he attends, but he becomes skilled because (a) plumbing is socially valued and he is encouraged by everyone around him to do plumbing; (b) he keeps at it for a long time, doing work and getting paid enough to sustain himself; (c) there is incentive for him to improve, in the form of good plumbers getting paid more than bad plumbers and amateurs. Without this eco-system of values and practices, skills training becomes a business of warm bodies: This is mostly the case in many countries where Welfare State splurges money on training providers.
The second is a very Indian problem. Work with hand falls at the lowest category of the work hierarchy, and the Government is indeed fighting a futile battle with deeply embedded belief systems here. This is not a battle that the government can win through its usual functionaries, the officials, the tycoons and the training man. In fact, if anything, these pyramids of privilege sustains the prejudice against the physical work, and only reaffirms the caste system by its own existence. This can only be changed with creating grassroots involvement through grassroots organisations, organisations that are for, of and by the people of disadvantaged castes doing the work. Indeed, this is to be done not as a 'scheme' but as a 'movement', and that is the only way to do it.
My intention is not to make a dark prognosis about India's skills development and say that it won't ever happen. Indeed, this needs to happen if India has to progress, and even for the country to survive in its current form. But, this will need imagination, a cultural revolution, a commitment to bottom up in a country where everything runs top down: This is indeed the shape of the solution to skills development problem everywhere in the world, with trade unions and workers' guilds doing a far better job than the bureaucrats and skills training colleges. But it is best to acknowledge that this is more difficult in India than anywhere else, because the Indian state is distant, disconnected and hijacked by its elite, it is not in control of itself anymore.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.