Though everybody welcomes the idea of schools looking beyond pure academic lessons and imparting skill-based courses, vocational courses are not popular among city schools. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recently issued a circular about the new vocational courses from the coming academic year for students of classes XI and XII. Courses such as geospatial technology, food production, food and beverage services, mass media studies and media production are to be offered.

It is up to the institution to offer vocational courses depending on the popularity of the course. However, most school heads say such skill-based programmes take a backseat as students are keen on engineering, medicine and other professional courses. While some private and government schools have a choice of vocational subjects offered as an additional subject, quite a number of schools have discontinued. A course in general insurance, which was once well received in schools, is among those abandoned.

“If you are to consider these vocational courses from the employment point of view, there will be takers, otherwise I don't see city students taking them. They only take it as an additional subject,” says C. Satish, senior principal, RMK Group of Schools. He says these subjects are scoring as well as CBSE gives schools the flexibility of appointing part-time teachers to teach the subject. Many higher secondary schools also have discontinued vocational courses as neither students nor parents were showing interest. Teachers say these courses were neither tailored to help a student take up an ITI or polytechnic course nor market-driven.

M. Thirumani Vanitha, retired headmistress, General Cariappa Higher Secondary School, Saligramam, feels it is also the responsibility of the government to introduce courses which are sought-after in the market. “Four years ago, at least 100 courses were introduced as vocational subjects. But, these courses could not survive as there were no proper books and teachers to teach them. It was later brought down to 12 courses,” says Ms. Vanitha. Poor lab facilities are another challenge to introduce such courses, especially if it has to cater to students who do not wish to receive higher education but learn skills to get employed.

A senior official from the School Education Department says the department had previously held meetings with corporates to impart job skills to students. Industry-school tie-up is an option some schools are going for. P.S. Senior Secondary School, for instance, offers a certificate programme in management in entrepreneurship, where faculty from the Great Lakes Institute of Management bring theory and hand-on-visit in the 200-hour course. The programme is optional and is offered as an after-school programme.

“What ever course you introduce has to be well received. Entrepreneurship and managerial skills should be picked early in life. This would be an on-going programme,” says A.N. Radhakrishnan, correspondent of the school.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012