The myth and greatness attached to professional courses can be broken only with purposeful efforts from parents and at school level

India is a skill deficit nation where 12 per cent of its population is skilled and only two per cent receive any formal skill training in any employable trade. A young nation with 52 per cent of its population aged below 25 years and where 88 per cent school dropout rate exists, one can only imagine the way they are deprived of a dignified life for no fault of theirs. With June 2011 projected as the month when the seven billionth child will be born in India, it is going to be the illiteracy capital of the world along with other undesirable indices on many other fronts.

The first window in the life of a young person is the school and that is shut to them for reasons of access, poverty and tradition as planners put it. The second window that could be opened in the lives of young people is through a ‘skill window' which has a dignity, equaliser and currency role as the person takes on in life.

There is no perceptible effort done at the lower educational level to sensitise and orient the young understand that it is a stigma that prevents them from entering the ‘skill world' and thus save them from the aimless pursuit of higher education. The myth and greatness attached to professional courses could be broken only with purposeful efforts from parents and at school level in today's highly polarised and diversified world. Only 25 per cent is employable out of the six lakh engineers who come out every year is a sad pointer in this context.

Thus stigmatised, India's 9,000 ITIs and polytechnics with 10 lakh seating capacity can only expect students to enter these premises with a frustrated mindset, as being not otherwise useful. Australia, where this stigma existed 15 years ago, is now rid of it. A plumber is the most sought after person there than a medical doctor.

A recent incident in London showed that an Indian medical doctor changed his profession to plumbing, realising that a plumber there earns much more. China has started giving Ph.D. for plumbers who excel in their line of work. Are these jobs not dignified enough? The celebration of skilled manpower has to be the order of the day as we celebrate people who sing well, dance and act. Everything done well contributes to the growth of the comfort that we enjoy as like an electrician, carpenter, driver or sweeper without whom no life is possible.

The archaic teaching curricula in the ITIs, poor infrastructure, and the fossilised teaching methods will become a thing of the past if young dedicated minds start entering these premises and the governance feels the heat to improvise the infrastructure, curricula and expertise. Proportionate improvement of enrolment and services will be felt vertically and laterally at all erstwhile defunct institutional levels.

For that to happen a ‘skill movement' should take place from school education and at plus-two level onwards..

(The writer is executive director, Functional Vocational Training and Research Society, Bangalore. His email is annalbert@rediffmail.com)

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