Editorial✍ Hindu Edi Prelims cum Mains

Learning to compete

There are five pillars of the skills ecosystem:

  • Secondary schools/polytechnics
  • Industrial training institutes
  • National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)-funded private training providers offering short-term training
  • 16 Ministries providing mostly short-term training
  • Employers offering enterprise-based training

National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF):

  • In 2013, India’s skill agenda got a push when the government introduced the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF).

Organizes qualifications in various levels:

  • This organises all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude (just like classes in general academic education).
    • For instance, level 1 corresponds to Class 9 (because vocational education is only supposed to begin in secondary school in many countries, including India).
    • Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 correspond to Classes 9, 10, 11 and 12, respectively.
    • Levels 5-7 correspond to undergraduate education, and so on.
  • For each trade/occupation or professional qualification, course content should be prepared that corresponds to higher and higher level of professional knowledge and practical experience.

All to be compliant to NSQF by 2018:

  • The framework was to be implemented by December 27, 2018.
  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) mandated that all training/educational programmes/courses be NSQF-compliant.
  • Also, all training and educational institutions were mandated to define eligibility criteria for admission to various courses in terms of NSQF levels.

Assessing its effectiveness

  • We can look at NSQF implementation through the prism of national skill competitions, or India Skills.

India Skills 2018:

  • India Skills is a national skill competition, an initiative of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
  • 27 States participated in India Skills 2018, held in Delhi.
  • Maharashtra led the medals tally, followed by Odisha and Delhi.
  • Abilympics was also included in India Skills 2018, for Persons with Disabilities.

Winners will participate in World Skills Competition:

  • Now, teams will be selected to represent India at the 45th World Skills Competition, scheduled in Russia in 2019.
  • World Skills holds competitions in construction and building technology, transportation and logistics, manufacturing and engineering technology, information and communication technology, creative arts and fashion, and social and personal services.

Lessons from the competition:

  • The India Skills competition has provided evidence that many reforms are critical and urgent.
  • There are two priorities requiring action before the next round of India Skills is held.
  1. NSQF not widely accepted:
  • India Skills was open to government industrial training institutes (ITIs), engineering colleges, Skill India schemes, corporates, government colleges, and school dropouts.
  • Skill India is understood to mean courses that are compliant with the NSQF.
  • But a majority of the participants were from corporates (offering enterprise-based training) and ITIs; Neither ITIs nor corporates’ courses are aligned with the NSQF.
  • If India Skills 2018 was only open for the NSQF-aligned institutions, it would have been a big failure.
  • This indicates that the NSQF has not been well accepted or adopted across India.
  • Reason – curriculum does not mandate progression of courses:
    • In general academic education, completion of certain levels of certification is required before further progression is permitted.
    • However, there is no clear definition of the course curriculum within the NSQF that enables upward mobility.
    • Prior real knowledge of theory or practical experience in a vocational field is not mandatory for the tertiary level vocational courses.
    • This is making alignment with the NSQF meaningless.
  • Lack of alignment between HRD and Skill Development ministries:
    • Efforts to introduce new Bachelor of Vocation and Bachelor of Skills courses were made, but the alignment of these UGC-approved Bachelor of Vocation courses was half-hearted.
    • There is no real alignment between the Human Resource Development Ministry (responsible for the school level and Bachelor of Vocation courses) and the Ministry of Skill Development (responsible for non-school/non-university-related vocational courses).
  1. Too many councils:
  • We must also reduce complications caused by too many Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) anchoring skill courses.
  • Case of manufacturing:
    • We have four SSCs for manufacturing: iron and steel, strategic manufacturing, capital goods, and, infrastructure equipment.
    • However, these are treated as one in World Skills courses.
    • Even in India, there should be just one SSC called the Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing Council, in line with the National Industrial Classification of India.
  • Similarly, there is no reason to have four SSCs (instead of one) each of textile, apparel made-ups and home furnishing, leather and handicrafts.
  • Skilling should be done for broader occupational groups that narrower:
    • It was a mistake to create 40 SSCs. Outcomes have shown that they have been ineffective.
    • Most of their NSDC-SSC- approved training does not produce students who can showcase “holistic” skills for broad occupational groups in such competitions.
    • If we want Skill India trainees to win international competitions and if we want competitors to come from schemes of the Ministry, we must find a way to provide broader skills in broader occupational groups.
    • There is a need for more holistic training and to re-examine the narrow, short-term NSQF-based NSDC courses to include skills in broader occupation groups, so that trainees are skilled enough to compete at the international level.
  • Sectors should be consolidated:
    • Sectors should be consolidated in line with the National Industrial Classification of India.
    • This will improve quality, ensure better outcomes, strengthen the ecosystem, and help in directly assessing the trainee’s competence.
    • It might also bring some coherence to our skills data collection system.

Way ahead:

  • India could learn a lesson from Germany, which imparts skills in just 340 occupation groups.
  • Vocational education must be imparted in broadly defined occupational skills, so that if job descriptions change over a youth’s career, he/she is able to adapt to changing technologies and changing job roles.
  • Skill India needs a sharp realignment, if India is to perform well in the World Skills competition later this year.


GS Paper III: Economy

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