From the Viewsroom

Let workers learn

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on May 22, 2020

Covid may get them to enhance knowledge through online courses

The reported proposal by the University Grants Commission to allow students to pursue dual degrees simultaneously is a welcome move. If implemented, this move can make a significant difference to the way Indian students acquire knowledge and skill. The move can improve job opportunities by upgrading the overall quality of education. Clearly, these decisions and many similar ones in the pipeline are inspired by the ground realities necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic which has forced colleges and schools to shut campuses and move learning processes online. Clearly, millions of students stand to benefit from the UGC plans, especially from the recommendations of the panel headed by Nageswar Rao, vice-chancellor of the Indira Gandhi National Open University. But the UGC and the HRD Ministry seem to be ignoring an important component of society that is deeply affected by Covid-19 and is forced to upgrade skills — workers.

Industry body CII estimates that more than 100 million jobs are at stake in India due to Covid-19. Workers who are lucky to have retained their jobs have taken pay cuts to the tune of 10-50 per cent across industries. Most of them will be looking for jobs, part-time or full time. The situation will force all of them to upgrade their skills and knowledge. India’s public-funded open education system is not equipped to cater to the needs of such people.

The average worker cannot access courses offered by private players. India’s rich tradition of evening colleges has entered a sunset already, making it extremely difficult for working people to earn a degree or a diploma without sacrificing their day jobs. In this context, the UGC move to offer dual degrees and move chunks of offline courses online is well-meaning. But there must be dedicated plans targeting workers. IGNOU and similar institutions should introduce more online and open courses for workers. The private sector must be encouraged to offer quality education for aspiring workers. Banks can support such programmes.

Published on May 22, 2020

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