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The real test

Meera Siva | Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on March 27, 2015

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We need to focus on skills, not marks

If the action of the parents who helped their children cheat in the recent class 10 board exams in Bihar is dumb, the comments of senior political leaders are dumber still.

But the dumbest thing is the bizarre attitude of our society which exalts an unemployable engineer over a skilled mason. As a result, resources are spent on churning out degree holders who are bereft of basic knowledge in their field.

For instance, the India Skills Report for 2014, from Wheebox, an online talent assessment company, showed that only 10 per cent of MBA graduates and 17 per cent of engineering graduates in the country are employable. With 15 lakh engineers passing out every year, we have 12.5 lakh unemployable engineers created year after year.

The apathy to train the youth is doubly lamentable because we are frittering away a unique opportunity. India has the world’s largest population of 10-24 year olds, at 356 million, according to a recent UN report. This is one-fifth of all young people in the world. But the opportunity can become a threat if the goal is passing exams by hook or crook.

We have so far focused on improving the quantity of our output — number of school pass-outs, graduates in various fields — and never on quality. It is about time we pay attention to this aspect and put the emphasis on skills rather than education.

The good thing is that the National Skills Development Council has upped its target for 2014-15 to skill 3.3 million people — three times its target for the earlier year. The government is also going beyond lip service and has set aside ₹1,500 crore for training. Skill development councils for various sectors such as construction, healthcare and telecom have created relevant curricula for their fields.

Besides our homegrown solutions, we may also do well by copying countries such as South Korea — 96 per cent of that country’s workforce is skilled, compared with 2 per cent in India. Or plagiarising the apprentice models in countries such as China which has 200 lakh apprentices a year, compared with a mere 2.8 lakh apprentices a year in India.

Meera Siva, Chief Research Analyst

Published on March 27, 2015
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