Striking the death knell for job-oriented courses

Launched by the Government of India in 1977, vocationalisation was one of the educational reforms during the Fifth Plan period.

As its very name indicates, these courses were meant to enable young men and women find suitable jobs of their aptitude after completing 10 years of schooling, in stead of entering universities wherethey acquired useless degrees leading to nowhere.

It goes without saying that courses like these had to be extremely flexible to adapt
themselves to the changing socio-economic needs of the country. Job-oriented courses
are market driven and need to reinvent themselves continuously depending upon
the requirements ofemployers.Whatbetter unemployment has become a nightmare?

According to the pilot scheme, which selected three districts and 12 junior colleges,
the employment potential in the state was tapped in different areas such as agriculture,
engineering, industry and health services. The scheme was envisaged to train persons for middle level jobs where there was a dearth of qualified employees.

Whether it was in industry or health, the ratio was always top-heavy with more doctors than nursing aides; moreengineers than technicians. Vocationalisation would not
only fill this gap in the employment sectors. It would also make the beneficiaries both employable and employed. The jobs were there. Thehumanresourceswere there too.They
only had to be brought to get her to fulfil a gap in order to make both contribute to the economic development of the country.

It was a simple yet brilliant concept that would not only address the problem of unemployment directly, but would also reduce the burden on universities whose lengthy
courses and meaningless degrees drained the exchequer without benefit to the students
they churned out year after year.

In Karnataka, the programme expanded to more colleges in more districts in the
next two decades, making the two-year post school period more meaningful to its
students. Unfortunately, this viable scheme passed on from the educationist to the bureaucrat in course of  time. The first casualty was the job-oriented course itself.

Contradicting all norms of vocational training and the National Policy of Education which had envisaged the diversification of studies at the plus-two stage in order to
reduce pressures on colleges besides enhancing employability among students, the
Centre decided to make it a continuous course which merged into degree courses
later. The highlight of the vocational course was the fact that it was a terminal course.By
making it lead on to degree courses once again, the authorities struck the first blow
to a meaningful educational programme.

Remodelling of JOCs

Thestate governmentstruck the next blow in1991 by forming a special committee headed by Prof Rame Gowda which suggested a ‘remodelling’ of job-oriented courses by linking them to engineering colleges where the students could earn an engineering degree. It also suggested that the existing 300 vocational courses be expanded to 500!

All this goes to show that our educationists and bureaucrats have completely missed out the very genesis of this concept. Aquantitative expansion is nomore the answer than making vocational courses continuous. A two-year terminal job oriented course was the only answer to correct the mismatch between the employers’ requirements and the students’ skills. It was also the answer to prevent frustration among the younger generation which wasted four precious years in a university studying courses for which the students had no aptitude and the country had no use.

‘The New York Times’ recently carried an analysis of America’s education/employment scenario which highlighted the need to diversify students after schooling into more meaningful streams of study in the light of the economic crisis facing that country.
Well known educationists, economists and political scientists have concluded that “students should be steered toward intensive, short term career training through
expanded high school programmes.”

If a highly developed country like the US is thinking seriously of restructuring its educational curriculum in order to cut down the enormous costs of higher education besides solving the problem of unemployment, it is bizarre indeed that our governments
are ready to scrap an excellent programme like vocatonalisation after more than three
decades of its existence. If the programme has run into problems, it is more due to its
faulty handling than anything else.

I remember how the NMKRV junior college, which I administered as principal in
the 70s, was the firs twomen’s college in the country to start job oriented courses in engineering and health related services. What a thrill it was to meet young para medics
and technicians in hospitals and industries who enriched those institutions with their
skills while enriching themselves in the process. That’s what job oriented courses
are all about. When will our governments ever understand that progress and development can be achieved by first making every citizen useful to himself and to society?

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