Indian Vision Session: Overview

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Summary Of Workshop Discussions

What follows is a description of the key issues and points raised during the discussions amongst participants in the workshop.

The discussion was facilitated by Henry Playfoot, following a brief presentation of the findings from the recently published report: Effective Education for Employment: A Global Perspective.

Two key statements can be drawn from the discussions:

  • We need to concentrate on quality rather than quantity in education
  • We need to consider and then design the ideal educational experience of education for students

The summary within this section represents the varied input of participants over the course of the session, as a background to the development of a set of key Vision statements..


Requirements Of The Knowledge Economy

  • Participants explained that when defining "knowledge and learning partnerships" with Industry you have to recognise that different industries have different needs. The different needs of the "bricks and mortar" and the "knowledge industry" need to be recognised. The knowledge industry requires a different type of person, with different skills and attributes; "as well as knowledge, you need language and business acumen skills among other things". Participants stated that India lags behind many other countries in developing skills for the knowledge economy (not seen as the case in the manufacturing or construction sectors), as well lacking systematic approaches to profiling the right people for this sector.
  • A difference was also noted in the scope and wider impact of the two sectors, with the knowledge industry/economy seen as international whilst the 'bricks and mortar' sectors are seen as essentially national. This has implications for educators: "You need knowledge of international culture/cultural differences to work in the knowledge industry."
  • India has a large a large 'informal sector' (the unofficial, unregulated economy) which is characterised by a large number of people with limited educational experience. "We need to define the landscape we are looking at...the informal economy produces 90% of the workforce in India - aspirations are high but access to education is low".

Perception Of Attitudes And Behaviours

  • Participants described a general lack of recognition of the importance of behavioural skills for 'blue collar' workers. They argued that behavioural skills are relevant to this type of worker as individuals need to develop good customer relationship skills e.g. an electrician needs to greet customers appropriately and strive to understand requirements of a specific task or project. Participants stated that many blue collar workers are deficient in this respect.
  • One participant emphasised the importance of these 'soft skills', explaining that any employee of his company, whatever their role, is also an ambassador for his company and is expected to behave accordingly.
  • The group recommended that there needs to be a greater focus on finding ways of explicitly incorporating 'soft skills' into traditional education delivery.
  • Furthermore, in the experience of one participant, the quality of candidates is decreasing in terms of knowledge, attitude and appropriate skill sets, while the number of candidates per position is increasing; an imbalance that urgently needs to be corrected.

Issues With Teaching

  • Participants agreed that standards of teaching in India are a significant problem, in part due to the status of the profession, the quality of teacher training and the ever-increasing demand for teaching staff across the country. The point was made that "It is the teacher who delivers education, but there is much evidence in India that many teachers treat this responsibility just as a job. These individuals are moulding the future of India...We need to find ways of igniting passion in them."

The Need For A 'Double Helix' System

  • The group agreed there is a significant disconnect between what the education system is delivering and what industry needs, and that this is because learning (techniques and curricula) has not been re-designed for the 21st century. Universities were described as tending to "...preserve the past, and claim employability is nothing to do with them." A strong message was sent: "We have to formally declare this needs changing - which has never happened to date - and institutionalise a 'double helix system' with two strands of education and industry interwoven together".

Employability Skills

  • With the Government of India's Modular Employable Skills Initiative, skilled workers including carpenters and plumbers will be properly certified, and therefore increase their status and long-term economic and employability prospects. This is seen by the group as one way of "tweaking" the status of vocational education.
  • Two important questions remain unresolved: "How are we going to support career transitions for people? India doesn't have a way to certify transferable skills, so how do we enable transition (between careers) and create leadership programmes around this?"
  • "Obsolescence is a big challenge in today's world. Knowledge becomes obsolete in 1 year and then up-skilling is necessary....What you need to know when selecting an employee is 'can someone learn?'. If the person doesn't have that ability to learn you have to change personnel and there is no point in hiring that person."

Guerrilla Economies: Matching Skills To Employment At Local Level

  • Participants stressed the importance of ensuring people's skills are relevant to the work opportunities in their own community. If people do well and outgrow their immediate environment they have to leave that community and take their skills with them, creating a brain drain.
  • Microfinance can help grow "guerrilla economies" in their local area so these skills don't get lost to their community. In this way, local economies grow according to the skills of their human capital.