Role of vocational education in shaping socio-economic landscape in India.

AuthorAgrawal, Rashmi
PositionBy Invitation


The task envisaged in the National Skill Development Policy (MOLE, 2009) of developing skills of 500 million Indians by 2020 to meet the emerging needs of the rapidly developing and diversifying domestic economy and also to cash the favorable demographic situation the country is likely to enjoy vis-a-vis the developed world for some years to come is gigantic and ambitious but not necessarily impossible. It requires a multi-pronged and at the same time coordinated approach and efforts on several fronts at various levels of education and by various stakeholders. The National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 (as modified in 1992) emphasizes the role of education system of the country in catering to the needs of the human resource requirement for the economic development of the country. NPE asserts that education can serve as an instrument of promotion of decent productive employment through introduction of well-planned and rigorously implemented programs of vocational education to enhance employability of the present labor force and those who will join the labor force in the coming years. Such vocational streams would reduce the mismatch between demand and supply of skilled manpower but would also provide better alternative opportunities to those pursuing tertiary education often without a specific objective. The Policy called for generic vocational courses which cuts across several occupational fields. In accordance with the vision of the National Policy, there is a special emphasis on learning outcomes in the 12th Five Year Plan. The Plan has set and prioritized the agenda for achieving access, equity, quality and governance in education.

The half-a-billion strong labor force of India can be a great economic asset for the country, a potential that is vastly under-utilized as yet because of its low skill endowments. Despite considerable expansion in facilities for vocational education and training in the country over the years, it is estimated that only about 0.9 per cent of the persons aged 15-29 years had received formal vocational training and another 2.0 per cent were receiving such training in 2009-10 (NSSO, 2013). Even though this is an improvement over the position five years earlier when only 2 percent had either received or receiving formal vocational training (NSSO, 2006), the conclusion that very few of the fresh entrants to the world of work have any prior formal vocational training remains valid. Even after allowing for possible effects of definitional variations as to what constitutes a skill and the fact that the data are based primarily on the subjective responses of people, this proportion of the trained youth is one of the lowest in the world (1). In contrast, in countries like Korea, Japan and Germany 60-96% of the youth in the age group 20-24 are vocationally trained. The differences are glaring and point to the extremely limited skill endowment among the youth in India, partly due to inadequate training facilities and their access and partly due to the low premium placed on vocational education and training as opposed to higher general and professional education. Chart 1 provides an overview of the current formal system of vocational education and technical training in India.

Unlike in other countries, vocational education and training system in India is quite complex. While in other systems, vocational education and technical training are under one umbrella, in India, the two are considered as separate entities, and a distinction is made between vocational education and technical training. Content-wise, the difference between the two also probably lies in the relative importance attached to theory and practice with vocational education laying greater emphasis on theory and the vocational training on practical skills. The main line of division, however, is that vocational education is imparted through the regular schools in the general education system and vocational training through the specialized training institutions and others. While vocational education in schools is, as a corollary, the responsibility of the Department of School Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), vocational training for craftsmen takes place in industrial training institutions and through apprenticeship on shop floor controlled primarily by the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE). This paper will focus upon the vocational education imparted in the school system only. As may be seen from Chart 1, vocational education appears only at the secondary stage of school education.

Vocational Education at School Level

The push for vocational education in general schools started in 1964-66, with the Kothari Education Commission advocating a restructuring of the education system and recommending a vocational education stream in schools at higher secondary stage (GoI, 1966). The National Policy on Education (GoI, 1968) incorporated these recommendations. The 10+2+3 system of education was started in 1975 and in the same year the vocational education stream was introduced at the senior secondary level 11th and 12th grades. The National Educational Policy (GoI, 1986) targeted to cover at least 10% of higher secondary students under the vocational education program by 1990 and 25% by 1995. The revised National Policy (GoI, 1992) envisaged starting of generic vocational courses at +2 levels. Following the report of the Kulandaiswamy Committee (GoI, 1985) the government reviewed the vocational education program and launched the scheme of vocationalization of secondary education in 1988. Its main objectives were:

  1. To divert students after schooling to the world of work in order to restrict their aimless entry into higher education.

  2. To increase employability.

  3. To reduce the mismatch between demand and supply of trained manpower.

  4. To cater to the needs of those who did not want to continue their education after school.

Initially the scheme of vocationalisation of secondary education was introduced in the year 1976-77 as a scheme of the state governments, which was later (1992-93) modified and implemented as a centrally sponsored scheme (2) following the enunciation of the modified National Policy on Education (NPE). The underlying idea behind introduction of this scheme was to reduce the pressure on higher education in universities as well as developing a healthy attitude towards work among students. It also aimed at 'diversification of educational opportunities so as to enhance individual employability, reduce the mismatch between demand and supply of skilled manpower and provide an alternative for those pursuing higher education' (MHRD, 2013).

Education, including vocational education, is a subject included in the 'Concurrent List' in the Constitution of India, thus making it the joint domain of responsibility of the Union and state governments. Accordingly, the responsibility for vocational education is shared between the two constituents of governance. The formulation of policies and national standards and procedures is with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The All India Council for Vocational Education (AICVE), under MHRD, is responsible for planning, guiding and coordinating the program at the national level. While the overall national level functions are thus the responsibility of the MHRD in the Union Government, the responsibility for the actual implementation of the program rests with the respective state governments. State Councils for Vocational Education (SCVEs) perform functions similar to the AICVE at the state level.

In principle, vocational education covers education and skill development at all levels from post primary to tertiary education. At primary and lower secondary standards (middle) it provides students the concept of world of work; pre-vocational education is imparted in classes 9th and 10th and vocational education as a distinct stream starts in senior secondary at 11th and 12th level. At this...

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