Educated unemployable problem
A recent survey conducted by NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) claims that over 75 per cent of technical graduates in India are not ready for jobs. The NASSCOM survey also reveals that India’s outsourcing industry is currently spending more than Rs 5000 crores, every year in retraining these fresh graduates.
The data that we have from the statutory body, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), is even more disquieting. It states that in 2010-11, the number of engineering seats in the country rose up to 13 lakh in 2010-11, whereas it was only 5 lakh in 2005-06. Is there any use of increasing the number of engineering seats, when majority of the graduates are unable to compete in the jobs market?
In India, the average age of the population is 25 years. This large mass of youthful energy can only be harnessed through a system of proper education. As compared to countries like USA, Europe and Japan, India enjoys a significant demographic dividend. By 2020, the average Indian will be only 29 years old, compared to 37 years in China and US; 45 years in West Europe; and 48 years in Japan.
If this hidden gift of so-called demographic dividend is productively deployed, India’s economic and social prospects will brighten. However, if we are unable to engineer significant improvements in our system of higher education, almost 50 per cent of our youth coming out of higher education institutions will be unable to realise their full potential.
The major challenge that students face is that many of the educational institutions are out of synch with the rapid changes that are taking place in the world of technology, business management and many other areas. Thus the syllabi of these institutions remains disconnected with the needs of the industry. After few years of study, when the students come out of the institution, they are not fully equipped to meet the current industry requirements.
It is not just the knowledge that the industries are looking for; they also evaluate their employees on the basis of competencies ranging from soft skills, team building, overall attitude, and values. But the degrees that many of the institutions award are nothing more than a rubberstamp, the fresh graduates lack the skills for performing in world-class organisations. According to the 2012 National Employability Report, at least 83 per cent of engineering students in our country are unfit for employment.
Lack of awareness in the faculty about the latest industry practices is also responsible for students being taught stuff that is not relevant. Teachers may lack the time, means or the motivation to learn about new systems. There should be regular programmes for updating the faculty with latest knowledge in the particular area in which they train their students. Then there are the issues related to infrastructure. Large numbers of students are stuck in institutions that simply lack the infrastructure for delivery of quality education.
What are the solutions?
For any individual, higher education is not only a means of expanding his or her intellectual horizons; it is also a catalyst for becoming financially independent and gaining the capability for leading a respectable life. These objectives can be achieved if we have quality institutions, and there is a significant connection between the academia and the industry. The government must develop better policies to facilitate transfer of new ideas to the educational instructions at a faster pace.
In 2001, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee pioneered the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, which for the first time made education for children a fundamental right. It is worth noting that the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, as envisaged by Vajpayee ji, includes special focus on life skills and computer education. The goal of the scheme is to not only provide knowledge to the child, but to also turn him into a productive member of the society. Similar vision needs to be at work in the high education sector.
Stronger partnerships must be forged between the industry and the academia. This is already happening in some of the more prominent institutions; IT companies are partnering with colleges and universities to develop strategies for preparing students for careers in software and hardware sectors, and also to provide them with the necessary social skills. However, such partnerships between industry and academia are mostly confined to the institutions located in major cities. In smaller towns, students are yet to reap the benefit of such collaborations.
The curriculum should be in step with the general trends in the industry. This can only happen when there is active collaboration between the industry and the academia for developing learning models suitable for modern era. Innovation by the academia has substantially contributed to the success of businesses, especially in Western countries. However, in India majority of the higher education institutions are not equipped with good research facilities. A creative educational culture cannot come into being, unless there are facilities for research and innovation.
Today, the reality is that the government is controlling large parts of the higher education sector in the country. It is time the top policy makers and the academicians realised that unemployability is as big a problem as unemployment. Millions of students in the country are aspiring to rise up in life by gaining education. We must ensure that they are able to fulfill their ambitions by gaining access to education that is relevant by latest industry standards.