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Technical education by itself was not of focal interest to educationists who were more interested in framing policies related to general education. As the global economy has evolved and the nature of the market place has changed, it has become an accepted fact that the top employment opportunities shall be those that require technical education, vocational education. The requirement is for technical programs to respond to the change in mission by preparing students with the following skills,
The academic and other skills required at the workplace are today linked to the multi-disciplinary requirement of work tasks, the quantum of technology and information in the workplace, the increasingly close interactions required for achievement of work tasks. Whether the present technical education system meets these requirements has to be deliberated upon.
Technical education has remained oriented towards a competency-led curriculum arising out of the perceived needs of Industry and delivered through a pedagogy based on pre-determined performance objectives such as condition, task standard. Teacher directed/dominated learning, evaluation based on fixed criteria are the characteristics of today’s technical education.
The learning theory that is emerging now is based on the theoretical framework of Constructivism. At the heart of this theory is the concept of self-directed learning or internalized construction of knowledge based on experiences. The basic tenets of this approach are,
The very framework of the technical education system needs to be relooked.
If one were to take a look at the story of degree level engineering institutions in the country, in 1950 there were about fifty (50) institutions with a student intake of 3700; in 1990, just before the advent of the liberalization era, there were 337 institutions with students intake of 66,000. With the advent of liberalization the pace of engineering education accelerated to match the demands of rapid industrialization and today we have more than 3400 Engineering Institutions with a student intake of about sixteen lakh thirty five thousand (16,35,00) students. The number of institutions granting Master’s degree stands at more than 2100 today with intake of about 63,400 students. Hardly 4% of the undergraduate students are incentivized to join up for higher degree courses. This sits very poorly in comparison to the developed countries.
The Indian Technical education system is also facing the shortage of faculty. Considering the undergraduate intake of 16, 35,000 plus students and a student’s /teacher ratio of 15:1, the shortage is a staggering 75000 or more.
One characteristic of the Indian technical education is that the private or self-financing institutions account for almost 90% of the students’ intake. This means that government spending/support to technical education sector is severely lacking. Sponsorship from the Industry, PSUs under Public Private Model would have eased the situation.
Another weakness of the technical education system is the lack of research work in Institutions, or the poor quality of research. Breakthrough technologies or innovation is practically non-existent. Innovation/Incubation centers, government sponsorship for research and industry outreach is minimal.
The research profiles of the academia and industry are not aligned hence the sponsorship too is not encouraging. Academic research is scientific, publication oriented, long term, analytical, hampered with infrastructural resources constraints; Most of the industry research expectations are short term, profit oriented, related to real world- this chasm does not permit a fruitful association,
Looking ahead, the reforms in the Indian education system need to look at the following;
Amidst all the changes that need to happen in terms of policy change and education programmer delivery in India, international labor markets are changing. In 2012, there were so many jobs that were not created in 2006. Especially as new technologies such as 3D printing and driverless cars change how we do business. In response to this we need to create people who have generalized skills that can be applied anywhere. There is a need for skills with both breadth and depth.
It is estimated that the world will have a shortage of 47M working people by 2020 while India alone will have a surplus of 59M people. India’s demographic surplus will be key in meeting the labor needs both within the country and beyond, but only if Workers have the right education and training.
In India, employment growth in service sector jobs has been huge. While total employment only grew by 13.4% between 2000 and 2010, the employment of professionals grew by 125.7%. Despite positive employment growth and higher University enrollment, there is a paradox of high graduate unemployment. In India graduate unemployment in 2014 was 33% as against 8.5% of total unemployment in the country.
One of the reasons for high graduate unemployment comes from a shortage of graduates with specialized skills. The largest job growth will come from sectors such as construction, automotive, retail and healthcare according to the NSDC (National Skill Development Council). By 2022, in the construction and automotive Industries alone, there will be close to 10 crore new jobs created. However students want jobs in different industries altogether.
The dynamic economies require high level talents that are also innovative, risk taking, adaptable and responsive to changing environments. To make technical education more relevant to labor market needs, there is a need to develop not only the right job skills but train students to become lifelong learners.
This article is based on a speech delivered by Rajeev Kumar, Global Head – Campus Hiring & Talent Acquisition Marketing for Wipro at the 44th ISTE National Annual Convention 2014