what are we studying?

School minus skills = zero
- Educationists mull vocation-friendly courses in matric
Students celebrate their HSLC result at St Mary’s School in Guwahati on Saturday. Picture by Eastern Projections
Guwahati, June 1: Once the euphoria is over, reality begins: a piece of paper that states how many marks have been scored in which paper.
But does that include a skill that makes our students fresh out of school market or life-worthy as they take their first big step into the world?
As Assam’s latest batch of matriculates scramble for a place in the state’s colleges, Dispur wants the state’s Industrial Training Institutes to increase its seats to 10,000 to accommodate those who won’t be able to afford education beyond school and will have to earn their two square meals a day.
“Seeing the huge demand and scope of providing more skills-based training to school and college dropouts, the government is contemplating a two-fold increase in seats,” director, employment and craftsman training Moloy Bora said. At present, there are 5,880 seats.
The worrying part, though, is that such skills could have been taught in school itself, thereby cutting down on the number of students who cannot pay their way through college.
“The youths of today should be skilled enough to enter the job market, which he has to do at some time or the other,” Bora said.
Major industrial houses and government departments recruit ex-ITI trainees for employment and apprenticeship training. Industrial departments and other agencies also give preferential treatment to ITI certificate holders while considering schemes for self-employment.
The period of training varies between six months and three years as the entry qualification varies from Class VIII to XII.
Dispur has also formed a Skill Development Board under the chairmanship of the chief minister and a Skill Development Foundation is proposed to be constituted with active involvement of industry/employment associations of Assam.
The government also plans to set up skill development centres in each block and Rs 10 crore has been provided for the purpose.
That sports, too, can be a vocation, and taken up as a lucrative career, also needs to be stressed. Skills can be made a part of school curriculum itself, at least to give the students of the lower strata of society a better chance of earning a living while attending college for higher studies.
Apart from getting preference while pursuing higher studies, talented school dropouts with a proven track record in sports get preference during recruitment, particularly in the government sector. This aspect, too, has been ignored in the school system itself.
“Sport has always been a green pasture for career building in Assam. At a time when there is very little job opportunity for the ever-increasing number of educated youths in Assam, sportspersons are probably the only ones who are getting absorbed into different sectors. The prospects have been further bolstered with both the Centre as well as the state government providing all possible aid, particularly at the school level,” said joint director of sports R.P. Baruah, who is also a veteran national-level sports organiser.
“The government is leaving no stone unturned to develop sport in the school-level, utilising funds not only from its budget but also the central funds to the optimum through the Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan and the Sports Authority of India. Assam has always been a regular in the National School Games and the performance there every year reflects improvement,” Baruah said.
But there are talented students who often give up sport to concentrate on studies.
“There is no denying that a professional sportsperson can earn a livelihood even better than his or her counterpart holding a brilliant academic record. The only things you need to build a career in sport are discipline, hard work and dedication towards the game,” said BCCI junior India selector Rajesh Borah, citing examples of Abu Nechim Ahmed, Pritam Das, Dhiraj Goswami, archer Jayanta Talukdar.
“Besides, a sportsperson can also be a brilliant student which many of our sportspersons have often proved; the latest being three cricketers from Tezpur ranking among the top 20 in the last High School Leaving Certificate examination. There is no dearth of job opportunity for any sportsperson, particularly in Assam, with the government as well as the corporate sector absorbing almost all the successful sportspersons regularly,” he added.
The crux of the story remains the same — school education is failing to arm students with skills good enough for employment.
Principal of Cotton Collegiate Govt HS School Pabitra Kumar Deka said to enhance employability of students who pass the matriculation examination, the school syllabus must include something on skill development. “Once there was a subject called work experience which at least helped students develop some basic skills. The subject was abolished in the nineties. Under such circumstances, students who cannot afford education after matric, remain unemployed.”
The secretary of the Board of Secondary Education, Assam, D. Mahanta, however, said the subject of work experience still exists but in a different style and format. He said the SEBA syllabi from Class VIII includes the subject under co-curricular activities. “In the co-curricular subject, the schools train students in painting, music, sculpture, toy-making, computers and photography. Examinations are conducted on the subjects to assess or test students’ skill. Schools send report cards on co-curricular activities of students to the SEBA during the time of matric examination.”
The fact, though, remains that such skills are never honed to a professional level where it could mean being part of a survival kit.
Even though the Assam Higher Secondary Education Council introduced a separate vocation stream in Classes XI and XII, the degree colleges, HS schools and private institutions have not introduced the stream, citing various reasons.
The council runs its vocational stream in 16 subjects including general foundation course, crop production, horticulture, inland fisheries, maintenance and repair of electrical domestical appliances, textile designing, repair and maintenance of radio and TV receiver, official secretariatship, office management, computer technique, commercial art, accountancy and auditing, commercial garment making and designing, repair and maintenance of power driven farm machinery, automobile engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology.
“Only a few government higher secondary schools have adopted the vocational stream,” Pradip Kumar Kalita, controller of examination of AHSEC, said.
In Assam, it is mostly a case of playing it safe: study to make it through life; if one cannot afford the money that is required for a college education, there begins the story of the state’s dropouts.

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