The V Forward

692

SHEIKH ABID

IN efforts to impart skill-oriented or vocational education among school-going students of Jammu and Kashmir at the primary and secondary levels respectively, the Jammu & Kashmir government has come up with a highly effective idea. Now, skills related to job-oriented sectors like the IT/ITES, retail, tourism & hospitality, telecom, media, beauty and wellness, agriculture, plumbing, apparel made-ups and home furnishing, automotive, multi-skilling and electronics & hardware are taught to students alongside the traditional books.

  • The way to the vocational

The erstwhile Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), now known as the Ministry of Education (MoE), brought out, in September 2011, a revised Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Vocationalisation of primary, secondary and higher secondary education to integrate employability education into school education. In 2018, this scheme got further revised and was brought under the integrated initiative (Samagra Shiksha) by the Ministry of Education (MoE) and termed as Vocationalisation of School Education (VSE)

The revised norms allow a student to complete training in one Job Role in Class IX and X which is followed by another job role in Class XI and XII. The scheme is operated within the NSQF (National Skill Qualification Framework), which establishes a system of clear educational pathways from school to higher education while providing certification of vocational skills. The Government of Jammu & Kashmir has been implementing VSE in nearly 733 schools till date, as per approval and funding from the Government of India.

  • The NVEQF inroads

The National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF), the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Vocationalisation of primary and secondary education, provides for diversification of educational opportunities so as to enhance individual employability, reduce the mismatch between demand and supply of skilled manpower and provides an alternative for those pursuing higher education.

The scheme provides for financial assistance to states to set up administrative structures, area vocational surveys, curriculum, text books, work-book curriculum guides, training manuals, teacher training programmes, and strengthen technical support system for research and development, training and evaluation etc. As per the said scheme, 22 schools (one from each district) of the State have been approved.

According to official details, the Skill Hub Initiative has also been implemented in 40 schools for out-of-school youth under ‘vocational education’. Vocational education is being imparted in 714 secondary and senior secondary schools in 14 different trades across the UT. Besides, with the inauguration of 626 ‘vocational’ labs by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the total number of this vital facility in J&K has reached 850. The government is extending vocational education to 70,000 students, from Class IX to Class XII every year, with most getting employment in their relevant fields.

The Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Vocationalisation of secondary and higher secondary education of the Ministry of Education, Government of India, lists out a crucial role for NSDC and its Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) in the implementation of the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF). The trainings conducted in the scheme are based on the National Occupational Standards set by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through its Sector Skill Councils. The scheme also mandates the SSCs to conduct assessments and certification jointly with the State Board of School Education.

Sector Skill Councils support in Identification of Trades/ Occupations, Accrediting Curriculum with the Pandit Sunderlal Sharma Central Institute of Vocational Education (PSSCIVE), Quality Control of Training, Training of Trainers, Student Assessment and Certification and Industry Interface. NSDC-funded training partners take the responsibility of entire training delivery including deploying and managing faculty, organising guest lectures/industry visits.

The vocational trades/subjects are being introduced in Class IX which corresponds to Level-1 of the NSQF. Therefore, four levels are completed in school education up to Class XII. Usually each school provides an option of two trades, with an enrollment of ideally 40 students in each trade per class. Previously one job role was completed in four levels, however according to revised guidelines, two job roles can be completed in four years of school education starting from Class IX.

  • The hiccups

As on date there are more than 1,200 vocational trainers who impart skill-based education in various primary, secondary and higher secondary schools in J&K. These trainers are hired by service providers namely Vocational Training Partners (VTPs) who are themselves hired by the J&K government, which makes their job profile of outsourced contractual  based workers. On the other hand, these trainers are highly qualified who work very hard to give quality, skill-based education to students. There has been no enhancement in their monthly salaries since their appointment four-five years back. These VTs have held several protests in the J&K in the past few years. They allege they are not getting any annual pay increase along with the Central Provident Fund (CPF), leave or insurance cover. “There is dearth of infrastructure in schools with respect to vocational education. We don’t have adequate labs, classrooms and other trade-related necessary equipments at our disposal and often times, we suffer because of that. Besides, we are highly qualified in our respective fields with higher degrees; still we don’t have any job security despite performing in our results,” says Mushtaq Ahmad, a vocational teacher.

However, the J&K government, in an attempt to address the issues in vocational training education and related demands, had formed a committee earlier. The committee, constituted in 2021, was headed by Project Director, J&K Samagra Shiksha as its chairman while Deputy Director (Planning) SED, Chief Accounts Officer (Samagra Shiksha) and Under Secretary (M) SED were its members. As per the order issued by the administrative department, the committee was entrusted to go through the whole process of engagement of VTs, particularly the implementation of the labour laws like Provident Fund, increment and leave (maternity leave). “The committee will assess the feasibility of Haryana government’s model/policy for VTs for its implementation in J&K UT” – the order reads.

Notably, the committee was constituted after the VTs made a hue and cry against the government for its failure in giving any hike to the skilled lot working in the department for the last seven years. The outcome of this has not been evident till date.

Around 1,200 VTs working in 733 government high and higher secondary schools were hired by the SED from 2016 under a centrally sponsored scheme – National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF). Under this scheme, trainers were hired to impart vocational education to the students in high and higher secondary schools.

Over the last one year, the VTs have demanded adoption of the Haryana model wherein the recruitment is done without roping in the VTPs and the VTs are entitled for yearly increment as well. But, “till date, we have not been provided with any benefits given to VTs in other states including Haryana. We are not demanding any regularisation, but want our genuine demands to be addressed,” says one of the VTs, on condition of anonymity.

It is pertinent to mention that the Haryana government, in 2022, provided one-time hike in the salary of the VTs and also ordered that the VTs be entitled for annual increment of five percent in their salary.

In context of the issues faced by female vocational trainers, there are a number of benefits being snatched from them. “We are not provided with maternity leave and related benefits unlike other government teachers. Similarly, we also have to face the problem of daily commuting due to inter-district postings. We want to remind the administration that we are also humans, like other employees, and we too deserve a dignified treatment,” shares a female VT with KC.

  • The way ahead

The vocational trainings needs to be given the status of a priority sector, since it is with such training alone that the youth from the lesser privileged strata of the society (that form the greater bulk of the population) can take up self-employment of one form or the other, and be able to find employment as skilled workers.

This would require significant investments in the sector so that the training standards are brought up to an outstanding level, which would enable imparting modern training to the youth. And the skilled hands produced thus, would have greater acceptability and broader vistas of employment would open to them.

In case of failure to respond to the situation, the youth, at large, shall continue to pursue aimless education and thus keep on worsening the unemployment situation in the State which could have unforeseen repercussions in the future.

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