The National Knowledge Commission (NKC), constituted in June 2005, was entrusted with the task of preparing a blueprint for reform of our knowledge related institutions and infrastructure. It focusesd on five key areas of enhancing access to knowledge, reinvigorating institutions where knowledge concepts are imparted, creating a world class environment for creation of knowledge, promoting applications of knowledge for sustained and inclusive growth and using knowledge applications in efficient delivery of public services.
To increase the flexibility of Vocational Education and Training (VET) within the exiting mainstream education system, the NKC has suggested the following steps:
- Aspects of general education (such as numeracy skills, etc.) should be retained in VET as far as possible, to enable students to return to mainstream education at a later stage.
- Courses in training institutes and polytechnics should have distinct tracks for students of different educational attainments.
- Entry requirements for certain trades should reflect the requirement of the trade (as appropriate, for instance, the entry requirement of students should have passed Class X could be relaxed to Class VIII in some cases). Students should be permitted multiple entry and exit options in the vocational education stream.
- Links should be established between the vocational education stream and school education as well as higher education.
- Courses devoted to certain skills training at the primary and secondary level should be introduced in all schools.
- Vocational training should be made available in various literacy and adult education schemes.
- Schemes for lifelong skill up-gradation, through short training programmes, should be introduced.
- There should be a provision for generating a cadre of multi-skilled persons
The existing Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and Industrial Training Centres (ITCs) are widely recognised to face problems such as poor quality trainers, lack of flexibility, outdated infrastructure, etc.
Measures to strengthen the current institutional structure and improve the existing institutions are:
- Extent of functional autonomy must be increased, the ITIs should be given more power to strengthen and adapt their training programmes to better meet local market needs.
- Indicators of internal and external efficiency should be developed (by the proposed National Institute) to incentivise good performance.
- Modules on literacy, numeracy, communication skills, entrepreneurship and other general skills relevant to workplace requirements must be introduced in all courses.
- Different tracks within courses for different levels of specialisation should be introduced.
- Students should be offered incentives such as tools, membership of trade associations, etc., as part of their degree/ diploma.
- Industry and trade involvement should be enhanced not only at the internship stage, but also at the time of examinations and placements.
- Curricula should be constantly monitored and updated.
- The skills and courses offered should be reviewed periodically. The number of skills currently offered needs to be increased.
- Teaching should be conducted in English as well as local languages.
- Infrastructure should be regularly upgraded.
- Quality of teaching must be drastically improved.
In today’s world, access to knowledge has become the source and manifestation of disparity. NKC’s recommendations, which focus on expansion in educational opportunities and special provisions for the disadvantaged, specifically seek to create an inclusive society.
Finally, to accelerate the course of development in the country, efforts have to be made to nourish innovation, entrepreneurship and to address the skill requirements of a growing economy.
The real challenge, according to the Commission, is to create an appropriate environment to engage and empower local communities and various other stakeholders, and at the same time build effective and sustainable models of collaboration, including public-private partnerships, as also partnerships between academia, industry and local communities at large to bring about generational changes in our knowledge institutions and infrastructures.