Learning from the Germans

Written by Vasishta Haavanur | G Krishna Kumar | Updated: Nov 18 2013, 17:36pm hrs
The Union HRD minister recently stated that India has the potential to become the worldwide hub for sourcing skilled labour, apart from meeting the countrys demand. While this is indeed possible, India faces significant challenges around skill development and employability. The recent article Indias skill will conundrum (goo.gl/15k0lh) in a leading newspaper provides some insights on the challenges in Indias skill development.

It is well known that India is set to become the youngest country by 2020 with an average age of 29 years. Empirical data suggests that the presence of large percentage of working-age labour force, also called Indias demographic dividend, would greatly stimulate economy and growth. It is time to look afresh at the broad education framework in the country and imbibe some of the best-in-class education systems in the world to improve skills and employability in the country.

In this backdrop, how about learning from Germany Germany has the best employment-oriented education system in the world through its Duales Ausbildungssystem or the dual system of vocational education and training (DSVET).

Global adoption of DSVET

The DSVET, pioneered by Germany allows youth to pursue over 350 apprenticeship occupations like assistants to doctors or assistant in a legal firm or specific jobs in manufacturing industries. It provides skills to the youth without a degree, thereby providing them a great opportunity to enter the labour market.

Germanys Federal Ministry of Education and Research states that 66% of the school students enter the dual system and the entire program is mostly financed by the German companies. The course combines practical apprenticeships in a company and theoretical vocational education at a school. The duration of the theory and practical aspects vary from a few days to months. This system allows the student to be a quasi-employee of the company from the beginning, and based on individual interest and performance, a student could find full time employment.

The European Commission states that work-based learning, such as dual approaches, should be a central pillar of vocational education with the aim of reducing youth unemployment. The time-tested DSVET has been replicated in many European countries like France with positive results. Many of the countries affected by the European crisis are looking at the DSVET for improving employability. Interestingly, while countries like Greece and Spain have over-50% unemployment rates, Germany has managed to keep it at less than 8%. Although many experts attribute the low unemployment rate in Germany to its strong economy and more aged population, DSVET certainly has certainly contributed to better employability in the country.

A news report suggests that China has recently started DSVET and the results are encouraging. It is quite astonishing that some form of DSVET system has been in India since the early 1990s! The Indo-German Training Center (IGTC), which is part of the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, is credited with bringing the system to India. Isnt it unfortunate then that only around 100 students pass out of this system every year

Challenges in replicating DSVET

It is quite intriguing that despite considerable effort from Germany in propagating the DSVET in other countries, the model has been successful only in a few countries. Why Adopting the dual system involves more than mere duplication. Existing skill development framework needs to be overlapped with DSVET by considering the countrys educational, social and economic objectives. Besides, industry-academia relationship is crucial for a successful DSVET system. In addition, the governments willingness and the availability of mass-employment generating industry are extremely important.

What needs to be done in India

India needs a three-pronged strategy to adapt the VET system. First, a strong career counselling system should be developed at the secondary school level. In Germany, segregation of children based on their abilities is carried out in the 6th grade. It is certainly debatable if a kids future should be decided at the age of 11 or 12 years. In India, we need schools to monitor and provide career counselling to the students when they are in 10th standard. This would help identify students who can pursue regular higher education and the ones who should take the DSVET route.

Second, we need to develop a system that will encourage industry bodies to own the DSVET initiative, including the decision on the syllabus for theory and practical training. Maybe, the mandatory CSR contribution from companies can be used effectively this way. Further, the HRD ministry and the All India Council for Technical Education could collaborate with the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce and come up with an implementation plan along with the leading industry bodies in the country. Perhaps such an exercise will help in strengthening the governments initiatives like the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), the National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF). As a pilot, the DSVET initiative could taken up in a highly industrialised state like Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra and a state with a low level of industrialisation like Bihar or Odisha.

Third, with the advancement in ICT, students could attend theory classes using the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform that provides a classroom-like environment. Perhaps companies associated with the DSVET program could provide tablets to the students to make use of the MOOC platform.

Summing up, India has a great opportunity to utilise the demographic dividend and improve skills, thus providing employment opportunities to the youth. However, for capitalising this opportunity, India should look at strengthening the existing education and training system and perhaps time to learn from the Germans. Can we see an Indianised DSVET soon

The authors are Bangalore-based IT professionals. Views are personal