The government needs to raise the bar on higher education. This entails increasing opportunities for enrolment as well as improving the quality of higher education. Key to achieving this will be to encourage private investment in higher education and also bring greater accountability among institutions for their performance. On some of these, the government has taken definitive steps. It is planning to start 16 new central universities, eight new Indian Institutes of Technology and seven new Indian Institutes of Management. To catalyse rapid growth, the government is now encouraging private participation. While this is a good start, it still remains a hugely unexploited opportunity. The government is seeking to bring more transparency and accountability in higher educational institutions through a bold new regulatory regime, the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority. This is now setting the much needed direction towards a step change in building human capital.
A Confederation of Indian Industry report, on the mapping of manpower skills in Maharashtra to the state’s projected requirement by 2012, came up with some very pertinent recommendations on what educational institutions can do to enhance overall employability in India. These included: a farm-to-work programme so that those who are employed in seasonal, agricultural work can move to other jobs in between; a school-to-work programme that can employ those who wish to join the workforce once they reach employable age; experiential learning programmes so that students can be better prepared to deliver when they start working and modular courses so that students can pick from an array of skills and train for any subset thereof to improve their employability.
Through such initiatives, we can ensure that the millions of able but unemployed youth can find meaningful and sustainable employment. For example, training of school dropouts through modular courses for specific jobs will enable 17 million young school dropouts to be gainfully employed. The current educational institutions must embrace the culture of skills training so that it benefits the wider sections of society and addresses the big issue of employability.
India needs ITIs as much as it needs IITs. We need to accelerate access to technical training to address