Publishers play a key role in developing profession-specific language skills

By: | Published: March 7, 2016 12:02 AM

The Union Budget FY17 had important announcements for improving the quality of education and skill development in the country. Sivaramakrishnan V, Managing Director, Oxford University Press India, shares with the Financial Express his views on the Budget. Excerpts:

The Union Budget FY17 had important announcements for improving the quality of education and skill development in the country. Sivaramakrishnan V, Managing Director, Oxford University Press India, shares with the Financial Express his views on the Budget. Excerpts:

In Budget FY17, there is a major allocation towards the development of multi-skill development centres. How do publishers stand to benefit from Skill India?

India has a large youth population and there is a need to make this young workforce employable. Skill India is a step in the right direction and organisations such as the NSDC provide impetus to skill development by catalysing the creation and scaling of quality vocational institutions. Good quality content, pedagogy, practical learning and training are key to skill development. Given the significant role of services in our economy, one of the critical levers of skill development is language proficiency, especially English, which is often a prerequisite for jobs across levels. We believe that quality and learner-centric content from publishers can immensely benefit young learners of English language. Further, there is also a need for profession-specific language skills, and education publishers can again play an important role there. In 2015, OUP India released a book ‘Practical English for Nurses’, which is good example of publishers responding to specific-to-profession requirements. OUP’s Adult English language learning material is available in bilingual mediums to ensure we benefit a wide range of learners, an example of that is the bilingual English Grammar series published by us in 10 Indian languages. So, in our view, content creators/publishers can certainly enable the creation of a ‘skilled and employable’ workforce.

Do publishers share some synergy with the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)?

PMKVY is a promising scheme for the youth that delivers training through affiliated training partners. We are sure publishers with relevant expertise can facilitate creation of quality learning material directly or in partnership with training partners. Again, as mentioned earlier, quality content and pedagogy coupled with the right practical learning and training will result in proper skilling.

What role do publishers such as OUP have to play in the National Digital Literacy Mission?

The advent of technology has been a major disruption in education that has brought about a lot of positives. The number of mobile internet users in India is projected to double and cross the 300-million mark by 2017 from 159 million users at present (as per the Internet and Mobile Association of India report). Publishers in India have quickly adapted to this changing landscape. As per the India Book Market report 2015 by Nielson, nearly 70% of publishers in India have digitised their content to produce e-books and other forms of digitised content. We believe that internet penetration and device proliferation will enable publishers to grow their reach. It will also enable publishers to provide more cost-effective mobile, tablet and web-based solutions to learners in distant geographies.

The Budget also announced setting up digital depositories for school, college certificates for easy storage and retrieval. What is your opinion on this initiative?

The merits of digitisation are uncontested, so this seems like a good initiative and should benefit students and institutions alike.

Do you think the Budget should have included measures towards building efficacy in the education system and making it more learner-centric?

The measurement of learning outcomes has become as important as the delivery of education, so announcement of some initiative to this effect would have been welcome. The government should put in place checks and balances to ensure that the delivery of education is leading to effective student learning and outcomes. Any such measure will compel stakeholders to ensure that the learner is at the ‘heart’ of their efforts. The more progressive organisations have already realised the importance of measuring the impact of learning, but a regulatory initiative stands to impact and benefit the entire education ecosystem.

Does OUP India offer specific solutions that can assist in teacher training initiatives?

OUP facilitates over 1,000 teacher training workshops every year, delivered through experienced trainers, and has covered over half a million teachers so far. We produce teacher training resources, both print and digital, alongside our content. This is perhaps the most critical support element in our school education publishing agenda. We have consistently received great feedback on our teacher training programme that has grown strongly over the years.

Has OUP lately been part of any major government initiative?

We have not been directly involved in any government initiative (in India) and are very open to the idea. Any future involvement will be function of our expertise and the positive impact we think we will be able to make.

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