The need for a shift in our approach towards skills and qualifications has been understood by key stakeholders in the educational and vocational system.
The need for a shift in our approach towards skills and qualifications has been understood by key stakeholders in the educational and vocational system. The National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) is the next logical step to create a dual system which will, unlike the current system, include more youth than it excludes. NSQF is a competency-based framework that establishes all qualifications in accordance with a range of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. These levels, from 1 to 10, are in terms of learning outcomes that one must possess regardless of whether they are secured through formal, non-formal or informal learning. After a full-fledged roll-out of NSQF, all existing educational frameworks stand superseded by it. Under NSQF, a learner can acquire the certification of excellence needed at any level through formal, non-formal or informal learning. In that sense, NSQF is a quality assurance framework with a futuristic outlook.
Working with the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship (MSDE), the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has launched the Skills Assessment Matrix for Vocational Advancement of Youth (SAMVAY) that provides seamless movement from education to skills. Its NSQF outline has defined a vocational course’s equivalence to a formal education course counterpart. Two similar qualifications will be eligible for certain ‘skill certification levels’ on a scale of 1 to 9. A third-year student in a formal degree programme, an advance diploma in a vocational course holder and a degree in vocational course holder will all be treated similar and allocated level ‘7’ under the upcoming framework. This will help create a nationwide acceptability of vocational training certifications along with formal education certificates. Each level of certification, from 1 to 9, is dedicated 1,000 hours per annum. Each level is a combination of skill development and educational hours. Currently, NSQF levels defined by MSDE and MHRD are not in sync with each other. It is important that the levels are the same and there is a seamless credit transfer between MHRD and MSDE.
The underlying need
The problem remains with acceptability of certifications other than the regular ITI or university certificates at both ends of the value chain—the youth and the industry. Any market-driven programme would require an inherent demand of the certificate that is being provided, apart from the skill being offered. The certification is always accompanied with a base level skilling, further skilling or up-skilling, which generally translates into a progression in the organisational hierarchy in terms of job role and salary. Moreover, the system of vocational training we have also has (for a lot of courses) a minimum ‘matriculation pass’ criterion, but only 50%, on average, clear the 10th standard exams in our country. In the US, community colleges cannot deny admission to anyone who is 18 and above and has a sound mind. It is also possible for a community college graduate to ultimately pass out of a Harvard University and this is similar in other countries such as Germany, Australia, etc, with advanced vocational education systems. Simply put, this is not possible for anyone in India yet.
The advantages of NSQF framework include enhanced mobility between vocational and general education, a standard training process, global mobility of skilled workforce from India, cross-sectoral progress mapping, revised approval of NOS/QPs (National Occupational Standards/Qualification Packs) as national standards for skill training, etc. Also, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) will help a person transit from non-formal market to organised market through assessment of the concerned person’s industrial competencies. Such a setting would prove immensely beneficial for individuals who have developed skills equivalent to a certain grade level, but in the unorganised job market.
Better late than never
Policy makers must pay attention to an effective roll-out of NSQF as soon as possible. After its notification in December 2013, it was decided that NSQF would be fully implemented within five years. As per the official notification target, the recruitment rules of the government of India and PSUs of the central government would have been amended by 2016 to define eligibility criteria for all positions in terms of NSQF levels, a target that has not been achieved till date.
The journey from education to employment is marked with illustrious milestones. On the one end of the spectrum we have students, graduates or job aspirants, and on the other end the industry with a range of jobs in private and public sector. NSQF would enable meeting the market demand for skilled workforce through industry-approved training curriculum and placement options, thus helping both ends meet with lesser friction.
The author is director, Business Services, AISECT, India’s largest education, skill development, services and e-governance network