School dropouts, skills gap major concerns for industry

By: | Published: April 4, 2016 12:28 AM

Despite the government running several programmes like the Mid Day Meal Scheme and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, around 40 million children in India have still not been to schools.

Despite the government running several programmes like the Mid Day Meal Scheme and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, around 40 million children in India have still not been to schools. According to the Census 2011, there are over 37 million children in the age group of 15-18. To add to the irony, primary schooling facilities in India are not up to the mark, and only 15% schools offer secondary education.

“Of every 100 children who are enrolled in schools, only 72 are able to complete class VIII. There is more reason to worry, as just 48 of these children complete class X and barely 33 finish class XII at the right age. India is currently witnessing 78.5% gross enrolment ratio and only 48% net enrolment ratio in secondary schooling. It means that out of every 100 children, only 48 (age appropriately) get enrolled in secondary education,” stated Komal Ganotra, director, Policy, Research and Advocacy at CRY, in her recent column in FE.

India urgently needs to address the issue of school dropouts, as the country is going to be the youngest nation by 2020, and by 2025 a majority of the young population will enter the workforce. Thus, India needs skilled workforce, and the more the number of dropouts, the less will be the number of skilled workers.

“The two main reasons why most students drop out of schools are that they cannot afford higher education and there is a lack of adequate infrastructure. The industry has to help in arresting these drop-out rates and stop the flow of the burgeoning low-wages manpower pool by hiring from a social angle instead of a profit angle,” says Siddarth Bharwani, vice-president at Jetking Infotrain Ltd.

The NDA government is mulling to implement the New Education Policy (NEP). The Union HRD minister, Smriti Irani, had last year said that the new policy would be ready by the end of 2015. Now, we have to wait and see by when the government implements it.

On the need for the NEP, Prof Hariharan Krishnan of Mahindra Ecole Centrale says, “We should have good policies. It should be as much the concern of the final beneficiaries of this education process, namely the industry and the corporate world. They should provide constructive suggestions and even implement such ideas by running schools and colleges. This policy must focus on enhancing the human being in each citizen and not look down upon young students and others as potential clerks and mechanics.”

With increasing automation and a lot of entrepreneurship happening in the country, we have seen an increased demand for skilled IT professionals. Recently, the Narendra Modi government launched its programme Start-up India to support budding firms. But still, graduates’ employability percentage is low due to skill gaps.

“India is one amongst the first five largest start-up communities and has witnessed a growth of 40%, by the end of 2015. Each year, over 3 million graduates and post-graduates are added to the country’s workforce. However, of these, only 25% of technical graduates and 10-15% of other graduates are considered employable by the rapidly growing IT and ITeS segments,” adds Bharwani of Jetking Infotrain.

In addition, the wages of even skilled professionals have remained stagnant for the last few years, despite inflation causing a rise in prices all around. The wages should be aligned to the industry expectations for roles and profiles that the market has to offer.

“There has to be a better linkage between educational institutes, the government and the industry to rightly align the skill-sets imparted to the skill-sets required for the incoming workforce, be these technical competence or soft skills. Internships, trainings and tie-ups need to gain popularity in tier-2 and tier-3 towns,” says Bharwani.

The fact of the matter is that issues related to skills gap, secondary and senior secondary schooling, school dropouts, etc, need urgent redressal. By and large, the financial condition of the family remains the main reason behind most school dropouts. The government can consider promoting vocational courses which offer alternatives like ‘earn while you learn’.

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