Strengthening Skills through Open and Distance Education

Left to Right: Prof. NS Ramaswamy, Dr. Ajit Kumar and Prof.V.N.Rajasekharan Pillai

The aim of Prime Minister's National Council of Skill Development is to have 500 million skilled workers (i.e. one-fourth of the technical workforce of the world) by the year 2020; to increase the skilled workforce from 5% to about 50%; to achieve the targeted growth in economy; to train and certify the surplus 47 million working age people (that would be by year 2020) as technicians; to increase the percentage of literacy and limited literacy of the workforce of 397 million, in which almost 67% is either illiterate or suffers from limited literacy level; to ensure that the workforce remains on the cutting edge of the technology revolution; to obliterate the gender and rural-urban divides in acquiring skill development; to utilise the available resources such as educational institutions with public and private sector participation for skill development.

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) through its Schools of Studies, Regional Centres and Study Centres is offering skill development programmes all over the country. School of Engineering and Technology has initiated pioneer effort by launching Vertically Integrated Engineering Programmes known as IGNOU-VIEP. The scheme provides an opportunity for upward mobility to learners from Certificate to Ph.D. programmes in engineering. By enhancing and augmenting the capacity and level of operations, IGNOU wishes to contribute in the skill up-gradation and capacity building to strengthen PM's National Skill Development Mission through IGNOU's Vertically Integrated Programmes.

Inaugural Session

To begin with, the dignitaries were welcomed with flowers and lighting of lamp. The dias was taken over by  Prof.V N Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor, IGNOU; Dr. Ajit Kumar, Director, School of Engineering and Technology, IGNOU; and Prof. N S Ramaswamy, Founder, IIM, Banglore. Prof. V N Rajasekharan Pillai gave a welcome speech in which he mentioned that we know the problems and the solutions, but we do not lay emphasis on implementation.

There is a requirement for furnishing a draft plan that can be used for aiding government and involve all the stakeholders to draw action of the documents, that can be implemented immediately. 2010-20 is the decade of innovation with sustainable and developing education. It is a need with us to explore all sorts of skills, keeping in mind the challenges we face, such as 89% drop-out rate. Multiple-models of delivery have to be sought, that suit different situations of different states with dimension of inclusive education.

In India, 2,50,000 educational institutions can easily convert themselves into skill development institutions without moving away from the mainstream courses they presently offer. The models to be implemented have to be contextualised and IGNOU with country wide network is capable of doing the same in collaboration with other credible institutions. Scaling up is not easy, especially with ensured quality and standards. There is a need to include more streams in field of skill development. There is also a need to re-structure the present models of learning and link with small and medium level industries. The idea is to inculcate basic skill, for instance, in a fashion similar to community colleges. Additionally, assessment and certification of prior learning should also be arranged for to enhance the national productivity. For instance, the coal mine workers can be assessed and given additional knowledge and skills and make them undergo examination, certify them and give them an opportunity to rise through coordinated activities with civil societies and corporates. 

Session I & II

The first session was chaired by Prof. PL Dhar from IIT Delhi and co-chaired by Prof. NR Shetty, President, Indian Society for Technical Education (ISTE). The other panelists for the session included Dr. Ajit Kumar, IGNOU; Dr Manoj Kulsreshtha, IGNOU; and KP Murthy, Strategic Consultant at MICO Bosch, Bangalore. The issues that were discussed under this session included skill development & certification for inclusive growth; bottlenecks in channelising the skill development initiatives; and VIEP