Volunteering Skill Education

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indonesia--school--olsoy.orgApart from imparting skill learning, educating through volunteering steps to promote it is also a part of skill development. It is imperative for countries to have self-motivated people to instill education without any conditions, writes Ananya S Guha, IIVET Shillong.

A person volunteers to donate blood, to an ailing person, who he knows or does not know is rendering service not only to that person, but to the person’s family and by larger implications, to society. Volunteering is prompted by the inner being to help, devoid of recognition, and guided by a disinterested pursuit of recognition, honour or fame. It can be both organised and unorganised.

A person could volunteer as part of an organisation or club, or purely at the individual level. Education is something which should be engendered by the spirit of volunteering – reaching out to poorer students, weak students, the differently abled students with personal and familial problems, students who are economically and geographically marginalized and so on.

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In fact, like the medical profession, education is the spirit of volunteerism, where the self is selfless. This becomes especially true if we are educators for drop outs, economically weak students, students without much formal education, ‘failed’ students, street children, domestic workers, people engaged in technical skills in the unorganised sector to eke out a living.

With the kind of emphasis given on vocational education, which strips education of all bias, subverts the degree mania, making it more egalitarian, and above all, takes it to the masses; the spirit of volunteering should not only be evident, but should be consciously infused in this type of para education, literacy and linking skills to work.

This emphasis on vocational education and skills by the Government of India, is very good augury, because it links skills and vocation, directly with work, and earning. It also demolishes the myth of acquiring degrees by any means, only to discover woefully, the mismatch of education, and requirements of the industry.

If one volunteers for promoting education, and help disadvantaged people to be equipped with knowledge, then we are training people to be self reliant; even if direct employment is elusive, self employment is a very viable recourse.

For this, the educator or the volunteer has to think about, and be sensitive to different levels of target groups existing at the same time from street children to the professional, wanting further up gradation.

Volunteering is ‘motivated’ by the spirit of selfless help, and so is education to stem the rot of massive unemployment, disability, non-inclusive education, illiteracy, and rampant drop outs who pose a threat to the fabric and well being of societies.

The true educator is a person with missionary zeal, where the profession as such takes a back seat, and the zeal to help gains primacy, undiluted by and going beyond, temptations of coffers or recognition.

Heralding Vocational Education A significant bulwark of vocational education and training is related to Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET). This is related to the greening of the economy, sustainability and environmental matters. Sustainable development also refers to three types of development, namely, social, environmental and economic.

This brings us to the question of social responsibility. Greening of TVET is related to agriculture and a green economy. Agricultural related vocational education & training are a composite part of the greening of the environment. The IGNOU Institute for Vocational Education & Training, Shillong has made forays into TVET by introducing training programmes on low cost bamboo housing, welding etc. It has also introduced a discussion forum on agriculture and horticulture, which can be accessed through its website:

One can enter the discussion forum through the website and then register and take part in agriculture and horticulture related issues such as cropping, and post harvesting problems. The greening of TVET is closely associated with economy, societal concerns, community concerns and social responsibility.

Social responsibility in this context is both individual and collective, and is community based. For this one needs the right kind of trainers as well as to integrate this aspect into the curriculum of vocational education and training in schools and colleges, as well as for the welfare of the general public and the community.

Skills Development Education

There is a lot of talk about skills and skills development. The publication on the National Skills Mission Report (Dept. of Labour Govt. of India) 2008 clearly indicates that skills are related to a notional thinking that it is labour intensive and technical. It is said that the construction industry in the country requires 500 million workers in the next two decades or so. I am struck by a certain thought. If the population of the country is accumulating at phenomenal rates, then why are we saying that there is acute shortage in this sector?

On the one hand we talk of the overweening population, and on the other we complain of an inveterate lack of man power. Then there is the contention that there is mismatch of skills and the kind of education we provide. There is the much bandied ‘unorganised sector’. What attempts are being made to make these sectors organised by modernisation and value addition of techniques? If 500 million of workers are required for the construction industry, then this sector cannot be organised?

Similarly is the case with masonry, carpentry and welding. There is a huge demand of welders in fabrication units especially in South India. How can modern techniques of welding replace dated machines? Companies like Ador Fontech are contributing to this and can do more by Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.

The Indian Welding Society New Delhi consisting of industrialists and academics including IIT Professors are attempting to train welders in Institutes to update infrastructure and create more employable manpower and employability. They have associated with Welding Research Institute (WRI) Tiruchirapalli and established chapters in different zones of the country such as North East India, in association with IIT Guwahati, IGNOU Institute For Vocational Education & Training (IIVET), Shillong and Don Bosco Technical School Shillong.

Skilling Young A second question arises regarding the concept of skills. Is it only related to technical skills, vocaitonal in nature? I fail to understand terminologies such as ‘soft skills’. Then this implies that there are ‘hard’ skills as well. Skills are inherent and aesthetic; skills cannot exclude this purview as well. A child talented in music, theatre, writing and painting is endowed with skills. Any National Policy on Skills Development cannot preclude school education. The problem is that all these years vocational education was lowly placed; because we made education class based and hierachical.

This calls for subversion of hierarchy in our very educational systems. If Communication Skills are considered to be ‘soft skills’ (for whatever reason) we forget that communication is very important in any profession or vocation.

Regional mapping of need based skills must be done on a war footing by institutions such as CII, NSDC, Chamber of Commerce, National Skills Mission, IGNOU, NIOS etc. A concerted policy must be adopted state wise so that skills initiatives are a mission of each state government. The Meghalaya Government has recently initiated Skills Mission objectives in the areas of Computer Hardware & Networking, BPO industry, Construction, Animation, Oracle Software, Life Skills etc. Training has begun in batches for selected trainees.

If we are to identify skills development with Vocational Education & Training then the latter has to have larger bases, and view perspectives of VET in multiple ways. Arts and aesthetics, performance and visual must be brought under the gamut.

This leads us to the question of artisanship in pottery, handicrafts, weaving and tailoring. Artisanship is aesthetic in intent but it leads to livelihoods.

The National Small Industries Corporation has a range of skills initiatives including leather technology, food processing and fashion designing where the elements of modernised equipments have been introduced. In trying to promote in indigenity we may have to complement this with the use of modernised techniques and equipments.

Skills development and vocational training are of cardinal importance for employment and self employment. What is needed is not so much vocational education as a subject or discipline; but a massive vocationalisation of education, where the emphasis will be on practical work and what is called hands on training which includes the connotation of ‘performance’. Short-term training programmes ranging from 2 – 6 months can be very handy in this context.

In this manner a workforce to sustain knowledge based economy; a creative work force will be formulated and shaped. This will be a silent revolution in the educational history.

Way Forward I argue that Distance Education has been a broad cultural shift in our rather stymied system of education obsessed with degrees, where the courses have not been designed to needs, but a thrusting upon of which we think is deemed fit for students. There has been no acceptance of the learner’s point of view, hence education has always had a coloration of a teacher centric system as opposed to a learner centred orientation, which is not only an obsession with degrees, but also with the stereotypical classroom and a mad rush towards completing the syllabus.

There is very little expression of ontologies and an extension of the prototypical ‘classroom’, well defined boundaries of both space and time. It is the timelessness of education which had been missing in terms of adult and continuing education; in terms of education for working people, and those ‘distracted’ unfortunates who have not been able to complete their studies and have been disgracefully, dubbed as ‘drop outs’.

Distance and Open Learning I contend have been able to subvert such doctrinaire and domain thinking about education, and not relating it to a workforce, or for people who need to be trained in their jobs for promotion or an alternate switch over. Moreover, the degree bias has been attenuated by formative short term Certificate and Diploma Programmes to enhance training, skills and aptitude.

Thus target groups for learning have been re-defined variously including the motive for a disinterested pursuit of learning, which can be self promotional and self efficacious. However, ‘skills’ are not only limited to technical skills, but can cover aesthetics such as performing and visual arts including new areas such as translation or citizen journalism. ‘Skills’ of tourist guides and operators can be another catchment area.

The target groups for skills development are diverse: educated unemployed, uneducated unemployed, domestic workers, street children, the differently abled etc.

Hence the changing contexts of education are:

(1) Extension of the classroom through the aegis of flexible systems.

(2) Narrowing the degree bias and emphasis on certification for special needs.

(3) Use of technology and new media in imparting instruction.

(4) Introduction of core competencies based on ‘skills’ and hands on training.

(5) Redefining target groups to make education more inclusive.

These changing contexts have necessitated the spirit of volunteering in education, because it is essentially taking education to the unreached and the disadvantaged in terms of remote areas, drop-outs, working men and women who are coming to education and training after a hiatus. Distance Education for example rests mainly on the pillars of students support service which requires reaching out to learners in accessible areas with an empathetic understanding of their situation.

The author is the Regional Director of IGNOU, Shillong.

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