Higher education with skill for economic development

D. Mukhopadhyay
It is  seen by and large  that there has been rapid growth in higher education in India . The demand for a  quality service has increased  with the increase in purchasing power of perople. But there is predominant degree of shortage of skilled manpower in the country. Education without skill  cannot be useful to the industries  and skill development is to be integrated with higher education course curricula so that  necessary trained manpower shall be available at the disposal of the  users of the manpower in the economy. India has the second largest population of the working age of 18-60 years individuals in the world. 21st century is  the age earmarked for the people attributed with higher education and requisite skill in the  area of specialization. Education empowers the nation and it is an important input for having rapid economic development of the society at large.  Education with requisite skill  can increase national gross product, positive attitude towards using technology in the place of labour, increase efficiency and effectiveness  in the sphere of decision making and  socio-economic governance. Education with skill  develops competencies and confidence among job seekers and  the  labour force of the country.
But it is matter of regret that even after passage of seventy years of independence, India is lagging far behind in imparting  skill and training  with the theoretical  knowledge based higher education as compared to other developed countries across the globe.  As compared to the economically developed countries attributed with a burden of ageing population, India is having a unique advantage of 20-35 years window opportunity technically known as  demographic dividend. Due to demographic dividend, India as compared to other  developing and developed countries, shall enjoy a higher proportion of working age population as a proportion of its entire population. India is  among the top ten countries in the world  in which the employers are facing difficulty in  placement  of employment seekers due to  non availability of skilled man power.  The  prime concern in finding and locating suitable candidates  for available jobs in the country    is the  deficit of  employability quotient in the absence of both hard and soft skill.  It is pertinent to mention that worldwide, the percentage of employers facing difficulties in filling up vacancies which are rising at alarming rate. India ranks  7th in  experiencing  difficulties in filling up vacancies with a score of 58% and it is much above the global average score which is 38% in 2015.  The unorganized sector  is  of dismal condition. Employers  are facing major difficulties in filing up vacancies in the areas of Accounting & Finance(due to dearth of Qualified Accountants), Company Secretaries, Teachers, Engineers, R & D Scientists etc.  Higher education sector  has witnessed  substantial increase  in the number of Universities and Colleges and University level institutions since independence.
The number of Universities  has increased 34 times  from 20 in 1950 to 677 in 2014. This sector boasts of 45 Central Universities, 318 are State Universities, 185 are private Universities, 129 Deemed to be Universities, 51 Institutions of National Importance  besides the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the Institute of Cost Accountants of India(ICAI) and the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).The number of Colleges  has also witnessed manifold increase of 74 times with 500 in 1950 to 37,204 as in 2013. But  skill development is lagging behind and does not keep pace along with growth in institutions of higher education in the country. Government of India  giving priority to  skill development in 12ft  Five Year Plan but the same is inadequate to meet the requirement.
Over the years , the private sector has  increased its presence in the field of vocational education in India but still the same is quite inadequate  to meet the requirements of the country.  Economic development is probably impossible  without having skilled manpower.  Skill development has to be integrated with the education both in  undergraduate and postgraduate level. India as a whole has to give due importance  to the development of skilled work force in order to have rapid economic development.  Considering  the rate at which the eligible working force of India is growing, the skill development initiative both by Government and private sector is falling short.  India is  likely to emerge  as a service-driven economy with quality human capital as her competitive advantage. In order to maintain continual growth in the economy, India needs to develop manufacturing sector too besides the service sector and it is an imperative obligation on the part of the government  to integrate skill development initiative with higher education in order to have rapid socio-economic development.  Inadequate skill development facilities  in the country is of course a serious concern for all.  Skilling  should receive sustained attention of the decision makers.  It is worth mentioning that Government of India has installed a new Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and this may add necessary strength in the process of skill development but the main stream education has to be integrated with skilled development initiative  in order to garner the desired fruits.
Though Government of India has introduced a new Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship,  but structural clarity including operational mandate  with the skilling programmes of other Ministries is still absent. It would be  imperative for the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship  to integrate its focus with the other Ministries  at strategic, tactical and operational levels of management so that it can discharge its responsibilities  with professional credibility. The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)  is also to get  efficient and effective training players  backed by employers and industry to join the training industry and institutions  since credibility and  sustainable infrastructure  would be pivot  to meet the target of 150 million training by 2022. It is not denying fact that knowledge, skills and productivity have linear relationship and the trio forms the backbone of  the economy. Quality of service depends on the quality of human capital that is pivotal force to  strengthen the economy.  Growing and  dynamic workforce is the prerequisite  to bringing about socio-economic development of the country and in order to garner the  benefit of   demographic dividend, the government should be proactive to implement  the reform initiative  in the education sector in general and higher education sector in particular. To call a spade a spade, In order to become knowledge based economy, India has to give due importance and weight-age on quality of education,  requisite skill development and integration of the same with quality education,  affordability of education and  the relevant ethical issues.  Quality   is the effect where as infrastructure, teaching community and accreditation are the constituents of cause.  Affordability  of education  means that merit  is the ultimate target and poor and deserving  students under no circumstances  are denied the right to higher and quality education at any cost to nation.  Finally ethics play its guiding roles under different situation. It prevents education from being commercialized. Government and private sector has to work together  for bringing about renaissance  in skill development and integrating the same with  education at large.
There is no short cut to  cause economic development in a country like India and knowledge, skill and  productivity are the basic constituents for the same. There is an urgent need to promote  quality teaching in order to raise the  teaching standards in the classrooms  across the country.  Education plays  an important role in overcoming the various challenges  that  affect the performance of human capital in the world.  The imparted education  and skill should be such which enable  the prospective employers to fill up the job vacancies without  any hesitancy.  India’s rapid economic development perhaps is impossible  unless and until higher education  system is integrated with skill development initiative  and this is the need of the hour to reap the benefit of demographic dividend.
(The author is Professor of Management   & Dean-Faculty of Management, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Katra, Jammu & Kashmir, India)