By Manju Garg, Teacher, Ahlcon International School, New Delhi
The NEP 2020 extensively discusses the revamping of vocational education. The policy focuses on no challenging separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams to build competencies and open more excellent avenues for students. It aims at bringing vocational education into mainstream education to provide inclusive, interoperable, interdisciplinary, and outcome-based education.
It recommends introducing vocational education from Grade 6 onwards to provide access to high-quality vocational education, necessary to acquire skills for further education and training for clear and recognized pathways to employment in the future. It states that all students will participate in carpentry, electric work, metalwork, gardening, pottery making, where they can intern with local vocational experts to develop an understanding of the work environment and career options. Spanning across cultural events, reading activities, science lab experiments, creative arts, athletics and meditation, these activities are beneficial for students’ physical fitness and mental health.
Education is not a function of the mind alone. Each vocational opportunity opens doors for a skill, art, precision, aesthetic display, creativity, and learning rooted in local culture.
The introduction of vocational education in formal education finds its roots in co-curricular activities introduced in schools which provide exposure to students and equip them with skill development. Espousing these activities at the school level allows students to discover their interests and capabilities and lay the foundation to pursue their passion later in life. For, e.g., if a student who is good at playing ‘tabla’ or any other instrument will master the art once the right platform is found to further his /her talent and take it up as a career in the future.
Time spent on these activities also offers students an opportunity to communicate and help each other. It also allows teachers to get to know their students outside of the formal learning environment. Co-curricular activities also build the potential in every student in nurturing national integration, developing community life, and forming self-identity. They prepare the students in the ‘Art of Living and Working Together. These life skills help restore dignity and respect to all types of tasks, promoting self-reliance to meet one’s daily needs and those of one’s family and community. These tasks inculcate teamwork through collaboration and mindfulness through empathy – two primary needs of the world today. These skills learnt will reinforce the dignity of labour and lay due importance to various vocations involving Indian arts and artisanship.
Over the last five years, the dramatic changes in global economies have been in sync with changes in innovation and technology. They have had a significant impact on education, working environment, and lifestyles. To cope with the increasing pace and changes of present-day life, students will need to learn life skills and thus, it is essential to advance skill training among children from an early age to build self-esteem, confidence, and leadership skills. Students must be taught ‘how to think and not just what to think’ The more importance we give to skill development, the more talented youth will be.
To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “By education, I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man – body, mind and spirit.” Schools must cater to a child’s mental, physical, social, spiritual, and vocational education. Therefore, vocational training courses will need to ensure that learners are receptive to the field chosen and understand its complexities carefully. The deeper the learners delve, the more they benefit and, in turn, benefit the world too. Cultural awareness and respect for diversity will enable creativity and imagination to flourish and build a better world.
A holistic and multidisciplinary education will develop well-rounded individuals that possess critical 21st-century skills in fields across the arts, humanities, languages, sciences, social sciences, and professional, technical, and vocational; an ethic of social engagement; soft skills, such as communication, discussion, and debate; and demanding specialization in a chosen field. Thus, the students will learn the following four Rs – Responsibility, Relevance, Reflection and Relationships to equip themselves for a better future.