Preparing students for the future!

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Sushma Punia
Principal, BLS International School, Hathras

In today’s scenario, there are ample opportunities that one can choose from and excel in. Introduction to skill training at a young age will by all means give the student an opportunity to explore various options and accordingly, narrow down on a vocation of his/her liking.

The Indian thought process is more clued on to the typical traditional academic streams and careers in the field of engineering, medicine, accounts, MBA etc There have been numerous instances where a student is pushed into a particular field due to parental/peer pressure only to realize at a later stage in life about his/her passion or calling in life and to start all over again from scratch. Introduction of skill training at an early age will ensure a child can choose a vocation of his/her liking. Here, Sushma Punia, Principal, BLS International School, Hathras, shares her views on the same.

Q: The National Policy on Education appears to be focusing on skill development among students right from the school level. As an educator, what kind of skills do you think the school should focus at the primary level, at the secondary level and at the senior level?

Sushma Punia
Sushma Punia

Sushma: It is important to introduce skill training in schools according to the learner’s age.The employable skills that should be introduced to school students from an early age of 6-7 years onwards in an incremental manner, are:

• Primary school (classes 1 to 5) (age 6 to 11): Communication skills, attitude, adaptability and IT skills.

• Middle school (classes 6 to 8) (age 11 to 14): Above skills plus self-management, teamwork, and creativity.

• Secondary education (classes 9 to 10) (age 14 to 15): Above skills plus stress management, and self-motivation.

• Upper secondary (classes 11 to 12) (age 16 to 17): Above skills plus initiative and interpersonal sensitivity.

• From 9-12 years of age, students should have choice selecting vocational courses and get certified for his actionable skill set.

• Introducing students to some of the employable skills such as masonry, carpentry, well boring, diesel machine repairing, draftsmanship, wood work, solar panel repairing, battery repairing will also help them prepare and adapt to real work situations without much effort. It will ease the transition phase from being a student to being a professional.

Q: There has always been dilemma on setting the priorities between cognitive skills and hands-on-skills. Though both are complimentary to each other, the schools have for long been focusing on the cognitive skill development rather than the hands-on-skills. How do you think an optimal blend of both can be achieved in the learning process and how would it impact the existing model and design of curriculum and pedagogy?

Sushma: Cognitive skills aims at development of ability to perform the various mental activities such as learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering and problem solving, whereas hand-on-skills is knowledge that we get from doing something rather than just reading or seeing it. Though both are complimentary to each other, yet the Indian education system does not consider the component of skilling in its curriculum. It puts maximum emphasis on bookish knowledge.

The pedagogy has to be practical. Learning can be enhanced through field visits, e-learning, industry driven projects, digital or video inputs and so on. The curricula should cover components of employable skills and an option to introduce students to different vocations to gain hands-on experience, which makes the students industry ready. Thus, these students will stand a better chance in terms of employability

Q: Though the idea of vocational education with focus on hands-on-skills has been in place for the last few decades, it has not met with its desirable objectives. One of the reasons for the above has been listed as ‘teaching skills on blackboard’. What steps do you think should be taken to make learning of skills and its empowerment more socially acceptable and value oriented?

Sushma: Learning of skills can be more socially accepted and value oriented by adopting following strategies:

1. Teaching reforms, analogy based teaching: If the child wants to interact with what he learns and experience like a scientist, we can’t teach them in textbook mode. We must extend classroom teaching and explain in “analogy based way” like how Einstein described his theories in simple way, when nobody understood him.

2. Homework reform: We give homework which doesn’t take into account, whether student mastered it or not or has just copied the work. We must change it because this puts tremendous pressure on student; his entire time at home is wasted to do homework.

3. The Vocational programme gives an opportunity to the student to choose a vocation of his/her choice, rather than be pushed into mainstream education for which he/she has no interest and does not add any value for further progression.

4. Skill development courses can be provided in the secondary stage of schooling. Many courses in fields such as Hospitality and Tourism, Handicraft, Healthcare, Textiles, Photography, IT, Retail, Banking, Insurance can be added that would interest students to learn from.

Q: Though industries and business houses have been pointing fingers at the educational systems for not preparing ‘employable’ young persons, they have not really collaborated or supported in such for various reasons. Do you really think a scenario where industry-education systems can join hands and share responsibilities to provide skills based learning? What suggestions would you like to offer?

Sushma: Following steps can be taken to ensure industry-education sync:

• Encourage industry professionals to contribute as well as paid visiting faculty.

• Trades like electrician, plumbing, driving, mechanics etc need to be looked into which should be linked to job opportunity.

• Mandatory interaction between industry and institutions, eg: industries should train institutional students.

• Mutual shifting of staff between industry and institutions to make learning effective.

• Industries should be encouraged to set up their own institutes or adopt institutes to train youngsters.

• Professional bodies like welding institute should have major say in skill development programme.

• Skill offered should be decided by the institute based on the present day requirement.

• A separate Skill Development Department should be considered to formulate, implement and monitor the strategy.

• Students who are below poverty line category should be given financial and other support during skill training.

• To improve entrepreneurial skill, the students should be encouraged to market their product.

• National skill level test shall be conducted by an independent body and students should be ranked at various levels.

• Work Integrated Training (WIT): Students get paid a stipend for the hours spent for on-the-job training. Hence this also allows the student to “Earn While You Learn.”

• Students should get hands-on experience from the industry through the Skill Knowledge partner during the training period, thereby giving them a much needed edge when they compete for jobs. For instance if a student opts for healthcare, he could learn to be a blood-collection expert and later can add further courses to become full-fledged pathology technician or nurse.

Q: It is seen that mere hands on skills without appropriate like skills would defeat the desired of ‘skills based learning’. What kind of life skills and professional skills will add value to courses structured on skill based learning?

Sushma: In general, apart from the core subject expertise, some of the prominent employable skills that employers seek and add value to courses structured on skill based learning should be:

• Communication skills (verbal and written)

• Commercial awareness

• Attitude towards work

• Lifelong learning attitude

• Self-management

• Teamwork

• Problem solving

• Initiative taking

• Self-motivation

• Adaptability

• Stress management

• Creativity

• Interpersonal sensitivity

• Technology/IT skills

Sushma Punia, Principal, BLS International School, Hathras is an affable, efficient Founder Principal. She started her career as a Pre School teacher, handling toddlers of age 2 and half years. She succeeded to be the Founder Principal, Teachers Trainer, CBSE Master Trainer, President Excellence Sahodaya CBSE Schools, Hathras – Aligarh. Charity services for a social cause, working at grass root level fetched her with numerous awards and accolades that paved their way to her credentials and illuminated her personality. Some of these include ISA by British Council, India; Progressive School in an Innovative approach – by CED (Center of Educational Development); Indo Nepal Award –Anterashtrya Swatantrata Samrasta Manch; Mahila Shakti Shrimonani Award; Shikshak Ratna Award and Sikshak Gaurav Samman.