By Ayesha Fazlur Rahman
The new mission of the schools is to prepare students to work at jobs that do not yet exist, creating ideas and solutions for products and problems that have not yet been identified using technologies that have not yet been invented. - Linda Darling-Hammond
There is precedence of market-linked education at university level although the potential is under-utilised in developing countries. The collaboration helps in transfer of new technology to the market, ascertaining the focus of research, conducting research collaboratively with industry partners, internship placements and offering practical courses such as quality management.
At the school level however, a clear link to the market is missing. Possible outcomes of industry-academia partnership may be :
Addition of relevant courses based on job forecasting from the industry.
Increase in employability of new entrants to the job market.
Alignment of students’ skills/ competencies to the job-market as well as enabling them to be more constructive members of the community.
Support for students with different academic abilities through vocational education options.
Skills Applicable Across Careers:
Education experts particularly in South Asia have been emphasising the need for a school education that promotes critical thinking and problem solving skills. The almost exclusive focus on rote learning in all significant examinations administered by government boards leads the teachers to focus on knowledge acquisition only. Despite receiving trainings on modern pedagogy to focus on 21st century skills, classroom practitioners continue to adhere to the skills of memorization because the assessment system is still primarily evaluating these skills; the teachers’ performance in turn is measured against the results their students are able to produce in state-run tests. Thus the seal is set.
The marketable skills today, however go beyond adherence to given information; innovation and creative problem solving skills are the need of the day. India has a population growth rate of 1.2% ; 65% population is under the age of 35; it is highly unlikely that the state will be able to provide jobs for such numbers. That is one reason why even top-notch universities are introducing students to entrepreneurship and related skills such as problem solving, collaboration, innovation and real world application of knowledge, so that students can break new ground and create jobs for others as well as themselves. The teaching of these skills, however, must start at school level. The assessment system and textbooks must also address this need so that the teachers are facilitated in in dedicating class time to projects promoting these skills.
Selection of a Career
After matriculation and 12th grade, students have to choose their subject areas for pre-professional and professional education. This is done in the absence of career guidance or data from the industry about current and future demands. Students choose focus areas based on their parents’ ‘dreams’. Lofty though these dreams may be, they are outdated in terms of new opportunities in the market. Choices of subject areas are also based on what is conveniently available at college.Sometimes students continue with electives they have already studied and feel ‘safe’ in, rather than exploring subjects relevant to the industry needs and aligned to their own aptitude.
There is a need for the addition of courses in high-schools and pre-professional colleges through job forecasting from the industry. A knowledge of market demand can also guide the number of student enrollments required in each subject area/department.
At policy level and in select schools it is customary to speak of innovation and creativity, but largely these are seen as non-serious fluff that deserves neither systemic attention nor budgetary allocation. Thus advocacy at all levels is needed to emphasise the urgency for change.
Success stories are useful for advocacy; Singapore, for example, moved from a developing to a developed nation in 4 decades through sophisticated linkages between the industry, the Ministry and the education system. Similar change has to be brought in the parents’ attitude so they can see beyond archaic notions of ‘respectability’ in terms of certain career choices.