MUMBAI: For years, India's basic collegiate education had been segregated into three distinct academic islands: the masses pursued humanities, the ones with shining score cards took to the sciences and the rest who wanted to pick up the tools of trade, opted for commerce. Now students can venture into a fourth dimension: a bachelor's in vocation education.
From the upcoming academic season, colleges across the country will offer a bachelor's degree in vocation education, thus underpinning a stream that has always languished for the want of a formal degree. Sensing the gap in the system, the move to offer the BVoc is largely in response to the hungry local manufacturing industry's requirement for top-grade workforce, and partly because several graduates from the existing traditional streams were jobless and deemed unemployable.
"Our standing committee has cleared the proposal to offer the bachelor's in vocational education and once the commission clears it, any college in India which is affiliated to a university, can offer this programme," said in-charge chairman of the University Grants Commission Ved Prakash. "We need to prepare a large workforce and it is time we build capacity at the graduate level."
Vocational education, or life skills, as it was sometimes derided as, mostly attracted the lower rungs of the society, the ones ready to dirty their hands. They eventually went on to earn a diploma and then work on factory floors.
While ripping that perception and lending this course the much-needed academic might and respect, the UGC's decision's biggest apostle is industry. The move was initiated by the All India Council for Technical Education which has identified 10 sectors like entertainment, telecom, construction, printing and publishing and suchlike that need specialized graduates. "These courses will provide vocational skills and general education, thus providing vocational graduates with multiple pathways," said AICTE chairman S S Mantha. "The USP (unique selling point) of the course is that students can leave the course any time and come back to it to pursue further studies," he added.
While the UGC is yet to drawn up a detailed regulation for the new programme, there are plans to allow students to shift from BVoc to arts, science or commerce, thus not punishing students for signing up for the new course.
For middle-class Indian parents, vocational education was never even an option for it didn't inspire much academic thinking; worse, it didn't even lead to a degree. To date, vocational education was offered in India's it is (Industrial Training Institutes) and the three other conventional streams-the humanities, science and commerce-were its prestigious rivals. Now opting for a vocational education won't be equivalent to taking a road less travelled.