It's no secret we're in an economic slowdown, a bad one. However, according to a new UNICEF report, that may not be the only reason job-hunting is particularly hard these days. The problem stems further into our culture, education system, and the way our country runs in general.
Another Brick In The Wall
The Indian education system needs a makeover, plain and simple. While industries change and develop within the blink of an eye today, most of us are still learning through methods beyond out-dated: they're ancient. The UNICEF report lists emphasis on routine-learning as one of the key flaws as to how our schools across certification levels work.
"Education in India is largely about theory and grades," says Juhee, a digital marketing professional. "It's not only school and college but even MBA schools. People track GPAs for placements but when you work, GPA means nothing. Making work experience compulsory, and understanding that soft skills are important would greatly improve the education system as it is today."
Moreover, the current infrastructure can hardly keep up with the sheer demand for skills amongst one of the largest labour forces in the world. Faculty, too, is often untrained and is simply not qualitative enough to cope with the everchanging industries. "Teachers are often not competent when it comes to the latest technology. They should also be given training," according to Vishwas, an undergraduate student in Mumbai.
Several jobs require extremely long and inflexible certification programmes. These can't be accommodated into the hectic schedules of students and working professionals alike.
There still exists a huge emphasis on traditional career paths such as engineering and medical studies that simply do not have as many opportunities available anymore without additional skills that students are never taught. This also reflects upon our society's unwillingness to adapt to the times, and skewed perspectives of industries present today.
Living In The Past Since A New Generation
Inequality and the lack of progress happen to stunt, well, further progress. Even to this date, there are far fewer female enrollments to schools, especially for higher education. Institutions lack basic facilities such as clean washrooms and menstrual hygiene products in the region, making education more cumbersome. The women that do continue with their studies are often forced to balance household work and learning.
The inherent systematic bias doesn't end even at professional spheres, where paid maternity leaves and childcare facilities can be a major hurdle for mothers. India is one of the 90 countries that still doesn't offer paid paternity leaves, hence the responsibility of raising the child almost always falls upon the female partner.
Sexism isn't the only aspect of discrimination that remains a problem. Queer children and individuals often do not have the resources or family support to acquire needed education and skills. LGBTQ professionals lack rights and legal protection from discrimination, often making it harder for them to keep jobs. The lack of awareness surrounding the community impacts the potential workforce our country may have had otherwise.
The Road Ahead
Adaptation is the underlying theme when it comes to the solutions suggested by the UNICEF. The government and industries must collaboratively invest, not just blindly, but towards skills that our population lacks currently and labour-intensive industries that have the potential for growth.
Along with traditional learning, institutions should include professional and soft skills as well as entrepreneurship in their curricula to prepare students for employment. Ameya, a design student, reflects, "From the perspective of a design student, the only thing we're really taught is technical skills. They don't really add the part of professionalism in the curriculum; I'd prefer a more balanced approach."
Of course, this work requires research and an assessment of the current state of the economy and the education system. The bright side is that such initiatives will create further job opportunities, including training roles as well as research and analysis-centred positions.
The society needs awareness as much as the infrastructure needs improvement, as well, to tackle the cultural barrier simultaneously with the systematic ones. The steps ahead may not be easy, but they represent an important decision as to how the country's future will shape out to be.