Skill India: It’s Not About Few Acres of Land but Many Acres of Grey Matter

By: Rajiv Tewari

 “Skill based education is not about land & infrastructure, but about developing many acres of grey matter”, says Prof Ramola Kumar. The current system of monitoring the quality of education, based on infrastructure and land, may be a handicap for those who have smaller facilities but are genuinely engaged in providing quality education, thereby making a contribution, howsoever small it may be. There are many examples of dedicated educationists doing a good job with minimum infrastructure in India. It may be a good idea to provide infrastructural support to the smaller institutes so that they can scale up to create capacities.

“There is no doubt about the power of the Skill India’s vision but to execute it on national level, it requires entrepreneurial support as even the government has acknowledged the need for aligning with a large number of institutes to cover such a large population. Matching the powerful Skill India vision with entrepreneurial talent, so rich in India, would take a leap into the future at the national level given the flexibility with regard to resource availability, its management and its delivery,” said Prof Ramola Kumar.

The story of DSC provides interesting insights into how the Edu-entrepreneurs can achieve success in-spite of the constraints. It also provides an insight into how a lot more can be done by supporting quality educational institutes which in return can scale up quickly to catalyse the desired change.

Power of the vision

Prof Ramola Kumar, along with Late. Prof. Surojit Lahiri, after a long and successful innings in the mainline education system, decided to depart from the traditional ways of teaching by replacing it with a learn – do -learn methodology. Their team designed a totally off beat course that required the students to be at the campus for half day and use the second half for working in an organization. A new syllabus was created and the concept seemed to make a lot of sense to Ramola, but, there were very few takers outside of the core team. Most felt comfortable with the old system of largely class room driven learning. Convincing the first batch of students for a skill based diploma was even tougher as India is largely a degree driven market. To make the matters worse, the founders were severely constrained on funds too.

Solutions began to emerge from the power of the vision. Ramola & her co-founders reached out to a large number of industry leaders, parents and students to share their vision for The Delhi School of Communication (DSC). There is an old saying that “The Moment One Definitely Commits Oneself, Then Providence Moves Too.” The commitment to the vision began to attract support from totally unexpected quarters. Principal of a renowned school offered to rent out class rooms after school hours. A media organization agreed to take in the first batch to work with them on a half day basis. Several students & their parents who were taught by Prof Ramola & Prof Surojit Lahiri began to recommend DSC to their friends & relatives. This gradually gained momentum and DSC was started with a small batch of 25 students in 1995.

Personal commitment & accountability

Education should have economic sustainability but its prime objective is to benefit the society by nurturing the students to be better human beings and by increasing their chances of employability. Edu-entrepreneurship is about taking personal responsibility. It’s about personal accountability. This is one of the main reasons why several Edu-entrepreneurs have succeeded with meagre resources and felt highly satisfied, at the personal front too. This simply means that an Edu-entrepreneur would have to be a change agent with a long term commitment as management of change may need a long gestation period. Enormous patience and perseverance driven by passion is the key to success. The most important part is to accept accountability for placement of students, industry reputation and delivery of quality learning in the class rooms. After all it’s about delivering the brand promise.

Creativity is the key

National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has developed excellent processes to monitor the quality of output while giving a lot of freedom to its partners on the delivery part. According to Ramola, this has given a lot of freedom to use creativity and innovative thinking in delivering knowledge in a simple, applied & effective manner.  In spite of its small infrastructure, DSC has succeeded due to the freedom to innovate and because of keeping critical knowledge benchmarks in place. Imagine what can happen on a larger scale if the Government identifies and supports edu-entrepreneurs like Prof Ramola Kumar by offering required infrastructural support with a reasonable return on investment.

Garnering industry support

Edu-entrepreneurs need to realize that skill based education needs a deeper invovlement from the industry practitioners from the selection stage till the students step out of the campus. This is also very important for placement of students otherwise the institute would only be handing out certificates which may not increase the employability chances of their students. When DSC was started the founders had met a very large number of industry leaders but the flow of negative responses seemed unending. Finally after several months of efforts, the Indian Express Newspapers agreed to take the first batch. By the end of the first year support from many other organizations began to trickle in. Industry needs quality manpower and it’s a concern area for them too, but then the industry is driven by bottom lines so unless there is concrete proof of talent they would not buy in. DSC students need to be credited along with the faculty members and support staff for demonstrating their capabilities in such a powerful way that there was pressure to release the first batch much before the completion of course.