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Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

One of the most bitter legacies of Soviet-style central planning and neta-babu licence-permit-quota raj with which post-independence India was lumbered for over four decades — and vestiges of which still remain — is the neglect of education, and skills education even more so. Because of central planning, newly-independent India became a closed navel-gazing economy. Drastic foreign exchange controls made it very difficult for citizens to travel abroad, and imports of all except essential capital goods and raw materials were banned. This also resulted in the flow of socio-economic development ideas being reduced to a trickle. That’s why right until the eve of the new millennium hardly any importance was given to vocational education. 

The outcome of over four decades of foolish self-reliance and obstinate refusal to learn from the needlessly hated industrially developed countries of the West, or even from the newly-emergent nations of South-east Asia which have been allocating 7-10 percent of their annual national income towards education (cf. India’s average 3.5 percent), is that half a century after independence almost 300 million Indian citizens are comprehensively illiterate, and only 4 percent of the country’s 400 million workforce has formal skills training as against 20 percent in China and 60-80 percent in the developed OECD countries. The consequence is rock-bottom productivity in industry, agriculture and services, especially government services. 

Willingness to learn from advanced countries would have revealed that vocational education and training has been compulsory in all secondary schools in Germany for over three centuries. On the other hand, even everyday skills such as electrical wiring, elementary plumbing repairs and water management in rural areas, are not taught in India’s 1.40 million schools. 

Our cover feature narrates the story of pioneer educationist Santosh Kumar Choubey who promoted the All India Society for Electronics and Computer Training (AISECT) in 1985. Since then AISECT has trained and certified thousands of electrical engineers, technicians, retail salespersons, nurses, plumbers and other craftsmen urgently required by Indian industry and society, and has established three universities legislated by state governments. But a distinguishing feature of AISECT universities is that it is compulsory for all students enrolled even in conventional engineering, commerce and MBA programmes to acquire skills education and certification. EW’s Delhi-based consulting editor Indranil Banerjie flew to Bhopal to write this month’s cover story on India’s pioneer skilling university. 

And in our special report feature, we present a pictorial essay of the EducationWorld India School Rankings Awards Nite staged in Delhi/Gurgaon on September 22-23, which drew unprecedented response for the simple reason that over the years the annual EW India School Rankings league tables — which reflected the opinion of 12,357 informed respondents countrywide this year — are widely accepted as the most transparent and unbiased school rankings exercise in the country. 

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