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Youth Empowerment: Role of Family

Sneha Dash, Research Manager, ASER Centre in Odisha

Young people are the country’s future. They have dreams, passion, and hope. With their passion, creativity, and determination, youngsters are leading change in various fields. But they should be able to utilise their potential not only for the welfare of society but also for themselves. When we talk about the future of youth, we often start by learning about their education, aspirations, etc. Factors like guidance, social exposure, and availability of role models are common factors for their development.

Mobilising and empowering its youth is the precondition of national prosperity. Creating networks of family, friends and community to encourage youth with ideas, raising their awareness, and creating opportunities for their empowerment needs to be acknowledged as an important social responsibility. There are many capable and active youth in our society endowed with creativity and passion. Sadly, we are unable to realise their capabilities and guide them to the path of success.  

While working as a volunteer for the latest ASER survey, I got the opportunity to travel widely and meet young people from different places. But one experience stayed with me and had a lasting impact on my understanding of youth issues in contemporary India.

I became acquainted with a family where the elder brother was 18 years old and the younger 16. Both brothers were studying in class X. While conducting the survey, I found myself confused between them and their grades. After a little back and forth and a few questions, I learnt that the older brother dropped out from class IX some years ago and had recently enrolled in an open school to write the class X board exam. His mother told us, “We don’t know why he decided to do this. Today’s children do not listen to anyone. We are uneducated parents. Thank God, he has chosen to study now.”

However, the boy himself told us a different story. He explained that when he was in class IX, he was an average student. As time passed, he fell into bad company which affected his studies adversely. Eventually, he stopped going to school. He said he had “wasted” many years with friends and spent long hours on his mobile phone. I realised that all that this child needed was attention and guidance. But no one was there to guide him and resolve the problem. It took him a lot of time and self-discovery to come back and finish his school education. There are too many such young boys who drop out, but never muster the courage to return to school. Their parents are busy in their efforts to survive and earning very little, they have little time to understand and counsel their children. If any person from the village or teachers cared enough to guide such children, lakhs would have completed their school education and be planning for their future.

According to ASER 2023, of the 24 percent male youth aged 17-18 who had discontinued their education, offered lack of interest in studies as the reason. They could have been counselled by seniors, teachers to resume their studies. The data also shows that only 5.6 percent youth are enrolled in vocational training programmes, despite many options being offered by government and private organisations to upskill youth. These children also should be counselled to sign up for VET (vocational education and training) programmes.

The fact is there are many avenues available today to stimulate the inherent creativity of youth. Moreover, there is so much one can learn through digital media; ASER 2023 also highlights that 92 percent youth know how to use smartphones. But most are still using them for entertainment. For instance in the week prior to the survey, 90.5 percent accessed social media on cell phones, 78 percent used them for entertainment-related activities and 57 percent used it to play games. However, only 66 percent of youth used smartphones for education-related activities in the reference week. This data is further evidence that while young people today are aware of the power of digital technologies not enough of them use smartphones to learn something from them. Creating awareness on how one can leverage these technology-based learning applications, would definitely go a long way in changing the lives for many young people.

The way forward. There are numerous policies such as the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, which enable individuals to access vocational education. But many youngsters especially in rural locations, are unaware of them and unable to utilise easily accessible technologies because of lack of information. Moreover within society, there’s still too much emphasis on academics, not enough on VET.

The good news is that the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 mandates development of the critical thinking, attention to life aspirations, communication skills and entrepreneurial abilities of children and youth. Our schooling system needs to take this mandate seriously and execute them effectively. Teachers and mentors need to be trained to inculcate important vocational skills in our youth and guide them towards successful futures.

The country is experiencing a digital revolution. Young people are trying to keep up with all the new opportunities opened up by digital media. They need support, guidance on ways and means to harness wondrous new technologies and media to learn any subject easily. Not only government but also everyone in the society and communities should endeavour to harness new digital technologies to empower our youth to fly higher happily.

Also read: ASER Report: 86.8% of Indian youths aged 14-18 enrolled in education

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