The union Ministry of Education is thinking big on integrating vocational education. After CBSE announced vocational subjects for classes 6-8 and draft NCF School Education proposing vocational education as one of the eight essential papers for secondary stage (class 9-12), the ministry is setting a target of at least 50% of girls who are passing out from the 12th standard by 2025-26 becoming an expert in one skill relevant to the job market.
Speaking at the 12th edition of IDEATE 2023, a Bansidhar & Ila Panda Foundation initiative in partnership with FICCI and UNICEF as knowledge partner, Vipin Kumar, Additional Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education, Government of India, emphasised the importance of providing quality education to girls in India, focusing on vocational education as a means to ensure employability and relevance to the demands of the industry.
Emphasising that vocational education is a crucial aspect of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, Kumar added that NEP emphasises the importance of providing 21st-century skills to girls to participate in the economy. “To achieve this, the Ministry of Education is in discussions with state governments to identify requirements for specific geographical areas and industries”, he said while seeking industry support in providing internships as it was a big challenge to create training facilities .
The 12th edition of IDEATE 2023, organised under the auspices of G20 Empower Jan Bhagidari, was themed on “Foundational & Lifecycle Interventions to EMPOWER” to discuss transformative strategies for empowering India’s adolescent girls – a demographic representing a quarter of the nation’s population.
Subhrakant Panda, President of FICCI and Trustee at BIPF, highlighted the importance of investing early in adolescent development. He said, “India has the largest adolescent population in the world, with every fifth person in the 10-19 age group. Given that approximately 47% of this cohort are girls, the need of the hour is their technical and educational upliftment, so they go on to have skillsets which enable them to tackle any challenges and be equal partners in India’s progress.”
Mr Panda emphasised the importance of closing the gender gap in education, health and job opportunities, boosting economic growth and inclusivity. With young women joining the workforce, society as a whole benefits. It is estimated that if adolescent girls continue their education, delay early marriage, and avoid early pregnancy, they could add around $110 billion to India’s GDP over their lifetimes, he said. Mr Panda urged a holistic approach, focusing on empowerment by seeing women as agents of change rather than just beneficiaries of health and development programs.
Delivering the keynote address, Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF India Representative, emphasised on a multi-sectoral approach to empowering young women and girls. “Getting to the root causes and barriers holding girls back in the digital age needs to be addressed from all aspects. It is not just about closing the gender gap, but also about creating a generation of innovators, creators, and leaders to shape a more inclusive and equitable society. Adopting a multi sectoral approach, working together with businesses, we need to ensure early access to technology, digital and life skills training. We need to redouble efforts that address harmful gender stereotypes within and outside families including online abuse,” she said. “UNICEF works with the government and other partners, to equip adolescent girls and boys with skills for the workplace, while promoting access to quality healthcare, education, social benefits and child protection,” added Mc Caffrey.
During the event, Trustee and CEO of the Bansidhar and Ila Panda Foundation, Shaifalika Panda, said, “An inclusive environment that promotes equity for girls from their foundational years will foster an environment where they will build the necessary skills and confidence for an independent outlook. Mentoring them across their lifecycle will empower them to follow their dream and achieve their full potential – creating a more equitable and just society with a high percentage of women’s economic representation.”
Alluding to gender inequity across various segments, which prevents a majority of girls from having a level playing field, she highlighted the crucial need to create an environment that supports and empowers girls, allowing them to unlock their potential. In this regard, Ashish Dhawan, Founder CEO, The Convergence Foundation, outlined several areas, including addressing skill deficits, building strong networks, promoting role models, and challenging social norms, among others, requiring attention.