Concept paper for vocational education of the Berry college model
There is a scarcity of young men and women trained at user -level technologies and routine services. Today’s society that focuses a lot on higher education forgets that it needs drivers, plumbers, electricians, vehicle mechanics, repair boys for electronic items, DTP and simple computer operations, and other people who do odd jobs, in equal number. Every one knows it. But very little is being done about it.
Most people who do such jobs are trained by their parents or relatives who are in the profession. Or, they have learnt it as apprentices with little pay or no pay at all.
The formal education system that teaches them languages, maths, science and history, does not teach them skill to survive. Even the ITI, diploma colleges and `Job Oriented’ courses don’t teach them such basic skills. Those courses are tailored to suit needs of the industry. Graduates of these colleges become employees. They can’t become entrepreneurs or independent professionals providing basic services like plumbing or vehicle repair.
If education is to liberate the mind, it should first help us survive. It should teach us livelihood skills. That is where vocational education comes in.
There have been several models of vocational education. The successful ones would naturally, have more of practice than theory.
The Berry college (www.berry.edu) founded by Martha Berry in Georgia in USA follows a time tested system of vocational education. Here, students study theory for three days a week and practice their skill for another three days.
Boys and girls can enter this college when they are as young as 16. There is no upper limit to admissible age.
They are taught as basic skills as cooking to complex tasks like astronomy.
There are thousands of students in the over 400 courses offered on campus. They are learning building construction, machine erection, vehicle maintenance, window cleaning, carpentry, office maintenance, road work, teacher training, and what not. Every student has to put in practical work for every paper.
On a tour of the USA in 2006 under the Rotary GSE programme, I saw that students of various disciplines were busy constructing an extension wing of the college. Most of the money needed to run these schools is given by the past students. NRI and IIT alumnus Krishna Dhir is the head of Berry college now.
The philosophy of Berry college is similar to Gandhiji’s basic education concept. This needs to be replicated in India. It is not very difficult. There are two ways of going about it.
One is to have a campus on which teachers with practical experience teach students basic vocational skills. This can be big or small based on the budget and could grow over time.
Two, we could use offices, factories and workplaces of entrepreneurs and professional as training centres. Students could be sent as apprentices to these places after a little of theoretical training. The employer could be paid training fees and the student could get scholarships.
All this can be formalized. We could approach the national open school or universities like IGNOU or Abdul Kalam Azad University for recognition. We could also seek assistance under the union government’s skill development programmes.
Or else, we could forget about affiliation and aim at training people. Once the course becomes popular, it could attract the attention of students and policy makers.