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Three IITs, India’s premier higher education institutions (HEIs), figure in the top 200 institutions across the world ranked according to employability of students in the 2022 QS Graduate Employability Rankings. No Indian HEI is in the top 100. In comparison, an HEI each from China and Hong Kong have challenged Anglosphere hegemony in the top 10. That no Indian HEI has been able to breach the top 100 aptly sums up the employability crisis of Indian graduates.
An employability report in 2019 based on standardised testing by Aspiring Minds termed the challenge as “stubborn unemployability”. It concluded that employability of Indian engineers has not changed at the aggregate level since 2010. Only 3.84% engineers are employable at software start-ups. It’s not any better at HEIs in other streams. India Skills Report 2021 estimated overall employability at 45.9%, that is, at least one of two graduates is not ready for the job market. In polytechnics, which is a pathway for intergenerational mobility, employability level is as low as 25%. A country’s employability quotient significantly influences both the quantity and quality of investment.
The good news is that there’s recognition of the problem at GoI’s level. The National Education Policy 2020 addresses it in broadly two ways. It provides flexibility for students, proposing multiple exit options from undergraduate programmes with appropriate certification. There’s also a call for tighter integration between academia and industry. This is the key. Two successful models, Germany and Japan, offer useful lessons. Germany’s apprenticeship programme is a building block of its manufacturing prowess. Japan’s school system plays an important role in matching student skills with industry’s requirements. This intermediation role needs to be replicated in India. If and when, post-pandemic, India’s economy starts growing at around 7% annually, the job market will demand skill sets that current HEIs are not providing.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.