Stories about great scientists, from Albert Einstein to Indian math genius Ramanujan, both of whom did not make it through the educational system are of course well known. The story of the company Raman Board, a company started by V. Raman which makes industrial grade paper products such as sheets of cardboard used in electrical transformers, suggests that this experience may not just be limited to few extra-ordinary people.
One day V. Raman found a young man named Rangaswami outside the door of the factory. He was looking for job. He was from very poor family. He said he had some engineering education but just a diploma, not a proper college degree. Compelled by his insistence that he could do good work Raman gave him a quick intelligence test. Rangaswami performed the test and was able to impress Raman with his skills. Raman took Rangaswami under his wing and they started working together at first. Gradually Raman started giving assignments to work on his own and Rangaswami started coming up with creative solutions to the engineering problem in the company. Rangaswami, the man who could not get an engineering degree, is head of engineering in the company. His colleague, Krishnachari- an ex carpenter, another of Raman’s find, with little formal education is a key manager in the components division. This story illustrates there is possibility of potential that can be used for productive purpose even though they have failed at formal education or not attained degree from formal institution.
Education is gateway to future career and success. This is the prevailing view and it is true for the most part. When it comes to formal education, SLC in Nepal becomes an interesting case to take a look at. In Nepal for almost all students, SLC becomes the moment of either make it or break it. SLC is considered to be the “iron-gate”. It is Iron Gate indeed. Those who fail the test do not have any prospect of higher education and they do not have any prospect of career through formal education. This is the law in the country.
Percentage of students passing SLC on average is about 45-50%. Every year hundred thousand students see their education prospect end. It is very common that during the week of SLC result, there are some incidents and news of students those failed committing suicide as well. And if girl do not pass SLC, it is likely that girl will be married very young (this happens a lot in rural areas). There is also stigma to failing SLC as if, it is really the end of the world.
There is not any other mechanisms to see their talents and utilize them productively in the country. These are pool of talented youth with potential that will likely go unnoticed. These are portion of population age 16 with life ahead of them. Usually age 16-25 is spent on gathering knowledge and skills required to get the job in the future.
What is the purpose of education?-To learn. In a broader sense it should mean to learn any craft or skills that one can use to be productive member of the society. When we limit definition of education to formal education through formal institutions only, the result will be loss and underutilization of talents of those young individuals who cannot do well in formal education for various reasons.
One good news for students who did not make it on SLC now is that, Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) is offering technical skill development courses for such students. These courses are called Technical Education in Community Schools (TECS) program which runs for 29 months. TECS courses are offered by a community school in each of the 73 districts across the nation. Students can choose course of their choice that include Junior Technical Assistant (JTA) in agriculture, Information Technology in computer, Auxiliary Nursing Midwifery (ANM) in health, and Junior Technical Assistant (JTA) in veterinary, among others.
This is first step in a different direction then of the past. But there is much more to be done. Private sector can also step in to deliver similar and add more technical and skill trainings courses. Private sector can add trainings that is tailored to the business need of current market. As private sector can read the market signals and adapt to it faster than government can, private sector stepping in to provide such training will fill in the gap. This will also make both skills trainings and programs and those who attend it more popular as well. Greater popularity and acceptance can reduce social stigma of failing SLC.
Besides developing skilled youth to work here in Nepal, even though they have not done well in formal education, there is also huge potential to develop skilled youth to work in foreign countries. Currently remittance is significant portion of GDP of Nepal (around 23-25%). The portion of GDP contributed by remittance is very close to the contribution of GDP of Nepal by industrial sector. This train of migration is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Many of them migrate to work as low-skilled manual labor. It is likely the money they send will be used to pay the debt that they incurred while they migrated and the rest for consumption by their family members here in Nepal. At present most of the workers migrating are not aware of their rights, job they are required to perform, their rightful wage and legal provision in the destination country and above all they are not skilled. They migrate almost blindly without proper knowledge and proper skill. Combination of these factors results in lower wage and other various circumstance that is unfavorable. One common example is death and accidents in work place and no provision of any health care and benefits. Some other examples are trafficking, forced labor, sexual and physical harassments etc. Despite the difficulty the train of migration is increasing because of desperation as there is no better alternative form them in the country.
Well trained persons in specific skills can fetch higher salary then if they were not trained both here and in other countries. If these youths are provided proper job skill training as well as informative training about their rights and the challenges they will face in the destination country and where they are likely to be tricked in their bargain of the deal, various unfortunate circumstances that occurs to the youths can also be avoided. Higher salary also results in higher remittance as well.
Let’s create a space for those who do not do well in formal education system, so that they can contribute and become productive member of society either working here in Nepal or in some other countries. First step would be to look at what education means with a fresh approach and acceptance that not all minds are same, some excel in formal education system and some excel in developing hands on skill and training.
Dhruba Bhandari is research fellow at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.