Vocational education refers to learning modules focused on equipping students with technical skills required by an industry, a job, or a vocation. It aims to enhance the employability and entrepreneurial abilities of students, provide them exposure to a work environment, and generate awareness among them about various career options. In recent years, several policy-backed skill development initiatives have been supporting the push for vocational learning within schools. The government’s Samagra Shiksha programme, for instance, acknowledges the need to mainstream vocational education, where students from classes 9 to 12 are offered various subjects such as information technology (IT), agriculture, and tourism and hospitality as part of the school curriculum. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2022 also provide impetus to the vocationalisation of education.

Vocational learning is intrinsically linked with livelihood opportunities for children with special needs (CwSN) as well. According to this report, there are approximately  crore people with disabilities (PwDs) in India, out of which only 34 lakh PwDs have been employed across various sectors. Exposure to different skill-based learning modules including engineering, computer science, and other aligned streams can be a crucial step in enabling CwSN to access job opportunities that are available for them in the market.

The inclusive education mandate of the Samagra Shiksha programme, in fact, has dedicated provisions for CwSN. However, many educators have flagged challenges in implementing the correct approach to vocational education for CwSN, especially neurodiverse children. For instance, Reshu Gupta, a vocational educator for hearing-impaired students in Poddar International school shares that many children in her class cannot complete the prescribed syllabus that has been designed keeping neurotypical students in mind. Under the vocational education syllabus, nine chapters on IT have been prescribed for a class. But Reshu explains that some students are unable to manage at the pace required to complete all chapters in an academic year.

Most educators in the field agree and point to the fact that in the absence of any concrete guidelines to help customise teaching or evaluation methods for different learning needs, children are usually promoted to the next class. This is an even larger issue when CwSN have to study alongside neurotypical students.

Read the full article about vocational education by Laxman P. Joshi at India Development Review.