Is There a Monopoly on Vocational Training in India? -Anand Chandrasekhar

-TheWire.in

Has Switzerland’s eagerness to export its vocational training and education model to India led to an unsatisfactory compromise that ultimately hurts the battle against poverty: granting a private company exclusive rights to the curriculum developed with Swiss taxpayers’ money?

This year, India and Switzerland will celebrate 70 years of a Friendship Treaty that was signed by the two countries in 1948. A decade ago, the 60th anniversary of the Treaty was commemorated by launching a pilot project called the Swiss Vocational Education and Training Initiative India (SVETII). The objective of the project was to train young Indians under the Swiss apprenticeship model to ensure Swiss companies in India had the skilled workers they needed. It was touted as a win-win outcome.

The timing of the SVETII couldn’t have been better. It helped establish Switzerland’s reputation in India as a leader in vocational education. As the Swiss pilot project was drawing to a close, the Indian government created a Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2014. The minister in charge signed a memorandum of understanding with Switzerland in 2016 to cooperate in skills development for a period of three years.

The structure of the SVETII project changed in 2012, shifting responsibility for its coordination to a private company called SkillSonics. With an office in Zurich and Bengaluru, the firm received close to CHF685,000 ($693,563) in public funds for 2012 and 2013 to train the trainers of the Indian apprentices. In essence, what started as a Swiss government-led project became a self-financed scheme managed by SkillSonics. The company was granted the rights to offer the course with material provided by the publicly-funded Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET). After completing the training, participants receive a SFIVET certificate from SkillSonics.

This transformation from a public project to promote vocational education in India into a business was not to everyone’s advantage. It hampered scalability in a nation where a fifth of the population lives below the poverty line, according to official estimates. When a Swiss charitable organisation called the Joshi Foundation tried to obtain access to the SFIVET curriculum for its Skills University in Rajasthan it was in for a surprise.

“We were told it was translated by SkillSonics for India and they have the rights for the whole country. We asked SkillSonics how much it would cost but the price was much too high,” Markus Gmeiner, CEO of Joshi Foundation told swissinfo.ch.

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TheWire.in, 8 June, 2018, https://thewire.in/education/is-there-a-monopoly-on-vocational-training-in-india

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