HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar announced plans to integrate 1,000 hours of compulsory skill training to undergraduate students in colleges

New Delhi : Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar has announced plans to integrate 1,000 hours of compulsory skill training with the academic activities of undergraduate students to make them employable.

But some academicians expressed fears that the move might dilute the main course for which they had enrolled themselves.

“The BA, BCom and BSc students will get 1,000 hours of professional training. They will get 250 hours of training on soft skills, 250 hours on information communication technology and 500 hours of two other skill courses,” Javadekar told a media conference. He did not elaborate.

Officials in the HRD ministry and the University Grants Commission (UGC) did not clarify whether the additional training would be compulsory for all students, including those pursuing honors courses, or whether it would apply only to general BA, BSc and BCom students. The rollout date for the scheme was also not announced.

“This is at a conceptual stage. The minister is examining it,” said a senior HRD ministry official. The matter was discussed at a conference in Mussoorie last month.

The ministry is yet to involve in the proposed project key stakeholders such as teachers, students and university officials.

Ananda Lal, a professor who retired from Jadavpur University, said the Centre needed to clarify training in which skills was being proposed and what it meant by “soft skills”. If vocational training is what the government means by soft skills, such courses are better imparted in polytechnics, ITIs and similar institutions.

“This proposal will cut into the studies on honours subjects. The expertise of students in subjects chosen by them will be compromised. In the US, community colleges offer courses on basic vocational training.”

Lal criticized the government for having a bureaucratic approach to policy making.

“Everything is treated at a bureaucratic level. I would strongly urge the government to have a look at the practices in the best universities in the world,” Lal said.

Abha Dev Habib, a former academic council member of Delhi University, said the “top-down approach” of the government on academic affairs would not succeed. Universities should be left to decide how to train students on skills. The proposal for compulsory skill training will be counterproductive. The students will not be able to focus on the main course. She said skill courses may be offered as an option to students who may choose them according to their aptitude.

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