A skill university

It is heartening to note that the brief just-concluded Autumn Session of the Assam Legislative Assembly
A skill university

It is heartening to note that the brief just-concluded Autumn Session of the Assam Legislative Assembly passed a Bill for setting up of a skill development university in the state. Considering the announcement made by the government, this institution, which has been christened as Assam Skill Development University, this will be the first institution in the entire Northeastern Region which will be set up with a whopping Rs 900 crore loan from Asian Development Bank (ADB). Proposed to be a unitary and multidisciplinary university which will facilitate and promote entrepreneurship development, skill-based education in an integrated manner with higher studies, the State government has also selected a 100-bigha plot of land in Mangaldoi for it. Going by what the Sonowal government has spelt out, the huge investment to be made in this university should within a few years bring about a sea-change in the employment scenario in the region and should also be able to wipe out to a considerable extent the unemployment problem. But, while looking forward with hope and optimism for this skill development university to become a reality, one needs to take an account of the status of the existing institutions in Assam which have been imparting education in various technical and professional areas. These include degrees, diplomas and certificate curses in different engineering courses, degrees and diplomas in different areas of medical sciences and healthcare, hotel and hospitality, mass communication, music and performing arts, sports and physical education and so many other areas. Long ago, most district headquarter towns had a "higher secondary and multi-purpose schools" which used to impart practical education in various trades intended at making the students employable. Then came the polytechnic institutions and Industrial Training Institutes, the POW Institute of Engineering & Technology (Jorhat) and Assam Engineering Institute (Guwahati). As on date, there are at least 12 government and private institutions apart from IIT Guwahati and NIT Silchar which give degrees in engineering, and these include the universities too. Moreover, Assam also has institutions which give degrees in music, law, management, fine arts, aeronautics, plastic technology, agriculture, veterinary, horticulture, fishery, etc. Several private institutions on the other hand impart education and training in different areas of hospitality including hotel management, catering, tourism, airlines, acting, music, beauty-care etc. All these institutions put together must be imparting various kinds of skills to thousands of young people every year, with the parents of these students paying through their noses huge sums of hard-earned money, especially to the private institutions. While these institutions are separately and categorically controlled and governed by different departments of the state and central government, both governments had in the recent years also set up skill development missions in order to upscale the employability of our young people. Though it is apparent that the proposed Assam Skill Development University will not function as the existing ones have been functioning (or malfunctioning, as in the case of the ITIs), it is probably the appropriate time to conduct a thorough audit of the functioning and impact of the numerous above-mentioned institutions. The investments made in the above-mentioned institutions – which includes investments made from the public exchequer in government institutions and the exorbitant fees taken by the private ones – will probably come to several hundred thousand crores of rupees in the past six or seven decades. This is also the appropriate time to find out the efficacy or utility of the education and training imparted by the above-mentioned universities, colleges and other institutions, and then also fix responsibility on individuals including government officials (who had granted permission to them) for the failures and shortcomings that have ultimately adversely affected lives of thousands of young people of the state. This task can be best done under the aegis of the Assam Legislative Assembly itself, which will be able to also involve the elected members of the people in the stock-taking process. This exercise can also bring under its ambit an output audit of Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and Assam Agriculture University, apart from the two central universities in Tezpur and Silchar, the latter two being an outcome of the Assam Accord. It is true that this exercise will require a few months. But then, it will also immensely contribute towards shaping the Assam Skill Development University, the draft Bill for which was reportedly not put out in the public domain for discussions, debates and suggestions. 

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