Why colleges need to rethink curriculum for producing job-ready graduates | Jacob Jesuroon | Senior VP and HR Head
Elevating an individual from “graduate” to “professional” requires an investment of money, time and effort from the employer and the employee. An obvious way to minimize this is to shift some of that load towards academic institutions. Those several years of college education ahead of one’s first job could be an excellent training ground, although this is far from reality in our existing system. A significant number of new graduates are struggling to find employment.
Unemployment among youth is around thrice the national average in India, and 74% of India’s youth do not have access to (or can afford) a good higher education.
Mismatch in KPIs
The Indian education system has always been criticized for rewarding “rote learning” – memorizing and reproducing information. The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) there is marks scored, often in subjects/papers which have no relation to the job they will take up several years later. The consequences of such a skew come to light only when the student reaches the workplace, and the employer expects them to apply what they have learned rather than
reproducing information mechanically. Employers value productivity, quality and efficiency in the work delivered to them. A distinction, first class or marks scored in college don’t mean much to them unless the individual can perform according to those new KPIs at the workplace.
Internships and industry-connect programs are inaccessible to most college students today, except for professional/vocational courses, which often need to be updated. Simulating real-world scenarios in the course curriculum helps students to broaden their thinking and explore a world beyond their books. Lawyers can learn the law, doctors can learn anatomy, and engineers can understand technology. Still, the important thing is for them to be able to apply learnings in practical scenarios, some of which don’t even exist when they are students. A laboratory providing engineers with 30-year-old technology is holding them back in many ways since they
need to see what the real world is like and are already 30 years behind when they graduate.
Despite the shortcomings in curricula, employers still insist on “graduates with no arrears” and a “minimum of 60 per cent from 10 th to graduation” in their job ads. Companies are relying on “signalling” – that is, using available information to guess the reality essentially. Dropping out of a degree could indicate issues in adapting to scenarios or focusing attention on a task. Scores steadily dropping from matriculation to higher secondary to graduation may show a lack of focus or an inability to scale up in learning. However, it is a prediction and not a guarantee, which is why many companies are still willing to give chances to people who have demonstrated
extraordinary abilities in the real world, irrespective of their academic credentials.
An agenda for improvement
Good intentions are visible in the curricula of many modern institutions. Colleges constrained by an outdated syllabus must invest further in their students’ future. Students need opportunities to witness an actual workplace, and establishing relationships with colleges could facilitate frequent internships. Students and colleges can leverage alum networks to get students opportunities to interact with experienced professionals. Many companies support “pre-recruitment” training or simulative environments such as laboratories if that means a potential pipeline of highly skilled employees for their future. The key is to demonstrate a real and positive return.
Last but not least, follow through. Promote those who show real-world talent and demonstrable skills rather than pushing them back to make way for those who score highly in rote examinations. Innovation is the key to a better tomorrow and won’t come from outdated ways of thinking.