The Talent Crunch

India has been busy patting itself on the back and talking big numbers at international fora for the last couple of years. But those of us who live and work here can testify to the fact that attaining these numbers is going to get harder and harder if something is not done about the talent crunch. There is a crying need for talent right from the bottom-level of management to the top level. At least at the top levels, since the need for numbers is lower, companies can make do by poaching or hiring external talent. But where are the people who are going to come into the talent pool at the bottom of the ladder?

The Government and its idiotically politically motivated HRD minister and blinkered MPs running after vote banks have been mooing and creating about reservations of jobs and higher education seats. What they are trying to do by creating this unnecessary furore is to cover their tracks in the matter of the colossal failure of successive state and central governments in the matter of schooling. Most government schools lack teachers, funds and equipment. Many of them lack classrooms, roof to classrooms and elementary facilities like toilets for children and staff. Passing from one class to another at most government schools is like going through a toll bridge - pay the relevant teacher, that's all. There are any number of teaching posts lying vacant because they have been reserved for SC/ ST or some other special type of candidate who cannot be found, and who cares if the poor students don't get the education they need? Even appointed teachers treat their schools like banks wherein they only have to show up once in a while to collect their salaries rather than attending on a daily basis. Cases of sexual harassment and molestation as well as physical abuse by teachers abound in government schools. After a child has passed through this appalling excuse for an education, he or she would be rendered incapable of being able to learn anything, rather than fit for higher education.

Why doesn't the government actually use its time and money to put in a superlative system of primary and secondary school education, which is so comprehensive and so good that students who emerge will be genuinely capable of participating in a competitive scenario and taking their rightful place through merit? Why can't we as a country invest in more vocational training and other employment-generating programs rather than pushing people blindly towards graduation degrees which will be of as much use and relevance to earning a living as a sick headache? Why can't the government take a policy decision to keep its greasy nose out of higher education and in primary and secondary school education, like many other countries? Because it will take effort, whereas mandating reservation or announcing grandiose plans to create more IIMs or IITs is easier and more visible. As always politicians have put the short-term, low hanging fruit before the longterm, higher value yielding proposition.

Until and unless large corporates like the Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis realise that their long term future lies in a well-educated, prosperous country and themselves invest in schooling across the country, nothing much will happen to benefit the vast majority of the country, because India as a rule has done well despite and not because of its government.

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