Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor and writer
warned that jobs were scarce and degrees were
abundant and if this mismatch continued many
qualified graduates would end up jobless.
Tharoor was delivering the convocation address at St. Xavier's University, Kolkata on Saturday, July 27. "I am sure this won't be a problem for the graduates I am addressing today at St Xavier's University. But you must be aware of the broader national picture," Tharoor said.
An alumnus of St. Xavier's School, Kolkata from 1969 to 1971, Tharoor stressed the need to identify the actual demand for engineers, advocates, medical, legal and high technology service industries before increasing or decreasing "seats for these in our institutes" to close this skill gap.
"Some 60 per cent of our engineers for instance find themselves in jobs that do not require an engineering degree, and I am not even counting those engineers who get no jobs at all. We are releasing graduates into an ecosystem that does not know how to use them: they settle for a constable post as an alternative", he said
"...You don't create graduates for the real world without knowing what the real world wants...Too many of our graduates are overqualified for the jobs available. For the talent we have, we don't seem to know what to do with it."
Father Felix Raj, the Vice-Chancellor of St Xavier's University, presented a report where he spoke in detail about the activities of the university in the last one year. The university gave postgraduate degrees to 135 students at the convocation held on the New Town campus. Father congratulated all the degree awardees.
"This is a historical moment for us and the students who received the degrees on this occasion will be remembered for years to come. They are the first fruits of this tree (university) and I thank the entire university community that has helped to build this great institution... St Xavier's University, Calcutta, is just a two-year-old infant, but it has already taken great strides by contributing towards knowledge creation," said Father Felix Raj.
Tharoor said that almost half of the country's population was under 25 and approximately 65 per cent under 35. As a young and productive workforce, "Indian graduates are primed to take over the world, responding to not only India's but the international society's greatest challenges".
But he said there were some serious structural challenges that need to be addressed urgently, "employability" being one. "Our education system must add employability to the catechism of Indian education policy thinking, to meet the forces of markets, the demands of research, the pursuit of knowledge and the imperative of building an equitable society. We are suffering from a systemic problem of skill mismatch between qualifications and jobs undertaken."
"...So students are taught and trained not to think for themselves, not to think beyond the textbook... it's the wrong sort of an approach to prepare our students for university and college education because that's not the kind of mind you need in the 21st century."
Tharoor said that "how to think" was far more
important than "what to think" and the big successes
in life were those who were able to think out of the
box and to think beyond what was in the textbook.
"...The big examination called life has a habit of
asking you questions for which you couldn't prepare
answers from a textbook," he said.
Tharoor said he was looking forward to the New Education Policy aimed to create a new approach to education in the country.
St. Xavier's University, Kolkata has also started a Law School. The Xavier Law School and its first academic session will be inaugurated on Saturday, August 3. Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, the first Lokpal of India will be the chief guest on the occasion.