In the article, ‘A narrower education’ (IE, April 17) Ashok Thakur, a former secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), on the transfer of architecture from the MHRD to the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), and polytechnics to the new Ministry of Skill Development (MSD), needs to be seen both in a historical context and from the perspective of how professions are administered and why skill development needs specialised thinking.
First, the issue of architectural education. Both the study and profession of architecture are regulated by the Architects Act of 1972. This act has not only to do with the education of an architect, but also his or her professional conduct, and other issues concerned with the sector. Architecture is not only a learning but a profession which, like the dozen-odd professions that have similar acts enacted by parliament, carries a social trust, apart from the responsibility towards clients.
All the other similar Central acts (for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, law, chartered accountancy, works and cost accountancy, Unani, homeopathy, etc.) are administered by line ministries which utilise the professional skills imparted by their associated educational entities. This is the common thread that binds the various parliamentary acts .
These are not only to do with general education. Professions need to be closely entwined with constantly changing technical and cultural knowledge, while remaining relevant in the world. At a time when the information explosion has almost overtaken traditional knowledge, this fundamental necessity — of professions being constantly relevant — cannot be ignored. This is why the education and conduct of lawyers, for example, is looked after by the Advocates Act, which is administered by the Ministry of Law and Justice, chartered accountants by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, etc. — the list extends to a dozen such parliamentary acts enacted under “professions, trades and callings” as defined in the Constitution of India.
Similar reasons are valid for moving polytechnics from the MHRD to the MSD. Skill development does not need beyond a certain amount of education; on the other hand, skill training needs a combination of working with one’s hands and mind. The creation of the MSD is a timely move by the government — the country needs a huge number of skilled workers in many sectors, primarily in infrastructure. With the contemporary boom in mechanical and electrical tools, proper skill training is critical, both towards working correctly and ensuring workers’ safety. As such tools become more sophisticated, so is the need to upgrade their operators’ skills.
The directions given by the cabinet secretariat should be contextualised further. At present, there is a blurred line between education, professional education and skill development. In the medical profession, there is a clear distinction between laboratory technicians, nurses, caregivers, who may deliver injections, and those who may not. This helps develop specialised skills.
Thus, the argument that only the MHRD knows everything that needs to be known about specialised professional education does not hold water any longer. Line ministries must have the responsibility of both the education and professional conduct of the people they train.
The confusion created by the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education needs to end. Both these organisations have hardly covered themselves with glory during the last five decades. None of them produced any research of any value till now. Contrast this with the good work done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences of the country (under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) and other effective institutions like the National Institute of Design and the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) which have produced value in their respective fields. The NIFTs are administered by the Ministry of Textiles — not the MHRD.
As regards architecture, its use is in urban development, not in universities. Town Planning is already with the MoUD, so is the National Institute of Urban Affairs and other bodies which deal with urban and rural planning. Architecture too deserves to filter down to the common citizen, like healthcare and legal advice. That can only happen when the MoUD takes it under its administrative wing.
The MHRD should stick to primary, secondary and some parts of higher education. There is a lot to be done in these sectors too. But when it comes to professional education and practice, that is best left to the specialists. The cabinet secretariat has only followed logic. Its directions are good for the future of both professions and skill development.