New Beginnings..

Ms Huddar is busy with a teacher discussing the ongoing examinations when we walk into her room. She is the principal of the flourishing Girls Government Secondary School located in Vishrantwadi, Pune. Uncommon adjective for a government school where failing and floundering are more commonly used. But this school does face a unique conundrum as explained by Ms Huddar. “This year we saw girls leaving the private school in the vicinity to join our school.

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Girls demonstrate a retail lesson

It could be because we are an only girls school, but we cannot discount the positive interest our new subjects on offer has generated,” she shared, referring to the skill education subjects introduced in this school in the previous year, as part of Maharashtra’s pilot project on integrating skill education in secondary schools with the National Skill Qualification Framework.

In contrast to academic classes which often translates into mere rote learning, these classes require students to learn by actually doing what the trade teaches them. “I want to improve my spoken English and I
already feel more confident in interacting with others since I’ve taken this trade,” shares Sanskruti, a 10th grade student with dreams of setting up her own clothes store.

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A student returns the tool she used to the tool board

Apart from that, the opportunity to work with tools, making tangible products, excites these girls. As Simran who is a student of the pilot batch of MSFC shared, “It’s exciting to work with tools my parents wouldn’t allow me near at home. I feel like an adult, responsible!”

But it did take a while to convince the parents about the program when it was introduced last year.
“What if our child gets electrocuted?”
“They are girls, why should they learn these things”
The school staff was faced by a worried, skeptical set of parents. But what allayed their fear was when few of the parents visited the classes and saw the instructors observing safety measures, encouraging the girls to try, to question. Additionally when students went on to apply their skills at home, whether it was Simran teaching her mother to cook various nutritious food or Mayuri who did the wiring at her home, parents were finally convinced of the benefits of these skill courses being taught in their school.

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“Now, we get complaints from our graduate students – Why didn’t we start this program for them!” Ms Huddar says with a chuckle. She is happy with the effect the program has had on students, and the direction it is helping to give them. As Mayuri of class 9 tells us, “I want to become an electrical engineer. While studying the Energy and Environment module, I’m able to get a more hands on introduction to electrical work, and my decision to pursue electrical engineering gets reinforced.”

The National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) is a step towards creating common standards that incorporates the industries-level requirements for different kinds of job roles, and aligning the vocational training schemes with these standards. The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan of Maharashtra is responsible for the implementation of NSQF project in schools of the state, and has tied up with Lend A Hand India for the same.
A pilot project offering Retail and Multi Skill Foundation Course was successfully introduced in 8 Pune Municipal Schools in 2014-15, expanding to 10 schools in Pune, and 9 schools of Brihan Mumbai Corporation for the academic year 2015-16.

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