Education and training: Pillars of co-operative development
With 64 per cent of its population in the working-age group, India is on track to become the world’s youngest country. However, a high proportion in the labor force indicates that the problem of youth unemployment and underemployment will remain a serious policy issue for many years to come in India. An International Labour Organization (ILO) studies reveals that roughly 18 million Indians turn 18 every year, of which a large majority enters the workforce. But most of them do not fill the needs for skilled jobs. India will have a severe skills shortage in the years to come and by 2030, with 29 million jobs likely to go unfilled due to lack of right skills.
In light of this fact, the Indian cooperative movement must develop successful communication strategies based on compelling themes to attract the youth. With the involvement of youth, the cooperative movement in our country will not only survive but even flourish in the future. Despite the difficulties associated with the operation and management of cooperative societies, they have contributed to growth and development of the national economy.
Fifth principal of cooperatives
Education is an important theme; as many would agree that one rarely learns about cooperative organisations or societies in mainstream formal education. Even though cooperatives are recognised as important actors for the implementation of the 2030 agenda, general and specialised knowledge about the model is limited to the few and not really reaching the many. Education has become a vital concern for the majority of the world’s governments and is now incorporated into most national development plans. With the goal of leaving no one behind, several countries have developed unique and innovative programmes to address a range of needs, ranging from early childhood education to secondary and university education, as well as technical and vocational skills. Numerous these programmes cut across multiple vulnerabilities such as gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic origin, language proficiency, and migration and displacement status. Where there is learning, there is growth. Education, training and information are in the core of cooperatives as it is the fifth principle of cooperatives, safeguarded by the ICA.
Focus on Cooperative education,training
Vaikunth Lal Mehta a doyen of the cooperative movement and a leader was instrumental in establishing Bombay Provincial Cooperative Institution, Pune in 1918. He emphasized creating a cooperative education fund for cooperative training. This was a significant step for making cooperative Institutions responsible for training and education for the members of cooperatives and cadres as responsible managers. Mirdha Committee on Cooperation (1964), mentioned that for cooperative movement to be self-reliant and to develop on sound and healthy lines, it is essential that utmost emphasis should be laid on a programme of cooperative education. Although the Co-operative policy of 2002 also emphasizes the importance and promotion of co-operative education in the county. It has been well said that education is deep in the roots of cooperation and without education, cooperatives would die. Through co-operative education and training, members are able to learn how to cooperate, participate and manage the co-operative they own. Furthermore, co-operative education and training is an important asset in attracting and maintaining membership but also in ensuring sustainability.
The renewed focus
A new Ministry of Cooperation was formed in July 2021 in India to strengthen the cooperative movement. The government announced a ₹900-crore allocation in the Budget for the newly set up Ministry of Cooperation for the 2022-23 fiscal, along with a provision of ₹30 crore for cooperative education whereas ₹ 25 crore has been given for cooperative training.
Generally, the success of the cooperative movement depends on cooperative education and training of members as well as the application of the principles, practice and methods of cooperation as a way of conducting business. Co-operative education is a set of practices and means used to make members aware of the co-operative principles and advantages.. The government is among the most important stakeholder in providing education and training to co-operatives. In order to build strong member-controlled co-operatives, emphasis on education and training is a must.
Experiences from other countries
Across the world, the governments are putting various efforts to promote the provision of education and training to the Cooperative sector. For example, governments in Africa have established universities, institutes and colleges for providing cooperative education and training to the stakeholders in the cooperative movement. Some of these countries in Sub-Saharan Africa include; Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Lesotho, Botswana, and Zambia. Latin American countries also have a huge focus on cooperative education. This has resulted in sustained growth of cooperatives and better awareness. Taking a cue from other countries envisioning to establish a National level Cooperative University which would offer co-operative education aiming at ensuring effective delivery of what is expected in terms of skills and knowledge to youth in co-operatives and supporting institutions is forward-thinking.
New education policy, employment
Cooperatives can also enable youth to pool their financial resources, skills, and experience to solve a common problem or cause, as well as facilitate youth self-employment. Additionally, the concept of collaboration and a sense of duty and ownership have been attributed to the practicality of a cooperative model as a potential solution for youth unemployment
As per government statistics, the unemployment rate of educated persons in India was at 11.4 per cent. Considering that half of India’s population is under 25 and about 66 per cent are younger than 35, this small percentage is a very large number. The United Nations (UN) even suggests that by 2027, India will represent almost one-fifth of the global workforce, which will automatically, and by far, be the largest in the world.
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 aims to transform education, keeping the learner at the centre. The New Education Policy 2020 aims to revolutionise education and guarantee employment for the educated ones. India is in dire need of employment opportunities, and this policy plays a huge role in the creation of opportunities, in many ways. With a multidisciplinary education recommended by NEP2020, that is an integration of academic and vocational streams with a focus on skill-building through Competency-based education and this would certainly prepare Indian youth for the new world of work.
The challenge is to bring synergy into NEP 2020 and cooperative education which would be a part of the New Cooperative Policy . In the light of a budget earmarked to Cooperative education there is a need for:
1. Engaging youth in cooperative and also providing member education of existing cooperatives in the country.
2. A strategic road map with pathways of creation of Cooperative Universities, Centers of Excellence, up-gradation of state and central training quality and infrastructure for and network of information systems for knowledge generation, concerted and massive programme of adult education for members of cooperative societies in the country and aligning the mission of cooperative education and training with the NEP 2020.
Cooperative education and training is necessary for ensuring inclusive and equitable earning opportunities for all in the next decades and creating employment through cooperatives. . Jobs created by cooperatives would be typically more stable and resilient to withstand the economic downturns and pandemics.
(Dr Yadav is Director and Dr Paliwal, professor, VAMNICOM , Pune)
March 27, 2022