According to the projection of the United Nations Population Division, currently young people between ages 15-24 constitute 18 percent of world’s population at 1.1 billion and the world is very close to reach the peak of historically highest youth population (Lam, 2007). These young people, across the globe, especially in developing countries, where the population density and growth is also highest, face unprecedented challenges in their capacity to access public resources and family resources, stemmed from waves of cultural and economic globalization. Most critical issues for youth development are poverty, health practices, gender biases, education, employment, social responsibilities and good citizenship, juvenile delinquency etc. (World Youth Report, 2003). Demand of skilled workers in the knowledge economy has created hindrance for a large portion of world youth, especially in developing countries, where higher education system has not been able to realize sufficient ‘value addition’ in terms of enhancing the employability in the new age labor market. Noteworthy point is that, today’s youth find themselves in an era, where for the first time in the modern civilization, purely economic value of higher education has reached an unprecedented proportion. According to UNESCO, “higher education is no longer a luxury; it is essential to national, social and economic development”. Educational reforms, therefore, are more intrinsically tied-up with and can have stronger influence on the youth employment opportunities than ever before. Even more pertinent issue is that, while numbers and analyses show that the standard and accessibility of elementary and primary education have improved for most of the developing countries for the last two decades yet that success story has not led to a consequential fruition, as expected from a complete education, in terms of enhancing the employment opportunity or poverty reduction through self-reliance for today’s youth. The complex inter-relation between educational policies, pedagogical methodologies and job/labor market dynamics, therefore, presents us with many interesting facets, which are worth analyzing for identifying decisive pathways for the development of today’s youth, who are going to be the primary labor force of tomorrow’s world.
A significant portion of the world’s total youth population lives in India, which has 540 million people under the age of 25 and nearly 200 million between 15-25 years of age. In recent years (primarily after the liberalization of economy around 1991) the growth story of India has been colored with the shade of a near-fantasy tale. Have you heard the buzzwords with regard to India ‘burgeoning young middle-class population’, ‘booming IT sector’, or ‘vast pool of English speaking, science-educated skilled labor force’ around your morning breakfast, launch recess, evening tea, and weekend party? I am not surprised that you have. I just wonder whether you also have heard about some lesser-known facts, which are summarized as following,
• 84.5 million (highest in the world) young people lives under ‘extreme poverty line’ (less than US $1 per day) in India. That is 44.2 % of total youth population. (Source: World Youth Report, 2003);
• 44 million of Indian youth is under-nourished (again, highest in the world) which is 23% of the total youth population (Source: World Youth Report, 2003);
• Gross enrollment percentage of youth in higher education is 7%, as compared to 92% in US, 52% in UK, 45% in Japan, 11.1% in all Asia, even 10.3% in all developing countries (Source: www.hindustantimes.com)
For proposing a pathway of meaningful educational reform, identification of the nature of the existing policies, their implications, and the inter-relation with employment market is of paramount importance. According to a 2004-2005...