Education for Livelihood

I am writing this piece in retrospection to the many years that I spent studying at school and college, and while I am typing out these sentences I feel like that seamstress who is trying to sew together patches accumulated from about 20 years of formal education! In hindsight I am overwhelmed with several thoughts; ‘Am I happy with the career path I am on?’ ‘Was there something else that I could have done for a livelihood rather than my current profession?’, ‘Did I explore enough before deciding upon my profession?’

I remember, as a young girl I liked gardening, farming and mending things made out of wood. By adolescence I found a hobby in cooking and as an adult I found that I loved travelling more than anything else. I was given to realize that these were my interests which I could fulfill only when I would grow up and earn enough money to afford them. And to do so, I should study hard, very hard; get good marks and get a good job. And that was the pressure of belief I grew up with. I studied math, science, English, Hindi, Gujarati, Sanskrit, history, civics, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, moral science and much more. Appeared for exams, board exams and went through the ordeal of staying awake late into the night and getting up early mornings to study. There was monotony in school because I had to study every subject that was a part of the syllabus and appear for exams in a prescribed pattern. There was no freedom to skip subjects that I did not like and study the ones that interested me more. It was as if everybody was to fit into the same place irrespective of how different they were.

All to fit into one? Picture Credit: The Education Desk

To me, my school days were like body in a cage and wings in the air. Dreaming was difficult, because there were peripheries set. A hobby or an interest was not to be taken seriously because there was no career associated with it. So gardening, cooking, traveling, these all took back seats. Throughout my formative years, every morning I would rise like the phoenix to enter a world of chalk & talk education, learn things which my brain struggled to apprehend while the heart chose to forget forever!

Then came that big day of looking for a job and I found that there were abundant applicants but a severe dearth of opportunities. I was like another sea gull fighting for food from a fishing boat which had a limited quantity to offer. To top it up, in the practical job market, knowledge disseminated through formal education alone did not suffice. The job givers were looking for practical skills and life skills, while all that a fresher had to offer was bookish knowledge. Finally, came the phase of making adjustments, getting extra professional training to suit the job, unlearn what was taught at school and learn those skills that the job demanded. Time moved on and several mixed experiences at work made me realize that it’s just one life and within this one life there’s so much to do- be happy, have a family, meet people, love, share, care and live every new day to the fullest. Imagine wanting to do all this without really liking one’s profession. I personally feel that it is difficult for a person to remain truly happy without enjoying what one is doing for a livelihood. Meaning that if one does not like the work one is engaged in during most part of the day then it’s the same situation again – body in cage, wings in air and the soul stuck in between!

This brings me to the crux of my narrative that; in order to curb some portion of unemployment, provide livelihood opportunities for people in spaces of their choice and in the future interest of our country; it is an absolute necessity today for policy makers to revisit the education system of India. The education system of India needs to be revitalized, by making it responsive to livelihood options of present day.

Our schools are where our citizens of tomorrow remain engaged for most part of their formative years with a hope to acquire skills that will empower their lives in every way. These youngsters aspire to scale the skies with their dreams but end up doing what the system dictates because the current education system, by large is still based on rote memorization, examination-oriented and despite student diversity, uses the same scale to measure outcome. Today, we need an education system that upholds work and not work-tags. I may be a carpenter and I could be the best one at that, but do I have enough colleges in my country that would recognize my talent and provide me the necessary degree and support to make it in my profession? And what about the stigma of profession associated in being a carpenter vis-a-vis being an engineer, doctor, lawyer? Each one of them are important people of the society, but unfortunately at present, there are different altitudes of respect associated with each of these professions! In the 21st century of India, where its demography has potential to become its dividend, it is imperative for the education system to undergo a complete overhaul where students are encouraged towards practical application the knowledge they acquire in their language, literature, history, culture, math, sciences, classes. Our education system should rise to a level where a High School pass out is work ready, be it in the form of entrepreneurship or taking up a part time job to aide further studies. This can be achieved by promoting vocational training in education – meaning teaching practical class experience based skills that would make students aware of their professional aptitude and help them in making informed choices about selecting a career. Alternately, it could also help them in setting up small time entrepreneurial ventures towards self-employment.

In recent times, there has been a felt need of vocational training in education towards present market skill requirements, like never before. Between the years 2002 to 2007, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the much loved,  scientist who preferred to call himself a teacher graced the highest office of the Indian Government as the President of India. By that time India had witnessed huge ups and downs since its independence – be it population explosion, natural calamities, man-created emergencies, floods, droughts- having assumed office, Dr. Kalam made great efforts to bring changes in the existing education system of India both in terms of the spirit and practicality of knowledge imparted in classrooms. In one of his speeches at the Delhi Secretariat, he emphasized on the inclusion of skill based education right from school level. Once at an event in Delhi Dr. Kalam advocated for students passing out of of senior secondary schools to have two certificates – of passing 10+2 examination and of a specific skill acquired by her/him during schooling. He advocated that besides regular curriculum children should receive special training towards one skill set that will offer an extra certification which will not only help them get a job after school but also make them aware of the how real world industries function.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and students of a Government school.     P.C: K. Bhagya Prakash

While addressing the 54th foundation day of IIT Bombay, Dr. Kalam had stated that, “In the present context, the education system has to be designed in a way that produces large number of employment generators and not just employment seekers”. According to him, the introduction of a particular skill set at a younger age will promote entrepreneurship in the country. This kind of education system will generate job creators instead of job seekers.

As of 2015, 40% of the population of India is less than eighteen years of age, which means that 40% of the Indian population is in its formative age. These young minds hold a great promise for tomorrow’s India in terms of rising above the present poverty scenario – if empowered with a value based, livelihood oriented education system. Children, should be introduced to a multi skill curriculum alongside the existing academic curriculum at secondary school level. The subject units could include practical application of concepts learnt in classrooms viz. measurements, currency, profit and loss, basic carpentry, plumbing work, etc. that could be useful for the school or community. They should be taught scientific methods of farming, preparation of land for sowing, seed processing, grafting, preparing bio-fertilizers, water testing, soil testing, etc. They should also be taught handicraft oriented skills like stitching, knitting, embroidery and health oriented skills like scientific cooking techniques for hygienic and nutritious food, etc.

Girl Students guided by their instructor weeding spinach crop at school as a part of technical education in farming from a remote school in the outskirts of Mumbai. P.C: Lend A Hand India.

Children if empowered with vocational skills in their formative years will grow up as young citizens who can think of alternative means of livelihood in case the dream professions of becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers or getting a government job elude them for some or the other reason – be it competency, opportunity, availability of seats, etc. Needless to say, that every hobby turned profession if pursued with passion can lead to a stress free life for the individual with several positive cascading effects to society. The aim of education is to teach us how to think and be able to transform ourselves to be useful members of society, free of petty prejudices. It is time that we merge vocational education into mainstream education and also do away with the stigma attached to jobs like carpentry, plumbing, housekeeping, farming, and cookery-catering. Thankfully there are some NGOs who have already helped many schools in India to begin this journey of transition from bookish theory to practical learning based classrooms. Lend A Hand India, for instance is leading the cause of integrating vocational training into education across more than 100 schools in Maharashtra since the past 8 years. More information can be read on their website.

As far as my story is concerned, I have lived 40 summers and though I did not become a professional gardener, carpenter or chef; I have been deeply involved with the development profession. Over these years, I have been trying to do my bit to the cause in my own little ways – by teaching young students, by conducting teacher training and by creating awareness of the cause in public domain. My dream now is to be a catalyst towards a changing education system in India where the youth of this country shall be able to create their livelihoods out of passion & not compulsion. Towards this cause, I gather my inspiration from – quote Albert Einstein “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learnt in school”.

The author with a group of rural students from a school near Maharashtra-Karnataka border. Picture Source: Molly Pathak


  • Shweta. “Today’s Education System (Satire).” The Education Desk, 14 Sept. 2014,
  • IndiaToday.inNew DelhiJuly 28, 2015 UPDATED 10:19 ISTFollow  Email AuthorIndiaToday.inNew DelhiJuly 28, 2015UPDATED 10:19 IST READ LATER. “A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s Expectations from the Indian Education System.” India Today,
  • “APJ Abdul Kalam: In Memoriam.” BLoC, 28 July 2015,
  • Orgi. “Age Structure And Marital Status.” Census of India: Age Structure And Marital Status,
  • “Albert Einstein Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore,
  • Chari, Ranjan. “Lend-A-Hand India: Home.” Lend-A-Hand India: Home,


Molly is a freelance professional with 15 years of industry work experience encompassing education and social development with an educational background in Sustainable Rural Development, School Leadership Management, Human Resource Management, language and literature. She holds a postgraduate diploma in Sustainable Rural Development (PGD-SRD) National Institute of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Hyderabad. Molly grew up in a neighborhood of extremely hardworking people - fisher folks, masons, carpenters, plumbers and migrant populations speaking various Indian languages & dialects. From these individuals, Molly learned the value of small things in life; for example - the value of a glass of clean drinking water, a concrete shelter to dwell in and two square meals a day. On growing up, Molly shares that, “some of these early experiences that I had in my life have set clarity to me as to what 'service' means to the giver as well as the receiver. This gets coupled up with a factual awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of people who need a helping hand to rise in life. These two together i.e. a ‘clear mind’ & ‘awareness’ excite me to work in the development space. My work keeps me rooted to the basics of life and give me a sense of deep spiritual fulfillment”

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