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Adult Education and Work Contexts: International Perspectives and Challenges

Comparative Perspectives from the 2017 Würzburg Winter School


Edited By Regina Egetenmeyer and Monica Fedeli

Adult education has deep connections with employment contexts. This volume discusses interrelations within transnational contexts studied during the Würzburg Winter School on Comparative Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning (COMPALL). The book shows that adult education and work contexts are influenced by international and transnational developments. The findings are presented in three chapters: Lifelong Learning Policies Targeting Employment Contexts; Transnational Perspectives on Lifelong Learning Policies; Employment Perspectives and Professionalisation in Adult Education.

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Lifelong learning and skill development policies and programmes: A comparison between India and South Korea (Arunima Chauhan / Hyejin Bak / Shreelakshmi Subbaswamy / Vijay Kumar Dixit)

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Arunima Chauhan, Hyejin Bak, Shreelakshmi Subbaswamy & Vijay Kumar Dixit

Lifelong learning and skill development policies and programmes: A comparison between India and South Korea

Abstract: In the era of knowledge-based economies, vocational education and skill development activities have gained a central place on global and national agendas. The paper tries to throw light on the development of vocational education and skill development policies and programmes in India and South Korea.

The comparison is made in terms of the concept of vocational education, the actors involved, the target group, and the evolution of policies and programmes. The paper also highlights the interdependencies of the vocational education and the employment context in both countries.


The world is changing at a greater pace in social, cultural, economic, technological, and environmental domains; as a consequence, there is rapid change in human affairs worldwide, which necessitated a revision of adult education and its reconfiguration as lifelong learning. According to Shah (2015), India’s interest in lifelong learning has been greatly influenced by the global discourse on lifelong learning, especially the advocacy by transnational actors like UNESCO and the European Union. The idea of lifelong education is not new – the concept has been expressed by philosophers and educators throughout the centuries – but the importance given to the lifelong education has varied over time and place. The global discourse of lifelong learning initiated by UNESCO, especially after the publication of Learning: The Treasures Within (1996) and the Memorandum of Lifelong Learning of the Commission of the European communities (2000), played a crucial role in shaping India’s lifelong learning policy. While UNESCO worked with government officials and tried to influence the national adult education policy, the European Commission made systematic attempts to promote lifelong learning through universities. The European specialists persuaded the University Grants Commission to formulate lifelong learning policy and programmes at Indian universities (Shah, 2015). ← 41 | 42 →

Lifelong education and learning

denotes an overall scheme aimed both at restructuring the existing education system and at developing the entire educational potential outside the education system in such a scheme where men and women are the agents of their own education, through continual interaction between their thoughts and actions; education and learning, far from being limited to a period of attendance at school, should extend throughout life, include all skills and branches of knowledge, use all possible means, and give opportunity to all people for full development of the personality; the educational and learning processes in which children, young people and adults of all ages are involved in the course of their lives, in whatever form, should be considered as a whole. (UNESCO, 2005, pp. 70–71)

It is unfortunate to say that the richness of the concept of lifelong learning has not been translated into policies and programmes in the countries; in the Indian context, for example, we can see that lifelong learning is often used as an umbrella term to cover basic literacy, post literacy, continuing education, and extension programmes of different organisations, refresher/continuing courses of professional bodies, private institutions and business houses; but not conceived as an overarching framework of learning. The Global Monitoring Report 2015/2016 (World Bank Group & International Monetary Fund, 2016) makes a remark on the present status of lifelong learning in the world by reporting that the aims of lifelong learning have not been fully achieved. In the globalised world, countries are interested in growing their economies at a greater pace. Knowledge is the major driving force of the economy, and thus more attention is paid to knowledge and skill acquisition. This rising demand for knowledgeable and skilled personnel has alarmed the countries to make skill development and human resource development activities the top priority on national policy agendas.

The concept of skill development, vocational education, and its activities has far-reaching meanings and orientations. Skills development enhances both people’s capacities to work and their opportunities at work, offering more scope for creativity and satisfaction at work. The future prosperity of any country depends ultimately on the number of persons in employment and on how productive they are at work. On the one hand, skills are one of the major factors for economic production and growth; on the other hand, skills have a great influence on personal development, learning, the standard of living, and social participation. A skilled and productive workforce more efficiently produces higher standards of goods and services, which in turn forms the basis for faster economic growth and rising living standards. Countries across the world have embraced the concept of skill development differently. For some countries like China and India, professional development, up-skilling, and soft skills are the main focus in skill development ← 42 | 43 → activities, whereas for some countries, including South Korea, basic vocational skills are the focus (Mohanty, 2007).

In the present scenario, skill development is at the forefront of national agendas and policies. In India, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship was established on 9 November 2014 to coordinate all skill-related initiatives (Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2017). Skill development activities vary by countries due to historical, socio-economic, and political developments. In complex societies, the employment context is influenced by the economy, the public, and civil society. The emergence of skill development and vocational education policies and programmes over time serves as a window for understanding the interdependency of skill development policies and vocational education policies with the employment context. This paper aims to answer the following questions:

  1. How has skills training in lifelong learning emerged and developed in both countries?
  2. Who are the providers of skills training in both countries?
  3. What are the differences and similarities in skills training and vocational education in both countries?

The paper not only identifies the need for vocational skills development in India and South Korea but also explores the evolution of skill development and vocational policies. Towards the end, the policies are compared in terms of aims, actors, targets, and their interdependency with the employment context.

The Indian context

India is a South Asian country with a population of 1.3 billion. It has a diverse socio-cultural context and widely varying demographic and socio-economic conditions. India is a developing country and one of the youngest nations in the world, with more than 54 per cent of the total population aged below 25 years. India’s workforce is the second largest in the world (MHRD, 2016). 62 per cent of India’s population lies in the working age group (15–59 years), and 90 per cent of its workforce works in the unorganised sector (Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015). The term ‘unorganised sector’ refers to enterprises owned by individuals or self-employment workers and engaged in the production or sale of goods or services of any kind. If such an enterprise employs workers, their number is fewer than ten (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2008). The working age group (15–59 years) can produce the desired result if they are adequately skilled. ← 43 | 44 →

What is a skill?

Skill means the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems. Skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments). (Government of India, 2013, p. 1)

Need for skill development in India

India has had a need for skill development since the times it was ruled by the British. The need intensified with independence, as there was a huge demand for skilled workers in the labour market due to globalisation, technological change, and innovation – key factors that influenced the kind of work done and the way of doing it. In recent times, the economic growth of any country is driven by the knowledge and skills of its population. ‘India is in transition to a knowledge based economy and its competitive edge will be determined by the abilities of its people to create, share and use knowledge more effectively.’ (Goel, 2011, p. 1). For a smooth transition, it is necessary that India make its workers more adaptable and skilled.

Employment opportunities are affected by supply- and demand-side issues. On the supply side, professionals entering the job market are lacking in required skills, and on the demand side, there are not enough job opportunities. India’s restrictive labour laws are partly responsible for discouraging growth in industry and employment. For instance, labour laws restrict units that employ more than 100 workers from firing employees (Skilling India, 2010). A study report released by the Ministry of Skill Development estimated an incremental human resource demand of 109.73 million by 2022 (MSDE, 2016). On the other hand, only 2 per cent of the total workforce in India has presently undergone skills training. This shows that there is a large section of the working population who are to be skilled for jobs (FICCI, 2015).

Skill development of the unskilled is one issue; the employability and productivity of those entering the labour market is another. As per the 2015 India Skills Report, conducted by Wheebox, India’s leading online talent assessment company, only 37.22 per cent of the people surveyed were found employable. The National Sample Survey Office (2010) showed that only 10.1 per cent of the labour force had received vocational training, with only 25.6 per cent of them receiving formal vocational training. India is ranked last among 60 countries on labour productivity (GOI, 2010).

In India, there is a large skill gap as well as a skill shortage. In simple terms, a skill gap can be defined as the difference between the skills needed for a job ← 44 | 45 → versus the skills possessed by a prospective worker. Two types of skill gap can be observed: first, a low-educated, unskilled labour force entering the labour market and second, an educated labour force unable to find jobs matching their qualification due to their lack of technical and soft skills. A survey of 303 employers across the country by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in 2010 found that a majority of graduates lacked adequate ‘soft skills’ to be employed in the industry. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry survey found that only 26 per cent of employers are satisfied with their employees’ ability to communicate in English, ‘the most widely used professionally communicated language’.

Skilling and upskilling is imperative for the country’s economic development and its ability to compete with other economies in the knowledge-driven society. Various policies and programmes have been launched by the Government of India to become the most productive workforce in the world.

Development of skill development policies and programmes in India

Skill development and vocational education have existed in India since ancient times, when people did all kinds of work on their own. Back then, skills were usually transferred from father to son. Over time, the idea of skill development has changed in the country. During pre-independence time, the British needed technicians in various areas, hence technical and vocational colleges were started in the country. During this phase, the education system in India was bookish and focused more on literacy; much less energy was devoted to vocational skill development. In response, many commissions and committees were formed to design strategic plans for setting up a vocational education system in India.


Officially, vocational education was advocated and planned by the Abbot-Wood Report in 1936–37. This report recommended a hierarchy of vocational and training institutions to be run parallel at the institutions imparting general education (Government of India, 1967). In the pre-independence period, the Central Advisory Board of Education (1943), the Sargent Committee (1944), and the Sarkar Committee (1945) were put in action to plan various aspects of technical education and vocational education in the country. India won independence in 1947, and the country had to address lots of problems like poverty, unemployment, literacy, and so on. In order to address these problems and improve its economy, providing vocational training to its citizens was imperative. ← 45 | 46 →


After independence, the Secondary Education Commission (1952–53) called for introducing craft and vocational education in secondary schools, and the Kothari Commission (1964–66) suggested providing students with vocational courses at the school level to develop their interest, skills, and capacities in various vocational fields. It also suggested that students should be given the opportunity to get admission to industrial training institutes and polytechnic institutions. The National Education Policy (1986) envisaged vocational training to counter the mismatch in the demand and supply of skilled manpower. The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) was given the task of providing vocational education and training programmes to general and prioritised groups (Goel, 2011, p. 9). There were also organisations like the National Renewal Fund (1991–2000), which aimed at providing a safety net to employees affected by modernisation and technological advancements. It provided training as well as funds for self-employment (GK Today). Vocational education in India is associated with the formal education system, from the secondary education level to the higher education level. Skill development programmes are programmes separate from the formal education system.

After independence, skill development programmes focused on the rural population, the illiterate, neo-literates, women, and the disadvantaged. Some examples of the programmes are: Support to Training and Employment Programme for women (1986), established to give women the competencies and skills to become self-employed/entrepreneurs; Gramin Vikas Trust (1992), established for vocational skill training of rural youth and adults; Jan Shikshan Sansthans, created to meet the educational and vocational training needs of illiterates and neo-literates in the age group of 15–35 (Jaganatthan, 2013).

Towards the establishment of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship

In its 11th Five-Year Development Plan (2007–2012), India became serious about skill development; as a result, a series of steps were taken for skill education and training. There was a vast expansion of industrial training centres, polytechnics, vocational schools, and skill development centres to provide youth and adults with access to vocational training. The 11th Plan gave a very high priority to higher education. Initiatives such as establishing 30 new central universities, 5 new Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), 8 Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), 7 Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIIT, and the like were taken to meet the challenge of skill development (Skill Development and Training, 2010). During the 11th ← 46 | 47 → Five-Year Plan, various councils and bodies were created. First, the National Skill Development Council (NSDC) was set up to coordinate various schemes provided by various ministries; second, the National Skills Development Board (NSDB) was set up to coordinate 17 relevant ministries; third, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) was created to operate in a public-private partnership mode (PPP) involving industry associations and industry representatives to upgrade training institutions and deliver vocational training; fourth, Sector Skills Councils were set up for about two dozen sub-sectors involving various interested industrial associations to identify skills gaps and enhance skills training in each sub-sector. Also during this period, India’s first National Skill Development Policy was brought out in 2009, and subsequently, the National Skill Development Mission was launched in 2010.

The National Policy on Skill Development covered institution-based skill development training, formal and informal apprenticeships, and other types of training by enterprises, training for self-employment, adult learning, training of retired or retiring employees and lifelong learning, non- formal training by civil society organisations, e-learning, web-based learning, and distance learning.

In 2010, the first national manufacturing policy was issued with an emphasis on skills development as a strategy to strengthen India’s manufacturing sector. It also emphasised skill development for minimally educated workers in the unorganised sector. And as a result of this policy, the Modular Employable Skills (MES) scheme was started, and trainees were awarded certificates for the skills they learned. In 2013, India came up with the first National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). It is a competency-based framework that organises all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills, and aptitude. These levels, graded from one to ten, are defined in terms of learning outcomes that the learner must possess, regardless of whether they were obtained through formal, non-formal, or informal learning. Under the NSQF, learners can acquire certification for competencies needed at any level through formal, non-formal, or informal learning (National Skill Qualification Framework, 2013). NSQF was followed by the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) in 2013, which provides guidelines for a nationally recognised qualification system to standardise training contents, set national standards, and recognise the skills learned at schools, vocational training institutes, and higher education institutions. The NVEQF has led to the close collaboration and partnership of the government with industry to develop courses, curricula, assessment, certification, and placement (MHRD, 2013). ← 47 | 48 →

In spite of all these developments, the 12th Five-Year Plan observes that the skill development programmes in the past had no sufficient connection to market demand, revealing poor collaboration with the labour market (GOI, 2013). Against this background, the government created a Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

The main role of the ministry includes coordination, development of frameworks, mapping of skills and certification, institute-industry linkages, and other tasks. The ministry works primarily through the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), and the Directorate of Training (DT). Projections show that 500 million people need to be skilled by 2020. Out of the 500-million target, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) was directed to skill 150 million, whereas the Directorate General of Employment and Training (DGET), under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, was mandated to skill 100 million. Figure 1 shows the increase in the number of trained people by NSDC. Currently, there over 20 different government bodies implementing over 70 skill development schemes at the state and central levels (MSDE, 2016).

Figure 1: Persons trained by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).


Source: Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (2016)

The most recent development in the skill development area is the launch of a National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2015, aiming to accelerate the skilling activities in a high-quality and sustainable manner. Designed to align all skilling activities with the demand side, the policy focuses on increasing capacity and synergies among the existing schemes, promoting global partnership and inclusivity, streamlining entrepreneurship in the education system, improving the ease of doing business, and providing access to funding. ← 48 | 49 → India has the potential to produce a skilled workforce not only within the country but also to fulfil the expected shortage in the ageing developed world. The 2015 National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship emerged as an umbrella term covering all the skilling activities in the country. It also identified the overall institutional framework to reach the expected outcome. The responsibility is to be shared among government, the entire spectrum of the corporate sector, community-based organisations, outstanding highly qualified individuals, and others (Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015).

To sum up, the government of India has taken a series of steps, by establishing ministries and departments, to make its working-age population skilled enough to enter the labour market. The post-independence skill development policy and programme targeted mainly the rural population, the illiterate, and women, but in recent times, the target group has been expanded to include rural, urban, skilled, and unskilled populations, neo-literates, women, youth, and adults. In the past, skill development activities were mainly undertaken by the government. The present policy adopts a public-private partnership (PPP) model for skill development activities, in which the government collaborates with private agencies working in the field of skill development to provide large-scale skill development training throughout the country. This has helped to mobilise resources and create links to the labour market. Whereas skill development programmes in the past had poor linkages with the labour market and industries, at present there is an increasing linkage and partnership with the labour market at both the local and global levels through the PPP model. NSDC has 203 training partners under its PPP model, including for-profit as well as non-profit entities. In the last four years, these training partners have trained over two million people in more than 25 sectors, at 2500+ fixed and mobile centres, in over 350 districts across the country (Skill Development in India, 2015). There is sea change in governmental strategies from providing opportunities for employment to emphasising entrepreneurship. The concepts of soft skill development, upskilling, sustainability of skills, and entrepreneurship have gained a central place on the national agenda and policy documents. Above all, the skill development policies and activities in India are mainly demand-based and hugely dependent on the labour market.

The South Korean context

South Korea is officially called the Republic of Korea. It is a sovereign state in East Asia. The population is 51,732,586 with a population of 43,735,000 above 15 years (Statistics Korea, 2017). South Korea is a technologically advanced and developed country driven by a highly educated and skilled workforce. ← 49 | 50 →

The main concept of vocational education and skill development in South Korea is ‘National Human Resources Development’. Human resources include human abilities and qualities including knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are necessary for individual, societal, and national development (NHRD, 2011).

The concept of Human Resources Development (HRD)

The concept of human resources development refers to the overall activities of central and local governments, education institutions, research institutes, and corporations that cultivate, allocate, and leverage human resources and develop relevant social norms and networks – in short, activities related to developing human capital and social capital (NHRD, 2011).

Human capital: the ability to increase productivity and wealth through economic activities using the knowledge, skills, and capability embedded in individuals.

Social capital: intangible assets that create social cohesion and trust, including a sense of morality, cooperation, and social norms.

The concept of National Human Resources Development (NHRD)

NHRD means comprehensive efforts at the national and societal level to develop and efficiently manage human capital and social capital in order to promote knowledge creation, utilisation, and distribution for individual development and national competitiveness (NHRD, 2011).

The need for National Human Resources Development

In South Korea, human resources were relatively immobile. They gained importance with respect to strategy, policy, and programmes due to globalisation, which increased the free flow of capital, technology, and information across borders. In other words, the development and dissemination of technology and the globalisation of information increased the importance of not technology or information in themselves but of quality human resources that can absorb, develop, and utilise them (NHRD, 2011).

The advent of the lifelong learning society required sustainable and systematic training of human resources. As knowledge is spreading rapidly and changing fast, time- or space-restricted education can no longer meet the learning and knowledge needs of managing an advanced economy. Thus, there was a dire need for the creation of sustainable human resource development in the country and a robust education system (NHRD, 2011). ← 50 | 51 →

National competitiveness and socioeconomic restructuring are ultimately sustained by the restructuring of human resources. Thus, government ministries and offices made collective efforts to support continuous learning and education training for individuals (NHRD, 2011).

The increased importance placed on human resources development in the world has made it easier for government ministries and offices to introduce human resources development and management as major policy area in their overall policy (NHRD, 2011).

The development of vocational education policies and strategies in South Korea

As mentioned earlier, vocational education and skill development come under the umbrella of National Human Resource Development, which is managed by the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET) (Lee, 2016). Steady investment in human resource development has triggered the driving force of development, including economic growth in South Korea. In the early 1960s, human resource development was promoted in the Five-Year Economic Development Plan to recognise the importance of resources and to pay attention to its development and application (Lee, 2004). In this section, we will briefly consider how vocational education policy changed after the 1960s, and then moves to explore how vocational education is classified as a part of lifelong learning (LLL), and how it is emphasised. Lastly, the direction of vocational education and training is contemplated through the research and project directions of KRIVET, which is a national research institute about Korean vocational education.

The shift of vocational education priorities in the past

In 1945–1960, promoting technical and vocational education was a policy in order to cultivate skills and attitudes for practical life, with an emphasis on the one-man, one-skill principle (Song, Min, & Seong, 2009).

In 1960–1970, the system of vocational education was promoted. From 1962, vocational education saw innovative change due to the Five-Year Economic Development Plan. During this time, vocational high schools began to be fostered under the education policy aiming to nurture industrial manpower while the industrialisation policy was executed (Song, Min, & Seong, 2009).

From the mid-1970s to the 1980s, vocational education policy focussed on meeting the demand of industrial manpower for economic development. The 1970s focus on training technicians for efficiency shifted to a higher education-centred focus on training advanced engineers to prepare for industrial ← 51 | 52 → advancement in the 1980s. Then, the framework of the education structure was established as ‘demand-centred education’ for political and social reasons (Song, Min, & Seong, 2009).

Enacting the Lifelong Education Act

Meanwhile, in the early 1990s, as public demand for education reform increased, the Education Reform Committee was established as a presidential advisory body to systematically promote education reform in 1993. And the Education Reform Commission legislated the Lifelong Education Act, which replaced the existing social education law in 1999 (Kim et al., 2010a).

Likewise, it means that the previous concept of ‘supply-centred social education’ converted into the concept of ‘demand-centred lifelong education’ in order to build the lifelong learning system, which allows everyone to have and keep their education anywhere and at any time (Kim et al., 2010a).

The second Lifelong Education Act was enacted by the Korean government in 2007. The act reinforced lifelong education support policies for the educationally underprivileged and supported education for diploma achievement, basic adult literacy, vocational capacity-building, liberal arts, culture and arts, and education on civic participation beyond traditional formal education (MEST & NILE, 2009). In terms of vocational education, the act promoted structured learning activities in the workplace and activated vocational lifelong learning (Lee, 2010). It also granted employees paid or non-paid study leaves and payment for study expenses (e.g. book purchases) and research (Lee, 2010).

Vocational competency education in the Korean Lifelong Education Programme Classification Scheme (KLPCS)

KLPCS means ‘Korean Lifelong Education Programme Classification Scheme’, and it includes six large categories and three sub-categories for each large category. The six large domains of the programme are classified similarly to the legal classification of Lifelong Education: ‘Basic Literacy Education’, ‘Schooling Complementary Education’, ‘Vocational Competency Education’, ‘Culture & Arts Education’, ‘Humanities & General Education’, and ‘Citizen Participatory Education’ (Kim et al., 2010b, pp. 224–225; NILE, 2013, cited in Han & Park, 2015, p. 999). ← 52 | 53 →

Table 1: Vocational competency education in KLPCS.

Vocational Competency Education


Hoping to get a job in a specific career and new knowledge necessary for successful entrepreneurship, information, technology, and programmes to help acquire the functionality to prepare the relevant conditions systematically
Qualification and Licenses Programme Expertise necessary to perform particular career duties, skills, functions, programmes that help you to reach a certain level of certification for certain qualified institutions
Continuing Professional Development ProgrammeThis is for incumbent workers to acquire the knowledge and information needed for the development of work performance and programmes to help you learn and acquire the relevant technology and features

Source: Han & Park (2015), p. 999; Kim et al., 2010b,) pp. 224–225

In the Vocational Competency Education domain, there are three functional elements: ‘Professional Preparation Programme’, ‘Qualification and Licenses Programme’, and ‘Continuing Professional Development Programme’ (Kim et al., 2010b, pp. 224–225). Table 1 contains a description of each function element.

As Table 1 shows, it seems that vocational education is no longer part of supporting industrial society, nor does it focus on basic skills. Instead, it is realistic and future-oriented for ‘pre-’, ‘in-’and ‘continuous-’education for vocational necessities and purposes.

The actions taken by the government have increased the participation of paid workers in education and training. Figure 2 shows that the education and training participation of paid workers has increased by 21 per cent over the past five years, from 32.2 per cent in 2010 to 53.2 per cent in 2015.

At this juncture, it is worth mentioning the research and project directions of KRIVET, because these directions substantially reflect the prevailing practical vocational education and training trend in South Korea. Some of the directions of KRIVET strengthen research on future human resources development policy, intensify research on lifelong career education policy, strengthen research on employment and skills development policy, consolidate support for the establishment of a competency-based society, and reinforce global cooperation in HRD (KRIVET, 2016). First, Korean vocational education and training might be regarded as investment-oriented and future-oriented. That is because at present, the education system is designed to prepare workers for the concept of ‘human ← 53 | 54 → resources’, whereas in the past, the focus was on providing the necessary workforce to meet the demand of industry and society.

Figure 2: Rate of education and training participation of paid workers in South Korea.


Source: KRIVET (2016), p. 14

Besides, vocational education aims at increasing ‘potential’ as much as improving ability, enabling workers to acquire and develop any skill, in line with the concept of ‘competency’, instead of simply acquiring and advancing a certain skill.

Moreover, current vocational education and training is promoted and supported at all levels – individual, corporate (where the individual belongs), and national. And it seems to aim at reflecting both local and global situations, whereas domestic industries and society were the primary reference for education in the past.

Therefore, it seems that Korean vocational education policy seeks to emphasise ‘long-term’ sustainability, unlike previous policies, which were relatively ‘short-term’.


The conceptualisation of vocational education and skill development differs in India and South Korea. In the case of South Korea, vocational education and skill development focuses on the overall development of an individual, whereas in India, it is focused more on developing the skills that make an individual employable. South Korea has a Lifelong Learning Act dedicated to imparting skills, whereas ← 54 | 55 → such an act is missing in the Indian context. However, in both countries, improving people’s skills for economic development has become the major concern of the state. A comparison makes the differences visible. In India, skill development focuses on basic vocational skills in a vast range of fields. Previously, skill development programmes targeted rural populations, women, and youth; at present, it targets the jobless, college and school dropouts, and educated persons from rural and urban areas. In South Korea, under the umbrella of Vocational Competency Education, all professional preparation programmes, continuing professional development, and in-service professional development are carried out. In both countries, the policies and programmes have led to increased participation in skill development activities. As in South Korea, vocational education is part of the lifelong learning continuum, and all the involved ministries work together. India also involves numerous ministries as well as various public and private players in skill development activities, but coordination between ministries is not as strong as in South Korea. The analysis of the governance of vocational and skill development activities shows that India, in spite of its centralised governmental regulations, has decentralised skill development activities and involved private partners in the implementation. In South Korea, strong governmental regulation is seen in vocational education policies and practices. In South Korea, skills training is mostly covered by the Lifelong Learning Act, whereas India has numerous policies in place which contribute to the formulation of skill development policies. Structurally, we can say that India has a more decentralised system than South Korea in terms of imparting skills.

Finally, both countries focus on developing people’s skills to compete in the knowledge economy. In both countries, vocational education and skill development policies are interconnected with the employment context, although the level of interdependency in each country varies. The concepts, policies, strategies, and practices with regard to skill development and vocational education have varied over time, depending on the political system, history, demographics, and the country’s socioeconomic development. The skill development field is young in India and has only become prominent in the recent past. In South Korea, by contrast, skill development and vocational education have been emphasised since the 1940s, and the field has taken various shapes and now is a major part of the country’s lifelong learning system. There are also research institutes developing the knowledge base in the field for further improvement.

Comparing policies, strategies, and programmes helps each country develop innovative and robust vocational education systems. Each country’s skill development system has its own origin and evolution, and it is influenced by the ← 55 | 56 → history, political system, socio-economic conditions, and demographics. Hence the development of skill development and vocational education systems can be compared but not replicated. Furthermore, the discussion has opened up ways to seek opportunities for cross-country collaborations to learn from each other and understand different ways of developing policies and strategies. However, in India, the focus is on basic vocational skill development, and it is a challenge to move towards lifelong learning, unlike in South Korea, where vocational education is part of human resource development and the lifelong learning continuum.


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