ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Community in College?

The community college model of the US holds promise but there are risks in private for-profi t provision.

The community college model of post-secondary education received considerable attention at the recently concluded Second Indo-United States (US) Dialogue on Higher Education, held in Washington DC in June 2012. The community college model does have potential for improving access, vertical mobility and industrial relevance in post-secondary education. But given the growing dominance of the private, de facto for-profit sector in Indian professional and vocational education, policymakers need to take heed of the American experience with for-profit providers.

Vocational education in India, which channels students into particular streams, has seen poor reach and outcomes. Evidence increasingly suggests that not only do employers prefer a strong general education base compared to the narrow specialisation produced by such early tracking in vocational education, the graduates of these programmes also seem more interested in later pursuing general education. This pattern is repeated in ­vocational training through public Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and private Industrial Training Centres (ITCs), which lie outside the formal schooling cycle. Studies have suggested that half or more of their graduates fail to find employment in their area of training. Critics also argue that channelling students, especially from underprivileged backgrounds, into vocational streams denies them the opportunity for higher education, thus creating or reinforcing class disparities.

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