Saturday, December 3, 2011


Modern education in India and many developing countries is degree oriented with the students striving hard to get a University degree or Diploma entertaining serious hope of landing in a job, preferably in government sector. On the other hand there are many lower education centers where pupils are trained to sharpen a skill or develop a skill that will help to plunge into a job requiring that particular skill. Education is a broad term and it need not be University centered because every day it is a learning process if one has the common sense to observe and understand the environment. Unfortunately the current system of education does not value non-formal education and every job available has a qualification tag, generally a university degree. If the unemployment problem is acute in the country, blame squarely lies with the present education system. 

Life has to teach a lot of lesson to youngsters aspiring to be some body to be counted by the society. There are millions of so called skilled personnel with capabilities beyond the reach of their counterparts coming out of the formal education system and these skilled workers are invariably called artisans with experience in doing specific jobs with confidence and elan. Take the case of a Mason who may be an illiterate person with no formal education but he can be depended upon to do his construction work and if one looks at the evolution of this artisan the career must have started as a menial worker with practically no knowledge about any aspects of construction to begin with. Within a few years of watching his peers work at the construction sites and after a few hesitant steps towards practicing the masonry job in a small way, he may eventually become even a civil contractor undertaking construction work with increasing complexity over a period of time. Same is true with almost all skill oriented profession. 

Food industry is a classical example of artisan predominance as 75% of the food products marketed in the country comes from unorganized or informal sector, employing millions of artisans. Almost every traditional Indian foods which have been commercialized in India are produced using traditional technology with predominantly manual operations. The machinery content in the technology is limited to a few standard unit operations like grinding, mixing, heating and concentration. Modern packaging machinery, when deployed, are restricted to semi automatic types while most packing is done manually. The failure of mechanized gadgets to make khoa, paneer, roti, idli, vada, bonda, papads, Chakli, samosa and many snack products reflects the importance of skill in making the traditional food products of acceptable quality. 

There are many institutions and universities offering degrees in food technology all over the country and hundreds of graduates, post-graduates and doctorates are produced by them year after year. Where do they fit in as a responsible operator? Unfortunately, with multinational companies with least challenges to grow, 90% of the industry in the micro enterprise, small scale and medium scale sectors do not employ any university degree holder and this should wake up the education pundits in the country regarding the exact need of this industry to flourish. Besides the so called teachers with responsibility to impart training are them selves not fully conversant with developments in food technology, being out of touch with modern developments. To a very limited extent the certificate and diploma course do serve a purpose but in absence of hands-on training facilities in these teaching "shops", at best half baked products are turned out from these centers. Industry also must carry the blame partially because of its reluctance to join forces with teaching institutions in making the "products' of these centers fully "baked". 

Any course intended to train operators in a food processing facility must focus more on practical aspects rather than being heavy on academic content. Of course food technology is a vast area and it is humanly not possible to train every one in all areas. It is here that specialization is called for. One of the most shining examples of focused training comes from Mysore where specialist milling technicians are trained at CFTRI specifically for the flour milling industry. Why not such course be planned for every sector like fruits and vegetables, baking, confectionery, snack foods, dairy products, breweries and other food product categories based on a realistic assessment of country's need. The Ministry of Food Processing Industry, instead of behaving like a funding entity, must take lead in this area to generate thousands of skilled artisans who can provide a sound foundation to the food industry in general. 

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