The Republic of India is the seventh-largest country by area and the second-most populous country. For Estonians it is known for its emotional Bollywood movies, great Indian cuisine. Some know India as the birthplace of chess and yoga, some  know India as tourist destinations like the Himalayas or Goa. India’s education system is less known.

Teachers Vilve Pohla and Tanel Plovits from Tartu Vocational College had the opportunity to fill this gap and see for themselves how skills are taught in India. As  guests of Executive Director of Nettur Technical Training Foundation (NTTF), Mr Sudharshan, they visited the institute in Bangalore from 6 to 14 March. 

The NTTF is a huge organisation in our terms, with over 60 training centres across India and over 50 000 students. It all started in 1959 when the Swiss NGO HEKS founded the first training institute in Nettur, Kerala. From courses in tool and die-making, it has grown into a foundation providing technical education tailored to the needs of Indian society. 

Are Indian and Estonian vocational schools comparable? 

According to master teacher  Vilve Pohla, it is difficult to compare VOCO and the NTTF Institute in Bangalore because the sizes are so different. Bangalore, which has 15 million inhabitants and is considered India’s Silicon Valley, the centre of the Indian aerospace and aeronautics industry, is simply so big. “The vocational training system, however, is quite comparable to ours. They also offer a three-year qualification trainings, just like we offer vocational secondary education. Vocational qualification can be learnt in 1-2 year courses and there are also shorter continuing education and adult courses,” she said. 

Similarly, technical disciplines are comparable. “In Bangalore, there are actually two study centres.  We visited a technical school that teaches electronics, mechatronics, tool technicians, CNC operators, IT and web specialists. Some of the classrooms were furnished in a way that made us envious: modern 3D printers, measuring labs and CNC machinery.” And while the quality of vocational education is not only determined by the facilities, it gives an idea of the level of teaching on offer.

Vocational teacher Tanel Plovits was  impressed by the well-structured school system. “Teachers and students knew what they were doing and what they needed to achieve. For example, in the workshop, it was laid down what students had to do on what date,” he said. The effective organisation of teaching was also evident in the IT subjects, where students studied in ‘hives’. “Each hive had its own subject: web design, big data and cyber security. The teacher was more as a tutor, and the students worked independently on their topic. Over the course of the year, they go through all the topics, including practising teamwork skills,” Pohla added.

Topics for future technical education 

The week spent at the NTTF also included the Karnataka Education Conference, which attracted participants from Japan, the UK and several other European countries. VOCO teachers Vilve and Tanel noticed a number of key issues that are also important in Estonia. 

“In India, education is seen as the key to the future and they are investing a lot in it. It is the combination of skills learning and the need for modern industry that resonated. They talked about Industry 4.0, which means that new skills are needed, for example in technology, IT, robotics,” Pohla said, adding that these needs are the same in both Estonia and India. 

Tanel Plovits described that the conference also emphasised the employment of women several times. Women can also work in the new modern industry, but to do so we need to increase the proportion of girls among engineering students. “There was a noticeable difference between girls’ and boys’ choice of specialisations at school. While the girls studied web and fashion design and textiles, the boys studied engineering,” he explained.  

“Of course, there was a lot of talk about up-skilling and re-skilling, micro-qualifications and centres of excellence in vocational education. We certainly have enough similarities with Indian and NTTF schools,” Pohla added.

Clearly there are more experiences from India. But the most important thing is that cooperation in the field of technical education has taken off. NTTF Executive Director, Mr. Sudharshan is expected to visit Tartu in the coming months. There are common themes: exchanges of teachers and students, and cooperation in the fields of electric cars, IT, mechatronics and robotics. “We look forward to working together with great interest, as it is obvious that both parties have a lot to learn from each other,” said Raini Jõks, Director of the Tartu Vocational College.