The Annual Statistics of Education Report (ASER) is an annual survey that aims to provide reliable annual estimates of children’s schooling status and basic learning levels for each state and rural district in India. It is the largest citizen-led survey in India, and is also the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in India today. The latest issue of the ASER report, published in 2018, highlights the glaring fact that while only 2.8% of the youth in the 6-14age group are not currently enrolled in school or college, this number gets significantly augmented as we proceed through the age groups. This same statistic, for youth in the country in the 11-14 age group stands at 3.7%, showing a marked increase. Further, the report goes on to state that approximately 13.1% of youth in the 15-16 age group, in the country, are not enrolled in any form of education, which is a very worrying indicator. This implies that for a country like India, one that possesses a distinct advantage in terms of its young demographic dividend (approximately 600 million youth, making it the world’s youngest country), these percentages translate into humungous numbers of youth who are not currently engaged in the formal education system.
Research over the years has indicated that career and technical education (CTE) programs have a strong positive influence on secondary students’ behavior, attendance, academic achievement, and college persistence. Critical success factors common to career academies and schools making use of career counselling include a strong environment of socio-emotional support and community, along with a culture of high expectations and student engagement. Miller and Imel (1987) attest that students with low motivation to attend school have shown improvement in school attendance and retention after participating in career education and that vocational students who have participated in career education are more likely to complete the vocational program they have selected. Research also demonstrates that participation in career guidance and exploratory programs help to improve students’ academic performance, school behavior, and attendance (Brand, 2008; Farr et al., 2009; Hoachlander, 2008; Kosine& Lewis, 2008; Mekinda, 2012; Stringfield, Shumer, Stipanovic, & Murphy, 2013) and lower dropout rates (Brand, 2008; Feller, 2003; Hoachlander, 2008; Howard & Wu, 2009; The James Irvine Foundation, 2009). Additionally, students who have undergone career guidance programs and then step into careers post high school are more likely to realize higher wages than students who enter the workforce after graduation from solely academically focused programs (Hoachlander, 2008).
However, according to statistics, while 86% of Indian students are very concerned about which option to choose for higher education, 92% of them don’t get any career-related guidance from their schools. The 2018 Annual International Career and College Counseling (IC3) Conference that concluded on August 30th 2018, in New Delhi, acknowledged this very same fact: that India's 350 million students -the biggest student population in the world today -need at least 1.4 million career counsellors to maintain a globally acceptable student-to-school-counselor ratio (India Today, August 2018).
Antarang Foundation’s experience in the sector, over the last 6 years, indicates that a lack of awareness of career options results in adolescents and young adults making career and educational choices that are not in line with their aptitude and interests, or even in line with the basic industry requirements. This in turn leads to a high dropout rate from pathways of higher education, that enable career development. Antarang Foundation’s CareerAware model is designed to addresses this issue.
Aligning with the government’s agenda to meet the needs of career guidance and counseling, Antarang Foundation launched the CareerAware (CA) program in 2013-14 to facilitate self-awareness and career awareness, with the hope of ensuring that students make more informed career choices and form a self-defined coherent career plan. The program enables students to make informed choices, making them career focused, and in turn, ensures that they cultivate the intent to stay in education, at least until the age of 18 years.
During the year 2018-19, Antarang reached out to a total of over 12,000 students across over 204 MCGM schools, through its CareerAware program. During the course of the program, the students were introduced to concepts of self-awareness, were made aware of over 59 different career streams, were facilitated in determining their career options as well as the suitable next steps required to achieve them. A one-on-one counseling session, at the end of the 5-day program, was also conducted with these students.