Has SUPW lost its purpose?


A circular on craft submission issued by a government school in Itanagar has been going viral on facebook among denizens and the items in the craft list have been criticized by the denizens alike. The craft lists include items like whiteboard marker, flower/bamboo broom, LED bulb, A4 size copy, legal size paper, file cover, and flower pot. Not surprisingly, such is the condition of most of the government schools in Itanagar capital complex region. Now a pertinent question arises, “Has SUPW lost its purpose?”

The concept of SUPW was developed in the light of the Gandhian philosophy of basic education. By following the concept of Gandhi’s principles, education through craft, The Mudaliar Commission 1952-53 recommended handicraft, wood work, sewing & embroidery, etc. in school curriculum. Subsequently, the Kothari Commission 1964-66 recommended that work-experience should be an integral part of all education.

It was the Ishwarbhai Patel Committee (July 1977), which first coined the term ‘Socially Useful Productive Work’ or SUPW. Eventually, the ministry of education, government of India in 1978, introduced SUPW in the school curriculum.

The criteria for selecting any activities under SUPW are productive, educative and socially useful. The Ishwarbhai Patel Committee also suggested the time allocation for SUPW on the basis of student’s standard; for class I – V, 20%, for class VI – X, 6 hours per week, also the programmes (soap & detergent making, mason, blacksmith, pottery, doll & puppet making, handicraft & embroidery, river & surrounding cleaning, etc.) are allocated according to the different level of classes. Later the concept of SUPW was carried out in many education policies such as NPE-1986, POA-1992, NCF-2005 and latest in NEP-2020.

The main motive behind introducing SUPW is to help in reducing the stress of students by connecting life with work and education, to develop the skills and intelligence of individuals and make their expertise in their respective fields, to teach the children about education not only in the classroom but also from society and the outside environment practically, making children self-reliant so that they can withstand society and can start their work.

However, even after 44 years of its implementation in school curriculum, the outcome of this far-sighted programme is still in an ambiguous phase.

In the old school days during craft submission, students used to make handmade dustbins and dusters, bamboo brooms from bamboo, embroidered handkerchief, and tablecloth with the help of their parents thereby “learning the art by doing the work themselves.” Sadly, during those days also there was no vocational teacher and it continues to this very day. As a result of such absence of vocational teachers, gradually the list of SUPW items at present got upgraded with whiteboard maker, register book, A4 size paper, etc. and these items are neither self-reliant nor does it develop any skill & intelligence of students but it is just another form of financial burden. In the light of such vocational teacher crisis, government should strengthen its education policies on SUPW by recruiting local vocational teachers (knitting, doll-making, baking & cooking, mechanic, wood & bamboo work, galey & traditional coat making, etc) on honorarium basis for at least 3 times in a month including traveling allowance. And also should provide all the materials and items which are required for doing vocational practical activities. If such a mechanism is developed, it will be a catalyst for flagship programmes like Vocal for Local, Atmanirbhar Bharat. Also it will serve as a foundation stone for students who want to make a career in this profession.

For many years the SUPW was treated as co-curricular activity but according to the latest National Education Policy 2020, SUPW or vocational subjects will be treated as core-curricular just like Mathematics, History, Science, etc.

It is high time the government put more emphasis on vocational subjects as job scarcity and unemployment is one of the major problems in our state. As Gandhi said, “The core of my suggestion is to give skills and knowledge in craft to students from 8th standard and go on until the students have reached the 12th standard. It is for both production of work and for developing the intellect of the pupils.”

Keyom Doni

MEd. IVth Semester

Hills College of Teacher Education, Lekhi