India, which is undergoing urbanisation at a rapid pace may face shortage of planning professionals. According to the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring report 2019 that was released on Tuesday, only 21 universities offer postgraduate town planning programmes in India; only 5 offer them at the undergraduate level. As a result, the country had only about 4,500 qualified town and country planners, the 2011 census showed. In the same year, the government estimated needing 300,000 town and country planners by 2031 for city development plans.
“More than half the world’s people live in cities. Improving city planning and service delivery in line with SDG targets is critical for improving informal settlements and anticipating the projected increase in urbanization. It requires capacity building for strong urban planning institutions and well-trained professionals who can deliver on the new urban agenda,” says the report.
The problem of shortage of urban planning skills is not restricted just to India. According to the report, several African countries, including Ghana and Nigeria, face an even gap, intensified by projected high urbanization rates.
According to the report, in India it is not just insufficient numbers that is creating challenge but the quality of available planners is not up to the required standard. Academic planning programmes need to integrate physical, social and environmental planning better, including recognizing the importance of planning for education provision. A review of institutions accredited by India’s Institute of Town Planners found that many planning students lacked exposure to town and city problems. They were unfamiliar with the functioning of urban development institutions, had limited contact with slums and urban infrastructure projects, and were not up to date on urban development programmes and technical tools, leaving them ill-prepared to take up planning jobs upon graduation.
It is high time that India learns from other countries’ experiments in developing the skills of the officials. For example, China’s government invested in over 10 institutions to provide training to city officials. Singapore provides budgets for 100 hours of training per year for all public officers. They also receive individualized guidance and leadership development opportunities.
The UNESCO report showed multiple ways through which education and training build the professional capacity of those entrusted with the achievement of other goals, in this case social workers, urban planners, police and judicial officers. The message remains clear: Capacity development through education needs to be at the centre of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.