Seminars


SEMINAR ON NATIONAL KNOWLEDGE COMMISSION (February 5, 2008)

Knowledge

Knowledge has always been the primary quest of mankind wishing for further progress. It has been the basis of all civilized societies. The fact that the goddess Saraswati is revered before any academic endeavour shows the importance Hindus attach to knowledge. Adherents of other religions have also laid considerable stress on the acquisition of knowledge though not essentially as a religious ritual.

The earliest efforts of Indians to know, to become wise and disseminate wisdom is reflected in the compositions of Vedas. A number of early India ?s literary texts and scientific ideas and discourses are now part of the common heritage of mankind. But we cannot be complacent with our past accomplishments. Exploring new knowledge on a continuing basis is the sine qua non for our steady progress. The world is moving very fast. The need of the twenty-first century demands our sustained efforts to acquire all-round knowledge.

The word Knowledge is derived from the word know which means to be aware of something through observation, inquiry or information, to be familiar or friendly with someone, have a good command of a subject or language, have personal experience of, and think of having a particular characteristic. It is a result of product of knowing; information or understanding acquired through experience; practical ability or skill.

1. National Knowledge Commission

A national drive to ensure access to knowledge and learning can transform India ?s potential for development, lift young Indians to new levels of understanding and competence, and make India one of the leading knowledge societies of the world. It is the central affirmation of the National Knowledge Commission in its 2006 Report.

Appointed by the Prime Minister of October 2005, with a three-year mandate to prepare a blueprint for radical improvement of knowledge access, knowledge creation, and application by and for the Indian people, the Commission has undertaken intensive and wide ranging discussion and consultation with experts and stakeholders to bring forward a comprehensive list of recommendations for innovation and change in key aspects of development. Its initiatives focus especially on youth and children, who comprise 54 per cent of India ?s people, and are its vast human resource of talent and potential competence and capacity to meet both national and international challenges and opportunities.

A core component of the Commission?s assignment is to generate practical proposals for comprehensive improvement of education standards and opportunities at all levels, and notably the uplift of vocation knowledge and skills. The Report highlights key areas where change could significantly enhance people?s inclusion and capability in existing and new fields of knowledge use; this would entail innovations and reforms in education, learning processes, enrichment of knowledge institution like libraries and centers of research and learning and their governance. A critical priority would be to open access to all deserving students to enter higher education, and to enhance training options for the unorganized and informal sectors.

The Commission proposed a major thrust in translation across all Indian languages, to further knowledge creation and information dissemination. Access to new technologies and services for information provision and the transfer of knowledge is a priority.

2. Teaching of English Language

Though Hindi is the national language in India , English has assumed sufficient importance making it the third biggest medium of instruction for upper primary students after Hindi and Marathi. Besides being an indispensable link language between Indian states in this multilingual country, English has also established itself as the language of global commerce.

In view of the importance of English, the world?s top business schools and universities are increasingly moving towards adopting English as the language of instruction. As is evident from the table appended below, within India, states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are leading the surge towards teaching of English, with the number of students enrolled in English-medium schools actually doubling within two years in Andhra Pradesh. However, there has been no comparable increase in Hindi-speaking states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. That is mainly because of the wide availability of globalization-driven jobs, such as the IT or BPO sector, in the southern states. Since candidates knowing English are at an advantage when applying for the jobs, it is natural that there should be demand for English in schools.

Rapidly rising enrolment in English-medium schools suggests that more room ought to be made in school curricula. It is, therefore, heartening to know that the National Knowledge Commission has recommended to the Government of India teaching of English from the primary stage.

Studies have shown that knowledge of English can break down caste and gender inequalities while allowing the hitherto underprivileged to break into white-collar professions. Again, there have been successful marriages of different language-speaking people. Though the married couples later pick up words from each others language, initially they feel comfortable through English language.

The National Knowledge Commission has emphasized the importance of an inclusive society as the foundation for a knowledge society. NKC has also recognized the significance of English language, not only as a medium of instruction or a means of communication but also as a determinant of access. An understanding of and command over the English language is a most important determinant of access to higher education, employment possibilities and social opportunities. School-leavers who are not adequately trained in English as a language are always at a handicap in the world of higher education. More often than not, teaching is in English. Even if it is not, in most subjects, books and journals are available only in English. And those who do not know English well enough find it exceedingly difficult to compete for a place in our premier educational institutions. This disadvantage is accentuated further in the world of work, not only in professional occupations but also in white-collar occupations overall. This reality is not lost on our people, who recognize that the English language is a critical determinant of access to, and opportunities for a better life.

Available information suggests that middle-income or lower-income households spend a large proportion of their modest income on sending their children to relatively expensive English medium schools. Such educational opportunities for children are a priority that is almost at par with health care for the family. But there are a very large number of people who simply do not have the resources for such investment. The outcome is exclusion. NKC believes that inclusion is possible through public provision.

There is an irony in the situation. English has been part of our education system for more than a century. Yet, English is beyond the reach of most of our young people, which make for highly unequal access. Indeed, even now, no more than one per cent of our people use it as a second language, let alone a first language. These realities cannot be changed overnight. But NKC believes that the time has come for us to teach our people, ordinary people, English as a language in schools. Early action in this sphere, would help us build an inclusive society and transform India into a knowledge society. In just 12 years, it would provide the countrys school-leavers with far more equal access to higher education and, three to five years thereafter, much more equal access to employment opportunities.

3. National Knowledge Network

NKC strongly feels that to optimally utilize the potential of institutions engaged in generation and dissemination of knowledge in various areas, such as research laboratories, universities and other institutions of higher learning, including professional institutions, it is important to connect them through a high-speed broadband network. In order to explore the feasibility of establishing broadband connectivity among such institutions, NKC spent six months studying various issues and alternatives. The purpose of such a knowledge network goes to the very heart of the countrys quest to build quality institutions with requisite research facilities and to create a pool of highly trained persons.

Considering the magnitude of the challenge, NKC believes that an immediate objective of the network is to share the existing content, coursework, expertise, ideas, innovations, equipment and facilities available in the limited number of centres of excellence, with a wider group of institutions, educators and students. Globally, research and development activities and innovations are increasingly multi-disciplinary, and collaborative, and require substantial computational power. The key to successful research today is live consultations, data sharing and resource sharing. Therefore, it is essential to provide broadband connectivity to our knowledge institutions to improve access, quality and quantity of R&D activities. The primary objective is to interconnect all our knowledge institutions in various fields, and at various locations throughout the country, through an electronic digital broadband network with adequate capabilities and access speed to encourage sharing of resources and collaborative research.

4. Vocational Education and Training

NKC considers Vocational Education and Training (VET) to be an important element of the nation?s education initiative. In order for VET to play its part effectively in the changing national context and for India to enjoy the fruits of the demographic dividend, there is an urgent need to redefine the critical elements of imparting vocational education to make them flexible, contemporary, relevant, inclusive and creative. The Government is well aware of the important role of VET and has already taken a number of important initiatives. Through consultations with industry groups, academics, civil society and practitioners, NKC has deliberated on ways and means to strengthen these initiatives and has recommended the following long and short-term strategies.

- Place vocational education entirely under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD),
- Increase the flexibility of VET within the mainstream education system,
- Quantify and monitor the impact of vocational education,
- Increase resource allocation to vocational education ,
- Expand capacity through innovative delivery models,
- Enhance the training options available for the unorganized and informal sector,
- Strengthen the current institutional structure,
- Ensure a robust regulatory and accreditation framework,
- Ensure proper certification , and
- Undertake a re-branding exercise.

5. School Education

The Commission has endorsed the speedy enactment of a central legislation that will ensure the right of all children in the country to good quality school education up to Class VIII, to be supported with financial commitments of the central and state governments. This obviously requires substantially increased public spending for both elementary and secondary school education, which must be seen as a priority area for spending. Currently, school education is highly segmented, even in government run institutions, as a result of the parallel track of ?education centers? in some states. These separate systems must be integrated to give all children access to schools of acceptable quality, which will obviously require additional spending.

It wants the management of schools, including the use and management of funds, to be decentralized to local authorities as far as possible, whether they are panchayats, Village Education Committees or municipalities, and School Boards that have representation of all stakeholders including parents.

The Commission wants urban master plans and local development plans to explicitly incorporate the physical requirements for schooling, including provisions for playgrounds and other school facilities.

The Commission feels that since private schools play an important role in the provision of education, there is need for both enabling and regulating mechanisms to be developed and strengthened for them. There should be transparent, norm-based and straightforward procedures for the recognition of private schools, to reduce harassment and bureaucratic delay. There should also be transparent criteria for the disbursement of aid from the government to some self-financing schools, especially those which cater to underprivileged children, and clear norms with respect to the ability of school managements to raise resources from other sources. The monitoring of private schools, in terms of ensuring a transparent admissions process, regulation of fee structures, as well as meeting minimum set standards for quality of teaching and infrastructure, also requires attention. The possibility of greater exchange between schools, including monitoring of one school by another, should be allowed and encouraged, the Commission feels.

The Commission wants the collection and speedy dissemination of accurate and current data on schooling to be made on a priority basis. It is necessary to create a complete database on schools and school-age children so as to track the actual coverage and quality of schooling at different levels, and to make it widely available in a timely manner.

The Commission has proposed a national evaluation body to monitor the quality of both government and private schools, using a result-based monitoring framework based on a short list of monitorable criteria that include both process and outcome indicators.

The Commission feels that there is need to move away from rote-learning to understanding concepts, developing good comprehension and communication skills and learning how to access knowledge independently. This also requires substantial changes in the examination system, especially at Board level.

Wherever feasible, ICT is be made more accessible to teachers, students and administration for learning, training, research, administration, management, monitoring, etc. This requires the provision of more facilities such as computers as well as connectivity and broadband facilities. Computer-aided learning also requires training of teachers and other staff in order to make the best use of the technology.

Seminars

SEMINAR ON ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING (January - 30, 2006)

SEMINAR ON AUTHOR-PUBLISHER RELATIONSHIP (August 31, 2005)

EMERGING TRENDS IN PUBLISHING AND CHALLENGES TO MEET (September 20, 2006)

SEMINAR ON NATIONAL KNOWLEDGE COMMISSION (February 5, 2008)

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