Economics of Education

India is poised on the edge of a precipice – our undeniably unique demographic situation can either be an unparallel dividend or an absolute disaster. And the pivot upon which the fate of the nation hangs in balance is Education. Kapil Sibal succinctly summed it up when he said “If you look at the History of civilization the economic prosperity of countries depends upon conquering newer frontiers of knowledge. The contours of the modern world were forged in the most significant era of the last two thousand years, the European Renaissance which was the discovery of a richer vein of knowledge and a new methodology of education known as Humanism. It was precisely this education and hence knowledge advantage that led Europe to colonize the rest of he globe. Five hundred years later, we are at the brink of another knowledge revolution as we begin to explore and map newer kinds of knowledge from artificial intelligence to gigantic computing methods, from nano technology to space exploration. The truth is that human civilization is poised for a leap analogous to the change from say the Stone Age to the Iron age . If India is to reap the benefits from this hang over from an Information society to a Knowledge based society then we need to act quickly in order to reform and streamline our education system to enable the development and assimilation of knowledge.”

At this point it becomes vital to distinguish between knowledge and education. Often used interchangeably they are in fact two different things, intertwined yes, but not the same. Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. Education is defined as a process of teaching, training and learning especially in schools or colleges to improve knowledge and develop skills. Knowledge on the other hand is the information, understanding and skills that you gain through education or experience. So simply put education is the process that enables you to have knowledge. Education allows us to access the collected wisdom, learning and conclusion of the human race since methods of knowledge transmission began. From oral to the written word and today finally to the virtual transmission, formal education allows to tap in a collective so that we neither have to keep reinventing the wheel or develop our knowledge base only within the limits of our geographical or cultural space.

Today, in India we are facing a crisis of both, knowledge and education. On the one hand we have a staggering shortage of skilled and educated workforce which is clearly an educational lag, on the other hand we are also facing a crisis of knowledge in terms of its expansion, development, and deployment. The gap between the supply and demand of an educated work force is approximately 10 million people. And it is set to grow.

A large part of the problem is infrastructural and in terms of quality. Ideally in the land of Nalanda and Taxila, we should be the proud possessors of numerous world class Universities that generate knowledge while Colleges concentrate on teaching. Instead there is a blurring between the two. In large measure this is a colonial legacy whereby our system is focused not on the production and creation of knowledge but on the mass production of an educated workforce. If we are to become a knowledge based economy then the first thing we have to do is encourage a culture of research and independent thinking rather than rote learning and an over emphasis on getting through the exam. Our brightest an best students head to foreign shores to pursue their research to think, to teach, to innovate and ultimately enrich their adopted land. If we measure our economic loss in terms of brain drain then scams such as the current telecommunications skullduggery appear mere trifles.

Our Indian Institutes of Technologies and the Indian Institute of Managements are testimony to the fact that we can do it and do it well. But this is crux of the problem with the education sector in India, institutions like these are just tiny islands of excellence in a vast ocean of mediocrity, fluctuating standards, prop quality and shoddiness.

Source: Education Times

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