Innovation and research to steer India’s knowledge economy
IN order to be part of the future world order India is working towards a knowledge economy. In keeping with its mission, the government has set a target to create a critical mass of people that would propel the knowledge economy. This critical mass is envisaged as the wealth of the nation and needless to say education will drive this wealth creation.
However, Kapil Sibal, union human resource development minister, pointed out that at the outset it is important to have a precise understanding of the concept of wealth in the context of knowledge economy. “The real success of the knowledge economy would depend on the quality of wealth and not the quantity. And quality can only be achieved by having people who have an orientation towards research and innovation,” Sibal said while speaking at a session on ‘Changing face of Indian Education System’ organised by FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO).
To promote innovation and research, it is important to improve access and quality at the university level. “We have failed to understand the basic difference between a college and a university which led to a confusion about deemed-tobe-universities. An institute which is not creating wealth through research, interdisciplinary studies and does not have centres of excellence cannot be called a university,” Sibal said. He also alluded to the need of reducing the number of affiliating colleges with respect to individual universities.
Going forward the government will appoint a body to deal with education malpractices. “This body will make sure that the claims made in an institute’s prospectus are implemented in reality,” Sibal informed. There will also be a National Accreditation Authority (independent of government representatives) for constant monitoring of quality. But will additional bodies compound the already chaotic situation that is now apparent in our education system as far as regulation is concerned? “We want to do away with the inspector Raj. We want to create a regulation system where norms and standards are set. Adherence to these norms will automatically determine the players who can survive in the long run,” informed Sibal.
Also there is need to ensure access to higher education. “Many people are expecting that the government will create 35,000 colleges and 1,000 universities. This is an impossible task. To achieve this the role of public-private partnership has to come into play. However, we shall ensure that the private sector in higher education does not enter for profit making,” said Sibal.
According to Sibal the bill to regulate entry of foreign institutions will also aim at making quality education available to Indian students. “But there are apprehensions about this bill as quality foreign institutions are not yet ready to set up their campuses in India. At present, most foreign institutes are eager to collaborate and go for joint programmes or research. Hence, we want to create an atmosphere of confidence wherein these institutes feel assured of India’s potential to create wealth, which is competitive and accrues to international standards,” he added.
For all this to happen, the most important task is to improve quality and quantity at the school level. “Around 93% of investment in school education comes from the government sector. Only 7% of investment is met by the private sector. We need to realise that school education will remain a prerogative of the government for many more years. Along with changing curriculum and teaching methodology, we also need good leaders to run the schools,” observed Sibal. “The government is planning to appoint people from IITs and IIMs to run schools. We will also ensure that every university has a centre for education to create leaders in school education,” he concluded.
Source: The Times of India epaper, 15 February 2010