Towards Building a Global Knowledge Society

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Education is one of the most powerful celebrated drivers for reducing poverty, economic disparity, inequality and for laying the basis for unrelenting sustained economic growth. It is fundamental towards building vibrant democratic societies and globally competitive economies. For individuals and for nations, education is the key to create, disseminate and share knowledge. Despite grim challenges of means and resources, our nation has created a very large education system and has built up a vast pool of global citizens equipped with a high order of scientific and technological capabilities, robust humanist and philosophical creativity.

While the XIIth five year plan promises to ensure 'inclusive growth', and resolves to provide quality education to all, in an effort to fulfill the educational needs of the country specifically for the diverse societies and cultures of the country, the government has chalked out different educational categories like school, higher, tertiary, vocational, skills, technical etc. Amartya Sen recently emphasised education as a crucial parameter for any inclusive growth in an economy. In terms of both education policy reform and incremental domestic and international financing, we should have our focus more on inclusive rather than divisive growth strategies. Access to quality basic education is imperative not only to reduce social and regional disparities, but also to achieve balanced growth and development.

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The country has the extreme situation of having the largest number of illiterates and out of school children in the world. In answer to this, there have been initiatives towards ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met to fair and judicious access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes. Community participation has also emerged as a force behind the existing educational opportunities. In order to have measurable learning outcomes achieved, especially in literacy, numeracy and in essential life skills, there is a need to have a comprehensive approach towards ensuring quality and excellence in education. In the present day context, we do have a transparent system that provides for a conducive learning environment supported with higher level of community participation. Teachers are effectively graduating to be facilitators of learning.

It is critical to have at least a growth rate of 9 to10 per cent per year in the economic sphere, necessitating the requirement for human skills, especially the research skills. We are happy to be part of a magical decade where there will be no compromise with respect to enrolment and retention of students. For this there must be 100 per cent literacy and 100 per cent enrolment at all levels of education. For this the rural sector is being mobilised and encouraged in the cause of education.

The optimistic scenario entails that India will have a well established education system at the elementary, secondary and tertiary levels to be able to develop manpower for different levels of the economy worldwide. Having added 203 million to the population of the literates during the decade 1991-2001, India has definite capability to reach near 100 per cent literacy level by 2025. This ambitious target would call for learning from global experiences of more open, flexible and supplementary routes having an appropriate mix of skills and academic knowledge. In the US, according to the latest statistics 46 percentage of the students go to the Universities through the two-year community colleges which have grown bigger than some of the premier universities over there. The Open University of China for example offers full-time, part time and spare time two-year and three year degree programmes in addition to various modular, certificate and diploma programmes. More than 50 percent of the students enter into higher learning in the Universities through these two-year degree colleges in China.

I feel privileged to share with you all that the special issue of digitalLEARNING magazine will be presented at the World Education Summit 2011. While we, as a nation, are going through an interesting phase of transition with various reforms in education, we strive to share and exchange our knowledge and best practices with the countries across globe specially the emerging ones in Africa, East Asia, South America and the Gulf. As the Guset editor, I urge all of you to come and share your vision towards building a truly global knowledge society. 

 With best wishes,

V N Rajasekharan Pillai

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