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Indian higher education system and knowledge based economy

Prof. Sham Lal Gupta

A knowledge-driven economy is an economic system in which the production of goods and services is based on knowledge-intensive activities that focus on Human capital, skills, knowledge and emphasizes on technology and innovations. There is a greater reliance on intellectual capabilities than on physical inputs and natural resources. There is intensive and extensive use of science and technology along with human capabilities and innovations. In order to transform the Indian economy into a knowledge based economy, the NAAC has underlined to promote core values among the HEIs of the country viz, contributing to national development, fostering global competences among students, inculcating a value system among students, promoting use of technology, quest for excellence. With the intention of transforming the Indian economy into a knowledge-based economy the NAAC Bangalore has made it mandatory for HEIs to undergo various cycles of assessment and accreditation on a continuous base.
Our economy is determined to produce industry ready and globally competitive graduates. The Indian HEIs need to continue efforts to affirm and better our national and international reputation. We all need to adhere to ethical conduct and continue our commitment to ensure educational standards that are second to none, there-by propelling our country to greater heights as India moves to become knowledge-based economy. If we go down the ages, the economy of a society is seen to be of various types. These include agrarian economy (Where the primary activity is subsistence farming for which the main requirement is manual labour), industrialised economy (Which has mass production but where most robs are either relatively unskilled or semi-skilled) and natural resource-based economy which is dependent on natural resources which are depleting day by day.
In the 1960s, a new term knowledge economy emerged to describe a move from traditional economies that relied on agriculture or industry. The shift was towards an economy where the production and use of knowledge matterd. It is an economy which is based on the production and use of knowledge. It is an economy where the concepts as economies of scale and scarcity of resources do not strictly apply, knowledge is the main driving force, hence it is an economy that bases itself on creating evaluating and trading knowledge.
A society with knowledge driven economy is one where production or creation, diffusion and use of ICT are keys to economic activity and sustainable growth. Originally, many leading countries depended on traditional resources such as labour and capital to create wealth and fuel economic growth but with globalization, emerging trends and technological advancement, most nations have shifted to the knowledge economies.
There are 03 main driving forces of modern knowledge economy. These are,
Intellectual capital, Globalisation and Reducing uncertainty and risk through a robust information system.
Another concept which has emerged recently is knowledge society. The term refers to a society in which the creation, dissemination and utilisation of information and knowledge has become the most important factor. Such a society values human capital as the prime input to production and innovation. Most developing economies are increasingly transitioning into knowledge-based economies from the traditional resource based economies, hence into knowledge societies unlike the later where capital and natural resources form the core of economic development. The former is built upon knowledge as the foundation where science, technology, research and innovation are its main pillars. Let me express my immense pleasure to place on record that India is emerging fast as a knowledge economy with priority placed by government on education in general and higher education in particular.
The NEP 2020 aims to transform India into a knowledge society with special focus on high quality research work. The NEP envisions an education system that contributes directly to transform India into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society by providing high quality education and thereby making India a global knowledge superpower.
Focus of NEP 2020 is on, promoting quality universities and colleges, institutional restructuring and consolidation, towards a moralistic and multidisciplinary education, motivated, energised and capable faculty, equity and inclusion in higher education, catalysing quality academic research, transforming the Regulatory system of higher education, effective governance leaderships, promotion of Indian languages, Art and culture, Intensive and extensive use of ICT, On-line and digital education, creating a dedicated unit for building world class, digital Infrastructure, educational digital content, Internationalisation of education with clear goal of making Indian Global Study Hub, facilitating research/teaching collaborations, Faculty/Student exchange with high-quality foreign HEIs & signing of relevant mutually beneficial MOUs, Encouraging high performing Indian universities to set up campuses in other countries, setting up of International student office at each HEI for welcoming and supporting students coming from abroad, propagating courses and programs in subjects such as Indology. India need to invest in research and development, and education and training to maximise benefits and maintain a competitive advantage. A knowledge-based economy results in new and increased employment opportunities. This is because it requires a workforce that can run the highly dynamic economic growth trends efficiently.
Knowledge economy is driven by knowledge and knowledge is the product of education and higher education is the epicenter of knowledge production. Hence, Higher Education plays a crucial role in a knowledge economy through production of knowledge, through research and production of graduates who are knowledge-able and skilled in driving such economy. Higher education is a subset of education which is the key driver of a knowledge economy. Education in every sense, primary, secondary, higher, formal and non-formal is one of the fundamental factors of development. Education plays a crucial role in securing economic and social progress and improving income distribution. Education has become a silver bullet that policy-makers fire at a wide range of targets-from enhancing global competitive and creating and preserving high quality jobs, to narrowing wage in equality and promoting innovation. The world has realised that the economic success of any country is directly determined by the quality of the education system and that most effective factor of production is human capital expressed in knowledge, skills, creative abilities and moral qualities in society.
A more educated population leads to more developed society, rich in knowledge. Increasing the population’s level of education will also create a more stable labour market by decreasing overall unemployment. Appropriately educated individuals have a higher participation rate. The labour market and the extent of their active lifetime is generally superior to the ones of lower educational level.
Today, the role of higher education incorporates science, technology, research, digitalisation and innovations as the foundations of a knowledge-based economy. Thus, Higher Education institutions strategically collaborate with the business sector and/or the public sector with the main aim of exchange knowledge for developing and using research findings and research-based education to increase the competitiveness and maintain the competitive advantage of the country’s trade and industry. Consequently, Higher Education institutions are viewed as “knowledge factories” for the new economy with largely untapped reservoirs of potentially commerciable knowledge waiting to be taken up by firms.
Investment in quality training and higher education generates major-external benefits that are critical for knowledge-driven economic and social development. Through higher education, young people are educated to prepare them to be informed citizens, to have successful careers and eventually assume leadership roles in the nation. Graduates who become employed with in local businesses and those who start up their own businesses are key signs of knowledge transfer. Apart from higher education providing learners with skills values and knowledge to live sustainably in their communities, it also produces leaders of the country who manage the affairs of the country (Govt.) and the private sector. By doing so, the Higher education system creates a “vanguard group” of leaders in each sector of the society who will take primary and leading roles in promoting the values for sustainable development and creating a knowledge-propelled economy.
In the first half of 1990s, international development agencies insisted that developing countries should concentrate on strengthening of their primary and secondary education, while Higher Education was considered a luxury of the elite. However, in 2000, the world bank revisited its policy framework for higher education noting that higher education institutions support knowledge-driven economic growth strategies and poverty reduction by;
(a) Training a qualified and adaptable labour force (b) Generating new knowledge and (c) Building the capacity to access existing stores of knowledge and to adapt that knowledge to local use.
The norms, values attitudes, ethics and knowledge that tertiary institutions can impart to students constitute the social capital necessary to construct healthy civil societies and socially cohesive cultures.
Some of the challenges of Higher Education in the knowledge driven economy may be enlisted.
Expansion of Higher Education in the remote, inaccessible and backward areas which have remained unserved in order to increase the enrollment ratio, lack of adequate funding for the quality infrastructural growth of the Higher Education institutions and payment of salaries to the staff and research grants, insufficient motivated as well as skilled teaching staff. Many institutions of Higher learning are short of skilled faculty to efficiently handle teaching, learning and research activities, poor implementation of policies due to the lack of enthusiasm and determination on the part of different functionaries including education administrators. The gap between policy prescriptions and implementation remains wide. This is the biggest hurdle to harness the power of Higher Education for knowledge driven economy. Many Higher Education institutions are not properly linked with functional internet connectivity. Intensive and extensive use of ICT is of paramount importance in on-line mode of teaching-learning, research, innovations and connecting to the global institutions.
Despite the challenges of Higher Education being faced by our country, the New Education Policy need to be implemented with utmost caution so as to address various socio-economic issues being faced by the Indian economy. The knowledge-driven economy is expected to solve various social and economic problems and push the economy towards realising the cherished goal of making India a “Vishav-Guru”.
(The author is former Director Colleges,
Higher Education Department J&K)

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