1. It is the ability to use knowledge that makes knowledge effective. Knowledge in itself is largely passive, or as the famous fable where life was put into a dead lion without securing safety demonstrates; self-destructive also.
When we talk therefore of a knowledge economy, what is foremost in shaping education policies to suit such economy is inculcating greater ability to tap and put knowledge to effective use.
In this context, may it be kept in mind that in nearly all the academic disciplines, the foremost and the most authoritative text books and works are still mostly by foreign authors dominated to a large extent by western academicians. The point is that the academic works of Indian academicians, often, lack the depth, the research, the thought input and the analysis that is necessary to elevate the work to an authoritative level.
Even given the huge population and relatively impressive absolute numbers of reasonably academically qualified persons, not much breakthrough is made in India in knowledge disciplines in such manner as may be warranted by such resources of reasonably educated and academically qualified persons.
It illustrates the relative lack of ability in India to put knowledge to effective use, or better still, to constructive, dynamic and creative use.
In shaping education policies therefore in the context of a knowledge economy; according to me, what is more important than imparting knowledge is imparting the ability to use knowledge.
2. Using knowledge, in my opinion, is the ability to think on the knowledge.
So far as the task of thinking on knowledge is concerned, I would define it a little adventurously. To me it entails both analytic and intuitive ability.
Such ability is possible to be imparted only when the young child or the student is made to get interested or involved with the subject matter of knowledge.
In this context, what is therefore vital is to shape the curriculum in such a way as to get the child interested in fields of knowledge rather than be burdened by it as is currently the situation in India where – given the extreme academic load – the young child so often at a very early stage starts looking upon education as a necessary nuisance.
The education policy which I would advise is to keep the burden light in the young and the formative years and stress on largely to get the child interested in knowledge and its pursuit. This would entail lots of “learning by doing”, plenty of visuals, pictorials as well as foundation building.
To me foundation building is of paramount importance. It simply means imparting a suitable value platform or ethics platform to the young child. At the young stage, advisedly till the junior school level; apart from keeping the curriculum light and interesting as suggested above; further – through stories, group activities, pictures, movies or through similar such activities – paramount stress has to be on giving the child a suitable value or ethical platform.
Value or ethics platform is necessary even in the context of the knowledge economy inasmuch as it is a suitable value platform which enables a mind on the basis of values it possesses to get involved in issues and to think deeply upon them. The value platform, through the potential of in depth thinking, generates therefore greater analysis, and by virtue of greater feel for the matter, even intuitive thought process about the matter.
To give an illustration, a lawyer feeling deeply for civil or fundamental rights, when working on such matter in his professional capacity, out of such feeling would not only be able to analyse the matter on a superior scale by going into greater depths of the subject matter but would also quite likely be in a position to have intuitive feeling about the course of the law on the subject matter.
Inter bound in the process as reflected by the ability to go into greater depths and to analyse on a superior scale and possibly even to generate intuitive feelings; is an interest and an involvement with the subject matter which creates potentials of creativity and constructiveness in the subject matter.
3. Guided by the above, the education policy in the context of a knowledge economy should be such as to strive for inculcation of interest in knowledge and its pursuit in the formative years till the junior school level should be such as to keep the burden of academics or knowledge to be imparted light and secondly, the stress would be on generating a value or ethics platform to serve as foundation, amongst others, for utilisation of knowledge.
Proceeding on the above line of thinking, from junior school level to secondary school level; the stress still should be kept on interest building and involvement in knowledge pursuit rather than on quantum of knowledge to be imparted as is the current state in India. However, at this stage from junior school level to secondary level; the knowledge base should be broadened so as to impart a reasonably necessary level of knowledge in the broad walks of life.
According to me, higher studies should be confined to those having a genuine interest and accordingly willing to go into demanding depths of the knowledge disciplines. Therefore, after about secondary school level; the spread of vocational education should be plentiful so as to enable those lacking interest in higher studies to diversify in various walks of life and in fact, through such vocational education, learning to be self-supporting at an early stage of life rather than mechanically listing for higher education & failing generally to achieve substantial results and burdening thereby the unemployment lists.
Nonetheless, these portions – who branch out into vocational education after secondary level of education – have the platform, the basis and the ability whereby through the ability to have values on a more sound footing and platform, can get involved with issues of knowledge and go into greater depths of it and put it to a more creative and constructive use. All this would be abetted and aided by the information technology available whereby availability of knowledge is not as such a problem but it’s use and performance which matters.
As to those who opt to pursue higher studies, tremendous potential is available in them to utilise their fields of knowledge to substantial higher and greater creativity on the basis of the interest, the involvement and the value platform possessed.
This, in short, would be the broad framework of the education policy I would advise which is based on generating ability to utilise knowledge rather than just quantum of knowledge as is the current state in India; where, by generating such ability to utilise knowledge; not only would knowledge be put to greater and higher constructive creativity, but inevitably in the process, the horizons and limits of knowledge itself would be widened much more meaningfully.