Higher Education: Key to India's future in the globalised world
Education is the key ingredient in character building and socio-economic transformation. Done properly, education can empower our huge human capital to be a major constructive force to propel inclusive growth of the nation as a whole. Quality higher and technical education has the potential to cause a quantum jump in economic status of poorer families in a single generation, thereby maximizing the gains of our strong demographic advantage being added at the base of the pyramid. The socio-economic scene is transforming itself at an accelerated pace as a result of impact of new technologies, demographic shifts, the growing economy and several other developmental initiatives. Knowledge is now an important factor in economies world over, a trend that is likely to be increasingly dominating the global and national scene. We need to quickly align our education system to the needs of the changing paradigms in the best interests of our socioeconomic development while remaining consistent with our cultural values and traditions. The so called A3 (Anyone, Anywhere and Anytime) connected society, that is fast emerging, on one side and the digitally illiterate across the digital divide on the other, both constitute major socio economic challenges that can be handled only on the basis of widest possible access to appropriate education delivered urgently. Urgent actions are necessary on this front to quickly reduce the disparity gap as we move up the economic growth path, lest serious problems as a result of frustrated aspirations surface and create potential threats that might become difficult to contain. Luckily the possibility to widely use modern technologies in education does provide an opportunity to create a wider access to good quality education at a fast enough pace to overcome these challenges successfully.

An interesting video on the changing education paradigms can be seen at: [ ]. The challenge before us is to be able to make the necessary transition at all levels in our education system. Clearly this would require sustained efforts on part of a large number of individuals and institutions. Some of the key challenges are:

# To create and nurture a holistic learning environment that enables a structured, curiosity driven, learning as well as problem solving abilities and skills through participative experience.

# To transform education to be student centric with broader choices to students in terms of course content and pace of learning with teachers increasingly playing the role of mentors.

# To embed education, particularly higher education in an ambiance of high level research; deliver education all the way up to current frontiers of knowledge; nurture research to push frontiers of knowledge and nurture an innovation eco-system that facilitates quick translation of new knowledge to value for moving towards better quality of life.

To bring to bear ICT technologies on learning as well as on delivery and management of education to simultaneously handle the twin challenge of rapidly enhancing the quality and improving the access to quality education.

# To prepare our youth to be effective participants in the emerging A3 connected society, be integral part of lifelong learning and value creation through commons processes and be able to address problems with an interdisciplinary approach.

Clearly a lot of ground work needs to be done to realize these objectives. Since there is a large diversity of institutions, we would need to adopt a differentiated strategy and adopt measures most suitable for a particular institution. There is also the question of developing coherence within and across institutions regarding the approach to management of desired change. Reports of two committees*, one to look at IITs and the other to look at higher & technical education in Maharashtra, which I chaired, are thus quite different from each other. The report of the committee on NITs which also I chair would be yet another approach.

Treating education and development together would bring in a lot of synergies that would benefit both domains. While this approach facilitates hands-on activity based learning and empowers students to boldly address challenges they would face in real life, the process of development becomes more robust by involvement of a knowledge institution, an attribute that would become increasingly important in the emerging knowledge dominated era. That we would produce experts rather than just activists in the process would be an additional advantage.

A model of engagement of university activities with neighborhood in a rural setting being developed in BARC is shown in the figure below. (Cillage-An eco-system that incorporates the best of a city and a village- a model for development for rural India) Such an infrastructure creates opportunities for students to study in an ambiance of real life activity based learning that is holistic and moulds research on the campus to be more focused to solving of problems before the society. Neighborhood benefiting from the research, development and demonstration activities of the campus is an added advantage.

Such a campus should be self sufficient in terms of facilities for education, research, development and society outreach activities on one side and urban amenities including school education, medical, sports and entertainment facilities with employment/ work opportunities for spouses. It is important that through such and other possibilities, we create attractions for competent youth to find lucrative career and entrepreneurship opportunities as well as a highly satisfying way of life in rural India. This would accelerate rural development as well as help retard migration to urban areas. New campuses in rural areas should pursue such a model.

Presence of NKN at Cillage could also be leveraged for ICT enabled transformation in primary education in the neighbourhood up to 20-25 kM around using broad band wireless connectivity. A pilot project to demonstrate this approach is on the anvil.


(Report of the Committee set up by Government of Maharashtra)


(Appointed By MHRD to Recommend Autonomy Measures to Facilitate IITs Scaling Greater Heights)