Higher Education at the Leading Edge

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India presents a developmental paradox. It is one the fastest growing economy in the world and yet millions live in poverty and illiteracy. Sustaining the current growth and making it inclusive will depend on our ability as a nation to address this divide.

India’s higher education, which over the decades created some of the best human resources through IITs and IIMs, needs to evolve in order to become the harbinger of a knowledge revolution, capable of equipping our youth with skills needed in the fast evolving global markets.

For a nation this size and variations, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) came as an answer for bridging geographical spaces and vast differences in student profile. It has allowed India’s education sector to think in terms of content and audiences beyond the confines of text books and classroom walls, beyond age and background. It has given a new meaning to developmental aspirations as the skilled work-force is set to expand exponentially and needs of the new knowledge economy are being addressed with greater flexibility and speed.

India has an advantage in the form of its mammoth educational infrastructure, developed in the last six decades, which can provide a solid launching pad for a new era of higher education in the country. In 1950, there were only 2,63,000 students in 750 colleges affiliated to 30 universities in India. In 2005, the figure has touched 11 million students in 17,000 colleges affiliated to 230 universities and non-affiliated university level institutions.

A vital issue that we need to examine is the private-public blend to address the massive demand for skill-based training in higher education. Emergence of higher education as a market and service industry should be seen as a path of vital transition to knowledge-based economy. Private institutions like Amity University, Symbiosis, IIPM, etc are now the first choice of thousands of students, who want to enhance their competitiveness and skills.
Also, certain pedagogical problems affect the teaching of ICT in Indian education sector. On several occasions we have carried experts’ suggestions that ICT could and should be treated as an intellectual as well as service subject and some elements of ICT skills in the curriculum if required, which is more oriented towards the ‘I’ and ‘C’ than the limiting ‘T’. This edition of Digital Learning is an effort to steer the deliberations on this thought.

This July, we will bring more discussions on  the challenges and ways ahead for this sector in our forthcoming digitalLEARNINGINDIA2008 conference in New Delhi. Hope we can together keep up the dynamic flow of knowledge in higher education.

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