I was wondering if any of you would know what the National Knowledge Commission (Sam Pitroda) is currently doing, and whether it has a future in the curent UPA govt. Will be interesting to hear if any of you have interacted with the NKC and if you chare any of your experiences. Did any of their recommendations to Manmohan Singh, see the light of day? Does the Knowledge Commission have a role in India, and if so, what do you think this should be?
Mona Mishra Delhi
Excerpt from website of National Knowledge Commission - http://www.knowledgecommission.gov.in/
The ability of a nation to use and create knowledge capital determines its capacity to empower and enable its citizens by increasing human capabilities. In the next few decades, India will have the largest set of young people in the world. Following a knowledge-oriented paradigm of development would enable India to leverage this demographic advantage. In the words of our Prime Minister, "The time has come to create a second wave of institution building and of excellence in the field of education, research and capability building so that we are better prepared for the 21st century."
With this broad task in mind, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) was constituted on 13th June 2005 with a time-frame of three years, from 2nd October 2005 to 2nd October 2008. As a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister of India, the National Knowledge Commission has been given a mandate to guide policy and direct reforms, focusing on certain key areas such as education, science and technology, agriculture, industry, e-governance etc. Easy access to knowledge, creation and preservation of knowledge systems, dissemination of knowledge and better knowledge services are core concerns of the commission.
PM's remarks at the launch of the Knowledge Commission
"I am truly delighted that we are formally launching the Knowledge Commission today. I am grateful to each one of the distinguished persons who have agreed to be the members of this Commission and I assure you that you will have the fullest possible support from myself as well as our Government. Shri Arjun Singh ji, the Hon'ble Minister for Human Resource Development, very much wanted to be here but he is little indisposed and he is not able to attend but I can assure you on his behalf, on my behalf and on behalf of our Government that we will work whole heartedly with you to ensure that your work proceeds as you would like it to proceed. And it goes without saying that we are eagerly looking forward to your suggestions on how we can strengthen the knowledge base of our country.
It is now commonplace to say that the 21st Century will be the "Knowledge Century". What exactly do we mean when we say this? I believe that this proposition implies that it is not military power or economic power that will in fact determine a nation's place in the world now in the making, but its "brain power". Brain power should of course be reflected in a country's economic competitiveness as well as military prowess. More importantly it should be reflected in, what Amartya Sen has called, "human capabilities". Human capability is a function of the well-being of people and the investment we make in human capital formation. The ability of a nation to make best use of its brain power will shape its place in the world in the present century.
If capability created by knowledge is the foundation upon which our future is to be built then we must ask ourselves whether we are adequately equipped and prepared for the future. The paradox about India is that the answer to that question cannot be unambiguous. In many ways we have the potential to make the best use of the opportunities that lie ahead of us. However, in many other ways we also have an enormous task ahead of us in being able to realize this vast latent potential of our country.
The enormity of this task is all the more due to the demographic transition underway now in our country. In the next few decades India will probably have the world's largest set of young people. Even as other countries, begin to age, India will remain a country of young people. That I believe is potentially our great advantage. All demographers tell me that if the proportion of working population to total population increases, that should be reflected in a sharp increase in the country's savings rate. And if we can find productive job opportunities for our working population, that of course would give us a big opportunity to leapfrog in the race for social and economic development and our growth rates should go up and we are today, I think placed in the situation where China and other countries of South East Asia face the phenomenon of ageing population and we are an exception to this rule. And therefore, it might be our opportunity to leapfrog in the race for social and economic development. As I said, these youth can be an asset only if we invest in their capabilities. A knowledge-driven generation will be an asset. Denied this investment, it will become a social and economic liability. Hence, we must invest in building the knowledge base of our coming generations.
The task ahead is at many levels from primary schools to higher education and research institutions of national excellence. At all levels, there is a need to improve both access and excellence. There are, of course, fiscal and administrative challenges to be tackled and there are intellectual and leadership issues to be addressed. We must address them boldly.
At the bottom of "knowledge pyramid" the challenge is one of improving access to the primary education. At the top of the "pyramid" there is need to make our institutions of high education and research world class. There is a genuine funds constraint in the public sector that is being neutralized only in part by the private sector. Together, the public and private sectors are not able to cope with the demand for higher and professional education. However, there is an additional problem at the top of the pyramid, namely, that of quality. Our Universities and centers of excellence are falling behind the best in the world both in terms of human capital and in terms of physical infrastructure.
India has, today, more than 250 Universities, and many more Research and Development units, and professional colleges and institutions. We have the world's largest chain of publicly funded R&D institutions. On an average, more than 3,50,000 engineers and 5,000 Ph.D. scholars graduate from our Universities and Colleges every year. With such a vast pool of qualified, English-speaking scientific and technological manpower, India must have the ambition to become a large base of research and development activity. We should be able to attract global investment into R&D activity at home. I do think we should put in place the required legal and physical infrastructure that can attract more foreign investment in R&D activity in India. The Knowledge Commission must come forward with creative ideas to promote the 'knowledge base' of our economy and to exploit the vast latent potential that lies. We must leverage it to make India truly the 'Knowledge Engine' of the world.
Going beyond universities, colleges and schools there are other elements of a "knowledge economy". Public libraries are an extremely important element of the foundation of a knowledge economy. Think Tanks and specialized institutions are equally important, especially in facilitating informed policy-making. I would also like you to suggest ways in which the Central and State Governments can improve rules and regulations and the capacity of policy-making institutions that deal with knowledge institutions. Be it the University Grants Commission or other institutions dealing with certification and regulation of academic institutions and programmes.
Finally, I would like the Knowledge Commission to come forward with bold proposals aimed at improving excellence in research and teaching, especially in the frontier areas of mathematics, science and technology. India cannot afford to lag behind the rest of the world. The leaders of our national movement were resolutely committed to excellence and to making India a powerhouse of intellectual endeavour. It was this vision that informed Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's perspective when he created institutions of higher learning and excellence that have since stood the Nation in such good stead. The time has come for us to create a second wave of institution building and of excellence in the field of education, research and capability building in India so that we are better prepared for the 21st Century.
These are my expectations from you and as I said in the very beginning that our Government will work very closely with you so that your work achieves the goals that you have set for yourself.
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