Prime Minister's Council on TRADE & INDUSTRY

Special Subject Group on
Policy Framework for Private Investment in
Education, Health and Rural Development

Report on
A Policy Framework for Reforms in Education


5.1 India’s Labour Oriented Society

Despite rapid advances in industrial development, India is today still seen as a non-competitive labour oriented society. Two thirds of our work force is dependent on agriculture for a living. In most industrial sectors, competitive advantage is built around labour. A substantial part of our exports are in the form of labour intensive goods and services. In information technology, some flag our vast pool of labour as an advantage while others say that a majority of them are not working in cutting edge areas.

A number of economic reforms are hampered by their impact on labour and employment – be it privatisation of public enterprises, reduction in tariffs, moving to a quantitative regime or restraining wasteful government expenditure.

We have rigid labour laws that protect the interests of 300 lakhs employees in the government, public sector and organised private sector. The large numbers of workers in the unorganised sector and agriculture have no such protection. These labour laws hinder the creation of several hundred million new jobs that will be required for our growing population. Rigid labour laws are also hampering investments that have high employment elasticity, much needed by a populous nation. Labour related issues are centre stage in our current phase of reforms.

But, at the same time, the power of people in India is enormous. Imagine the potential for growth and development if over a billion people, one sixth of humanity, are educated, creative and enterprising. We have the numbers, but not the quality.

Labour is both as a promise as well as a peril in Indian society.

5.2 Dawn of the Information Society

In contrast, the developed world is shaping to be part of an information society. In such a society intellectual capital will be at a premium.

Businesses in the information society will see employees work as quasi-owners in small cohesive organisations. Conventional models of employment that are labour oriented will be unable to unleash the human potential. Information intensive businesses will demand the nurture of creativity and innovation.

Organisations in the information society will tend to be smaller nuclear outfits rather than large monoliths. Traditionally organisations were designed for stability. In an information led world, organisations would be designed for change.

Innovation will be at the heart of competitiveness in the information society. Innovation is a commitment to create future growth. Societies will tend to be research intensive. Already, R&D expenditures are 1.8% of GDP in Europe, 2.7% in USA and 2.8% in Japan and would tend to move higher in absolute and relative terms. Tighter patent laws will support the sustenance of such expenditures. Innovation without knowledge and people is unimaginable.

The information society will place emphasis on soft assets - programmes that run computer systems, systems solutions that integrate businesses, people who drive innovation and ideas that create the future. It will be a world where services will make up a significant component of economic value.

In such a society there will be much education occurring outside of schools. Education will draw on vastly more powerful technology. For example, learning through a two-way voice activated computer assisted self-paced learning. Learners will be able to go beyond the classroom. They will obtain information in a variety of forms – text, data, sound, video – from all over the world, at any time and at rapidly diminishing costs. Multimedia materials will reflect local values and culture, provide visual images of desired behaviour, collaborate across borders and access information not previously available.

The information society will be education centric - in content, network, delivery and outcome.

5.3 Imperatives for India

As the world moves to forging an information society founded on education, India cannot remain behind as a non-competitive labour oriented society. India has to envision to being a competitive knowledge economy.

India has to create an environment that does not produce industrial workers and labourers but fosters knowledge workers. Such people must be at the cutting edge of knowledge, be competitive and innovative. Education development has a major role to play in shaping knowledge workers and, in turn, placing India in the vanguard in the information age.

5.4 Imperatives for Education

While the larger world embraces the information age, the world of education in India encompasses different ‘worlds’ that live side by side.

One world includes only a fortunate few with access to modern institutions, computers, Internet access and expensive overseas education. A second world wants to maintain status quo – teachers, administrators, textbook publishers, students – all have reasons to prefer things to remain as they are or change only gradually. The third world struggles with fundamental issues such as no books, wrong books, teachers desperately in need of training, teachers’ with poor commitment, rote learning of irrelevant material, classrooms with hundred students, dirty floors and no toilets.

India cannot hope to succeed in the information age on the back of such three disparate worlds.

The imperative for India is to raise standards of the vast majority with poor education, break the education sector free from its inertia and forge a society that places knowledge as the cornerstone of its development.

At the same time, It is difficult to envisage the Indian society, with its ethos centred on family values and caring, being in a purely competitive mould. The tradition of co-operation and coexistence in India, among diverse communities, religions and languages and regions, has to be sustained.

5.5 A Vision for Education

Therefore, a vision for education in India has to inspire creation of a knowledge-based society, induce competitiveness yet foster a sense of co-operation.

Thus, the vision for education in India would be " TO CREATE A COMPETITVE, YET CO-OPERATIVE, KNOWLEDGE BASED SOCIETY. "

5.6 Strategic Objectives

Several strategic objectives would have to be pursued in order to realise this vision. These are:

Provide quality primary education facilities to every citizen of India within a distance of one kilometre from his residence.

Provide and support the private sector in the establishment of high quality secondary education facilities in every taluka.

Encourage the establishment of world class higher education facilities at every district head quarters.

Encourage the creation of state-of-the-art professional research based education institutions in all disciplines.

Encourage institutes of education for physical education and education for the challenged.

Integrate education with information and communication technologies to:

create smart schools,

network and deliver education and training,

institutionalise distance education,

Create and maintain data bases, and

continuously analyse trends.

Develop human resources required for the education process.

Continuously upgrade educational content in multiple media.

Create institutional linkages to other sectors of social development such as health and rural development.

Motivate non-resident Indians to participate in India’s education programmes on a voluntary or sabbatical basis.

Market India as a destination for affordable, high quality education.

5.7 Guiding Principles

The following guiding principles must permeate the pursuit of the above strategic objectives:

Foster a healthy mix of state supported education with private initiatives.

Costs of education must be affordable to the under privileged sections of society.

Quality of education must be continuously monitored and upgraded to ensure high standards.

User pays principle to be enforced strictly for higher education supported by loan schemes as well as financial grants for economically and socially backward sections of society.