National Knowledge Commission Report - A Review
Prof. K. Subramanyam
Government of India constituted the National Knowledge Commission (N.K.C) in 2005, with Sri Sam Pitroda as Chairman. The Commission will continue to exist till 2008. After discussions in several groups, in 2006 the Commission submitted a report to the Government of India, with its recommendations.
The Commission’s report among other things contains an elaborate note on higher education and its recommendations relating to higher education. Unfortunately so far, much discussion has not taken place on the Commission’s recommendations, either in the media or in the institutions of higher education.
The Commission has given top priority to two aspects, namely expansion and excellence. It has also mentioned that the proposed reforms in the field of higher education would transform India into a “knowledge economy and society”, while giving importance to knowledge, the Commission has completely ignored values. It is unfortunate that there is no mention at all of values in the Commission’s report. Is it because the Commission feels that value education should be confined to the school level or is it because the Commission feels that values are not important? In either case the omission is a serious matter. There is more and more need for inculcation of values today and it is a pity that less and less importance is given to it now. Criminalisation of politics, corruption every where, violence, and cheating are all symptoms of erosion of values in the society. The remedy for that is value based knowledge or education and not knowledge without values. Both the Radhakrishnan Commission and the Kothari Commission made recommendations regarding promotion of values among students in the institutions of higher education. Hence it is not correct to think that value based education is the concern of only the Elementary schools and High schools. Instead of ignoring values, the NKC should suggest ways and means by which basic, fundamental, human values like love, service, honesty and non-violence can be linked with dissemination of knowledge in the institutions of higher education.
The Kothari Commission observed “Knowledge with a lack of essential values may be dangerous” (Kothari Commission (P.19). Continuing, the Kothari Commission stated “what we would like to emphasise is the need to pay attention to the inculcation of right values in the students, at all stages of education” (Kothari Commission report (P .19).
We are almost on the top of the list of most corrupt countries in the world. We are not lagging behind in murders and violence. People are being killed almost like flies. Deceit, cheating of all kinds are taking place in gigantic proportions. We have the credit of 25% of the legislators in the country with criminal history. These are symptoms of serious erosion of values in the society. In such circumstances, the most important and the greatest challenge that we are facing today is restoration of values to their proper place in the society. This task should start in the field of education. Hence it is not wrong to expect the NKC to suggest ways for propagating among the youth of the country, basic human values like love non-violence, service and honesty.
The Commission has made several recommendations for improving the quality of higher education in our country. It has called for “conscious effort to attract and retain talented faculty members”. Quality of education at any level depends on the quality of teachers. Hence in any effort to improve the quality of higher education, the emphasis should be on improving the quality of the teachers. The Commission strangely has not made any mention of the Academic Staff Colleges (ASC). These institutions are playing a key role in developing the quality of the teachers in the institutions of higher education. But the existing Academic Staff Colleges are not adequate to cover all the staff in the universities and colleges. More Staff Colleges should be established and motivational modules should be included in the orientation / Refresher programmes of the staff colleges. Every faculty member should get the opportunity of attending a refresher programme in a staff college, once in three years. If the academic colleges are increased and strengthened and if they conduct properly planned programmes, the quality of faculty will improve to a great extent. The programmes of the ASCs should be such that they will motivate the teachers to excel and help them in up dating their knowledge and skills.
The NKC has further recommended the dismantling of the affiliating structure in the field of higher education. According to the Commission, the affiliating system is “neither adequate nor appropriate at this juncture”. The concept of autonomous colleges has not yet become popular in our country. The staff are opposed to it because in autonomous colleges they have to shoulder additional responsibilities without additional remuneration. Efforts should be made to make the concept more popular. Colleges should be encouraged to become autonomous. But autonomy, should not be thrust on all colleges in a bid to get rid of the affiliating system. Conferring autonomy for all colleges may lead to misuse of autonomy.
Another recommendation of the NKC is the establishment of IRAHE (Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education). According to the Commission IRAHE will have the power to decide entry to institutions of higher education and it will be the sole authority to grant degree giving power to institutions. The AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) IMC (Indian Medicine Council) and such other organizations will disappear and their functions will be discharged by the IRAHE. This recommendation may result in the concentration of too many powers in one organization. It may lead to over centralization while the need is for decentralization. The NKC should rethink on its recommendation regarding the powers and functions of IRAHE.
The NKC, before it submits its final recommendations to the Government, should take into consideration the various responses to its interim report, and finally submit a report containing recommendations which will transform the educational system in our country into a vibrant system.