Saturday, October 06, 2007

Knowledge Asymmetry

The connection between education and social and upward mobility has never been more stark for the Indian people. There are countless examples of families sacrificing on basic necessities to ensure that their children get the right education. Demand for English classes, from the first grade on up, is booming. But primary education remains the bane of India. For Indians older than 6, the national mean for years of schooling is three. In neighboring Sri Lanka it is 7.5. There is now a huge drive to ensure that basic education is made accessible to every Indian child. India’s youthful demographics should be a competitive advantage, but it will be wasted without broader access to primary education.

The final frontier of the rise of Indian education is in governance. India has the benefit of being a free society. The diversity of opinion, the traditional adherence to representational democracy and a vigorous free media help ensure that there is healthy debate, with checks on the abuse of power and corruption. Yet there are still those who yearn for a harder regime, with less debate about development strategies and more action. And there is still too much government secrecy and corruption. The solution to this conundrum is to marry all the strengths of India – its highly educated and globally aware talent, its democratic traditions and the power of modern information technology. If this is done to ensure that the knowledge asymmetry between the ruler and the ruled is eliminated by exposing the innards of government functioning to the people, then the holy grail of a society that both is free and can rapidly eliminate poverty will be achieved.

India could even be a model for nations seeking to go from developing to developed status on the strengths of its education and its knowledge economy.

Nilekani, Nandan - Poor and Mighty, in «Issues 2006», Nova Iorque: Newsweek, 2005, p 93.

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