In this April-May issue of the Journal, we present seven important and interesting research manuscripts by thoughtful scholars and practitioners.
We are pleased to be able to have produced over nine high-quality issues of the Journal since April 2012 since my editorship.
In this issue, I am presenting below a thought piece on how to balance democratization of education and maintain high-quality. This article was published in the th special issue produced on the occasion of the 89 Annual Meet of Association of Indian Universities.
Democratization of High-Quality Education and Effective Learning
Education is a driver of economic development, prosperity, social justice and empowerment. So, as stewards of learning and education we have an obligation and responsibility to enhance these outcomes. This not only requires an understanding of science and technology, commerce and business but also cultivation of values and critical inquiry.
Transformative discoveries in science and technology have come from compelling curiosity. For example, Newton did thought experiments and postulated the laws of motion, the gravitational theory and the differential calculus. Einstein’s theory of relativity is more an outcome of his deep reflection, than work in large labs. All these exemplars advise us that our learners should be endowed with imagination and critical thinking. In India, where inclusiveness and innovation are central to our shared prosperity, such attributes are even more urgent.
Research shows that meaningful education and learning increases the lifelong earnings and productivity of individuals (Chetty et. al. 2014, 2011). The demographic shift to a younger population has made quality and democratized education even more important. For example, it is estimated over 60 percent of India’s population is less than 30 years old. The estimated median ages for United States, United Kingdom, Russia and China are 36.7, 40.2, 38.4 and 34.1 respectively. But for India the estimated median age is 25.3, a dramatically lower number. The lower median age suggests higher potential work-force productivity for India, but such higher productivity will not materialize without education and skills development (Kalyanaram 2009). Here, our responsibilities and challenges are monumental but so are our potential rewards.
Accordingly, we have to design policies and programs to create high-quality education which is not exclusive or elitist but democratized. Thus, high-quality education should be relatively easily accessible and available. As demonstrated by researchers (Frei, 2006) in other areas, excellence and efficiency or accessibility can be complementary, and they do not have to adversely impact each other
Such democratization of quality education is unlikely to come from traditional models of education and learning, particularly in India. Take for instance, higher education. For a moment set aside the matter of quality. Numbers don’t add up. The number of universities in India is about 600-700. Compare this with over 1,000 universities in US for a population onefourth of India’s population or Japan with about 700 universities for a population almost one-tenth of India’s population.
There are many important elements to enriching education and enlarging the reach. In this manuscript, we address three such significant elements: open and distributed-learning, interdisciplinary education and an engaged model of education where learner is an active participant.