Globalization is a 'qualitatively new phenomenon' of multi-dimensional nature posing a variety of 'complex trends' in the economic, social and cultural fabrics of all societies. The above phenomenon and trends stemming from it have placed formidable challenges and changing demands of lasting consequences everywhere; humanity is at cross roads now; almost all people feel powerless to check the proliferating effects; there is a bewildering mixture of uncertainty, risk, insecurity, division and yet opportunity; millions of people move across borders in search of a better life, or any life at all. Globalization impacts on all conceivable facets of life, including education. Rapid developments in technology and communication are forcing changes within educational systems across the world as ideas, values and knowledge, vital to education, cross nation states and boundaries. There would be a new 'social universe' (phrase used by Postone, 1996) in the days to come.
The World Trade Organization's (WTO) 'education agenda' is in the nature of facilitating penetration of education services by corporate capital. The key WTO agreement for this purpose, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) incorporates the aim of 'unleashing progressive liberalization of trade in services including public services like education.' No area of social life would be exempt from the imminent 'businessification' due to the vortex of corporate capital penetration; the 'value- form of labor' (phrases used by Glenn, 2002) would certainly be different than now. In the changed context of GLP (Globalization, Liberalization and privatization), 'human labor becomes a commodity like all other commodities and is exchanged for wages.' Consequently, education services would naturally be commercialized, privatized and capitalized (CPC); education would soon be wearing a new face-'modernized' for a 'knowledge economy' based on information technologies; its values, preferences and tastes would certainly be different. 'Old traditional modes of working, professional values, notions of public service, putting community needs before the drive for profit' would become obsolete in the context of market, competition and profit making trends.
It is certain that the dawn of the new age in India and elsewhere ' will be characterized by unimaginable advances in knowledge and synthesis of knowledge, triggering major changes in the objectives, contents, and methods of higher education.'. The future of countries would be largely determined by their abilities to compete in a global market where industrial based economies are giving way to knowledge based industries. 'The educational need in the post-industrial society of the present ' is preparation for and involvement in life,' not mere graduation. The needed preparation can be achieved by enabling our learners to acquire appropriate 'knowledge, skills and the intellectual capacity to meet the challenges of accelerated change and uncertainty.' The demand of the emerging global society from the enterprise of education is quicker, cost-effective production of 'global citizens'- 'intelligent people with a broad range of skills and knowledge' excellently equipped for employment in ' a competitive, information based' techno-driven environment.
The Indian Scene
The National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986 lamented on the poor equipments of education in our country, lambasted the defect of the existing system and charged the system pointing out that 'little consideration was given to the employability of university graduates and or the absorptive capacity of the job market.' The apex body in charge of higher education in India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) took note of emerging demands for 'a whole range of new skills' from the graduates of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and commerce, as well as from the various professional disciplines.' At the whipping of the NPE and acting on the understanding of realities, the UGC established Curriculum Development Cells (CDC) for 27 subjects mandating them for ' modernizing the courses and restructuring them into unit courses and to develop alternate models with emphasis on learning.' The UGC has also identified 35 vocational subjects with an 'emphasis on providing knowledge and skills required for entry into gainful employment, particularly self-employment.' These are not enough.
Educational institutions are still playing an ambivalent role in man power production; they should understand that the organized sector has only limited absorptive capacity and hence the need to concentrate on diversification to a very great extent; development of capabilities for not only self-employment but also for venturing into informal sectors, up gradation of productivity of household occupations. Ours is the age of a techno-scientific revolution, the pace of change taking place in the work place 'requires people to re-equip themselves, as new knowledge and new skills are needed' to compete, survive and prosper.' The forecast from Futurists is that a lifelong career in one organization is soon bound to become rare. People will require new knowledge and skills to control and manage their own working lives. If the present traditional pattern of education is continued 'sooner or later ' countries will have to contend with one of the most explosive problems of discontent and frustration' of graduate unemployment.' The warning statement is: 'More of the same' - will not suffice as a strategy for meeting today's challenges.'
It is happy augury that the Govt of India is aware of the emerging trends. The presentation of the Country Paper by Union Minister for Human Resource Development, at the UNESCO Conference (1998) evidences such awareness. The Minister has acknowledged India's recognition of the new global scenario posing unprecedented challenges on the higher education systems of nations. Indicating the major objective for future education in India, the minister has underscored the need for Lifelong Education (LLE) and has declared that 'great emphasis will fall upon lifelong education and the realization of a learning society' in the country. We learn that UNESCO is also greatly inspired by the paradigm of 'Lifelong Education' (LLE), which holds "the key that allows us to cross the threshold of the Twenty-first Century'.
Lifelong Education: What it means?
The very phrase 'Lifelong Education' (LLE) appears to be puzzling and sounds rather vague. It is true that the expression has not yet really fired the imagination of the people at large, especially those not engaged in learning beyond educational institutions - at work, in the community, in their homes and families and in their leisure and recreational lives. To some people, the notion of 'LLE' may even sound like a penal sentence or endurance test than an invitation to pleasure, achievement and progress.
LLE is a very vast field defying any precise definition. The vastness of LLE is both its attraction and weakness. The essence of LLE could be inferred from its salient characteristics: LLE aims to (i) constitute a continuous process of forming whole human beings - their knowledge and aptitudes, as well as the critical faculty and ability to act, (ii) enable people to develop awareness of themselves and their environment and encourage them to play their social role at work and in the community.
LLE ranges from the most highly formal and structured educational activities to the most informal and tentative explorations of understanding; LLE encompasses many different levels, purposes, contents, outcomes and motives for learning; LLE anticipates a great variety of learning styles and approaches and it celebrates diversity. Due to these features, LLE may even appear to be 'so all-inclusive' that it inhibits sharpness of focus and so strategies to promote LLE may become multi-stranded wherein the development of a clear sense of priority may get prevented. Still, as UNESCO sees it 'LLE holds the key!' as people's needs of lifelong learning are constantly expanding.
LLE can not be the one imposed by any agency; it should happen as part of a learning culture, depending and thriving on a great variety of initiatives taken by many actors in many different spheres. The Government's role shall be to monitor and steer developments and redistribute resources so that opportunities are equitable, systematic, flexible and efficient. The very diverse, pluralistic and lifetime duration of LLE requires co-ordination among many policy sectors, involving both macroeconomic and structural policies.
Countries need to develop a new learning culture, a culture of lifelong learning for all. The culture of LLE is essential to help the country and all the people meet the challenges they now face in the wake of GLP. We have noted that the challenges crop from many different spheres of life, the economy and labor market competition and so on. They are evident in the demand for new products and services and in the radical and far-reaching transformations in technology, information and communications now in train. There are also wide-ranging changes to be addressed in families, communities, and relationships and in people's aspirations and very identities.
Recommendations for Designing Curricula for Lifelong Education
The output of the university education process, as of now at the first level, is a graduate with a degree qualification and certain abilities, which should qualify him or her for activities in the industry sector. It has been emphasized earlier that the level and skills profile should be relevant to the labor market requirements. Therefore the learner/graduate qualification should be described as a set of abilities required to exercise the profession, rather than just listing the knowledge acquired in the education process. To identify the set of abilities required for each program and to define learner outcomes from the programs, the main stakeholders here- the College/ university professors, representatives from the profession (e.g. industry), industrial and professional associations, accreditation bodies, government, and also the students should have regular channels of communication. A valuable input for defining the outcomes of curricula would be the core Generic Skills Profiles (GSP), for each program, that have to be formulated and established by the stakeholders.
For designing useful curriculum and undertaking it as a continuous process, active Working Groups (WG) or Curriculum Development Cells (CDC) in each IHE should be constituted. The WG/CDC should aim at providing scope for vast flexibility, reflecting needs in Curriculum for change, broad basing of skills, business knowledge, behavioral skills, more mobility etc. There should be a clear perception in the minds of curriculum makers of what competencies do learners need for successful performance in industry/user-systems? (technical, professional and personal competencies) and what knowledge should be taught?
The planners should study existing curricula by involving user representatives (industry) to identify gaps (skill requirement) and formulate content outlines. It is a fact that there is no one single way to design the best curriculum. One can find one's own best solution; nevertheless, a framework based on experience and best practices can lead to a set of useful guidelines.
Clearly defined Curriculum
The curriculum defines the Education Process (the sequence of adjusted lectures and exercises which deliver knowledge), the Examination Process (which evaluates the students' achievements), and the Training Process (which helps practice these skills and develop abilities). The college/ university curriculum should aim to bridge the gap between the input and output requirements. An ideal curriculum is strictly focused on outcomes, lifting the students' qualification from entry to a clearly defined exit/output (graduate) level. The qualification Process has to be defined with out any ambiguity,
Knowledge Cycle implications
The cycle of knowledge creation, distribution, learning and utilization is becoming shorter. This in turn leads to a need for continuous qualification of the workforce and an update of the learning content. As a result, new curricula reflecting novel content, learning objectives, teaching methodology, certification and relevant learning process need to be designed. These curricula should meet the needs of traditional full-time learners as well as non-traditional learners such as part-timers and mature students. In order to meet all these requirements the new curricula need a highly flexible structure on a modular basis so that they can be easily adapted to different target groups, different skills profile needs and the rapid pace of change.
IHEs should set up a quality control process; the findings/results shall be documented and the information gleaned should be applied to the further improvement of the program. Such a process should take feedback from the student in terms of how well the course matched outcome objectives and whether the student felt he or she got the right knowledge and skills for the job from the course. The quality control process should also get feedback from industry in assessing the former students competencies in both technical and behavioral areas. This requires following of learners' recruitments in user-systems. [For example, a feedback request could be sent to all students after they graduate/undergo specific training and to their employer sometime between one and three years later.]
The quality of the educational process depends hugely on co-ordination between the sub-processes as well as between the protagonists (internal and external) involved and the feedback loops put in place at all levels. The internal protagonists in all these processes are students, professors and other academic and administrative staff. Externally, industry representatives are involved whenever students spend the placement period, work on theses or work in industry during holiday periods. Co-ordination between all the players is to be ensured with out any breakdowns.
In general, no curriculum can prepare students for activities at expert level in all skill profiles. However, every LLE curriculum should provide a common platform at basic level, enabling the learners to work in teams on common projects and to communicate in common LLE language even if they have specialized in different sectors.
The curriculum for LLE programs shall consist of hierarchically organized modules: sets of core modules; sets of area-specific core modules; sets of optional (elective) modules.
The core modules represent the Scientific and Technology Base giving the fundamentals and basis for all LLE skills profiles. They represent also the slow changing knowledge. A selection from these modules is recommended to be scheduled during the first year/phase of study.
The area specific core modules represent the Technological base which are specific for the technological area of the group of core skill profiles targeted and they represent the faster changing knowledge. It is suggested that they be scheduled in the second or later years of study.
The elective modules reflect the fastest changing knowledge with a period of ageing of this knowledge of 3-5 years. They reflect the novel technological and other specific knowledge. These modules are used to provide a specialized and in-depth approach and to equalize the differences, thus giving a flexibility and possibility to specialize in certain areas.
Along with all the above listed skills, Personal and Business skills shall also be developed during the entire study, starting in the first semester. Primarily they should be integrated into the teaching of technical/applied subjects. Where additional modules are necessary, they should follow the same structure as the technical knowledge area. This structure can be applied for curricula leading to both first (UG) and second (PG) degree taking into account that all the modules in a second-degree program should be designed at an advanced level.
A basic knowledge of chosen subject field is essential for a broad understanding of further processes and their utilization in technical applications; however it also serves as a foundation for attaining a breadth and depth of knowledge in a specialist field of application. A broad foundation is also an important prerequisite to enable graduates to communicate effectively with colleagues from other areas using a common 'technical language.' So, the core of qualifications to be attained during education should comprise a scientific base and a technology base i.e. a broad spectrum of mathematical, scientific and technical knowledge; application base/systems thinking and personal & business skills.
This core should extend to all subjects under consideration, thus laying the foundation for subsequent professional mobility. The teaching of this core need not be at a deeper level but should give students a balanced overview. The following distribution between STAP (Scientific, Technological bases and Application and Personal business skills ) has been suggested:
The Scientific base: This aims to cover the fundamental principles relevant to the concepts used in the industry/establishment. In addition to a foundation in science and mathematics, the scientific base should foster an understanding of scientific methods for analysis and design. The percentage suggested for this segment is 30%.
The Technology base: This is more concerned with giving a broad overview of the various technologies available, the functions they can perform and their advantages and constraints. In addition to studying the current capability of a technology, students should be given some insight into how that technology might develop in the future. For this segment also a 30% distribution is suggested.
Application skills: A command of the basics is not in itself sufficient for assuring professional competence in industry. In order to meet the demands of the job, graduates also need an in-depth fundamental knowledge of their specialized fields, general knowledge of problem solving methods, and finally particular application knowledge in accordance with workplace demands for the particular job profile. The key requirements here are knowledge of system functions in the field in question, and understanding of the technological possibilities ('hardware and software') to realize or implement those functions with the help of procedural methods. Given the growing complexity of modern devices, equipment and systems, the ability to see things as a whole, to think in terms of systems and to communicate at a systems level with all those working on the project and with the customers is increasingly important. It is suggested that this segment can have a distribution at 25%.
Personal and business skills: These skills have to be developed through team projects, commercial simulations, negotiation, presentations etc. throughout the course. Coupling this implicit learning with feedback and coaching from lecturers not only on the academic aspects, but on how well these skills are acquired and deployed should provide the on-going learning stimulus needed to develop these skills which are vital for a career. Particular attention should also be paid to embedding the teaching of these essential personal and business skills, into the more technical subjects areas. The suggested percentage for this segment is 15%
Apart from the above, the curriculum should have provision for Practical/Work experience and Project Work.
Practical/Work experience in LLE programs
A Minimum of three months (or longer, for longer programs) is necessary to emphasize the connections between different aspects, to encourage a broad systems view and to illustrate the practical, technological and human constraints of solving real-world problems.
Project work: Project work is vital to develop the skills listed above and it is recommended that at least three months be allocated for the project and the dissertation. It is recognized that there are difficulties in assessing the performance of individual students when team projects are being undertaken. Nevertheless, some experience of team working on a significant real project is an essential element of a good education. The challenge of assessing and crediting teamwork by students needs to be addressed by academia. The industry has developed means of assessing and improving group works of its workforce. Academia might benefit from this industry experience of assessment of these skills.
Recommendations for implementing LLE
No country like India could afford to continue the model of general education as it has been persisting in for the large bulk of the student population. A major change and investment is required to make human resource productive by coupling the older general disciplines of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and commerce to their applications in the new economy. Our efforts shall be directed to provide for adequate field based experience to enhance knowledge with skills and develop appropriate attitudes. While preparing for this tremendous task, it may be helpful to take guidance from Aurobindo: "The past is our foundation, the present our material, the future our aim and summit. Each must have its due and natural place in a national system of education."
Higher education itself is a complex process. The challenges posed by the present time are bound to increase the complexity of the system that performs the sacred function of preparing the next generation. The system has to reconcile with the new awakening that all knowledge is interdisciplinary and no more compartmentalized, department/ teacher- centered, fossil courses could be justified and sustained. Multi / Cross-disciplinary programs in frontier developments in subjects and work areas with constantly renewed, updated curriculum have to be planned and implemented.
It would not be enough if the Institutions of Higher Education (IHE)-colleges & Universities- continue the age-old long term (2 yrs/3 yrs) degree programs and attempt tinkering with them by introducing some vocational components here and there at the first degree level or elsewhere. Even after leaving the college, the learner could be provided with opportunities to come back for renewal and updating of knowledge and sharpen his skills for new work situations. IHEs should turn to become vibrant centers to provide opportunities for their alumni and other members of the society unending opportunities ' to renew, update and widen their knowledge and skills throughout life.' Suitable curriculum for such further educational opportunities needs to be evolved in close collaboration with user-systems.
In the new situation of GLP and CPC environment, the conventional modes of delivery may not be of much use; there should be more of evening, part-time, flexi-time programs (including week end/ holiday courses) for a vast array of varying requirements of different segments of the society; for people who wish to learn new job skills; for people seeking advanced knowledge/skills/degrees in their own specialties; for people simply wanting to improve their minds/developing new interests or just to know more; for people in transition/migration from jobs; for people rendered jobless due to technological changes from obsolete jobs and skills and so on. It would even be worthwhile to think of certain programs under a combination of distance and direct modes of delivery providing more flexibility for the learners.
Ready access and flexibility shall be the hallmarks of LLE initiatives. At the same time, flexibility shall never be at the cost of quality. All short duration, flexi-time programs would be designed to ensure highest quality and relevance for specific, current and projected needs of user-systems.
The programs shall be designed under interactive modular patterns/framing. The learner should be free to choose any module and get appropriate training therein and earn due credits for each module he/she completes. S/He should also have the freedom to complete requirements for any degree/diploma etc suiting his/her own pace of study and or convenience. Accumulation of earned credits from different modules of learners' choice and transfer of credits to fulfill degree/diploma requirements should be permitted. It would not be out of place to think of allowing credit transfer from other institutions, universities and also from distance education modes. The cafeteria approach that permits such flexible credit transfers shall be implemented in our IHEs.
The quality of the outcome of higher education is generally measured based on the learners' success in profession / life situations. The success of the learners depends on different stakeholders inside and outside the IHEs. In order to become successful, IHEs have to necessarily involve all the key players from the beginning in the design, control and operation of this process. Such a need has been stated earlier and repeated here to point out the imperative that educational institutions should forge excellent linkages with industries and major user-organizations and embark upon joint efforts in curriculum planning, providing hands-on/shop-floor experience, testing of laboratory findings/products, funding chairs, projects, research, infrastructure etc.
Generally entrants to the higher education (i.e. at the UG level) have qualification profile and level acquired through the higher secondary education up to the age of 17-18 years. Second level (PG) courses will normally build on a first level degree. The key players in the scene- College/University professors, high and higher secondary school teachers, and departments for education, learners and their parents- should organize permanent functioning communication links amongst them for improving performance of the higher secondary education process (that precedes the university education process) and increasing the ability of first year students to respond well to the objectives of the curriculum of the College/ University/LLE.
The days of Open University system- allowing persons to sit for university degree examinations without insisting upon earlier qualifications except age requirements- have come to stay in our educational framework. The Open system should be extended further to cover all course/degree/program insisting only on specific knowledge, skills and abilities, instead of any formal earlier qualification. The required knowledge/skill level should be specified and should be such that could be tested easily at the entry level. The entry requirements or expectations should reflect the institutional policy and the goals of the programs.
To make any program a success, there should be, amongst other things like resources, infrastructure etc, adequate planning, necessary preparedness and commitment on the part of institutions and key players, a conducive environment for innovation and experiment and above all a determination to go ahead and reach goals for common good. The stakes are high in Education in the new situation (GLP) and climate (CPC). Hope now lies with education, the chief enterprise through which we can prepare the present for the future. Awake, Arise and Act.