Monday, March 15, 2010

Knowledge Economies & Lifelong Learning

During my childhood, we children had heard a thousand times our grandparents, parents and teachers saying "Knowledge is the greatest wealth". We used to take it as a spiritual saying. But now all of us realize that it is a material truth as well. In the new economic order knowledge leads the way for wealth creation. Knowledge is extensively used either as a product or a tool for economic prosperity. Yes, Knowledge Economies are a reality now.

Practical knowledge to help organizations to overcome critical and unforeseen issues, domain expertise to frame and fine tune new strategies, technical knowledge and skill for optimum exploitation of available resources...these are the things most important now, far above products and finances. Non-availability of required information or knowledge during a critical hour may damage the market leadership of organizations and rewrite the economic equations overnight.

This paradigm shift in the economy has placed knowledge acquisition at the central point of all economic/industrial activities. Top management of all organizations - irrespective of whether government or private, manufacturing industry or service industry, big corporate or small firms – are under tremendous pressure to maintain always-knowledge-ready managers and work force.


Two categories of direct and positive responses to the above situation are:

  1. Efforts being put in by Universities and other academic bodies to ensure that their whole academic activities including qualification frameworks and supportive quality assurance system are capable of meeting the ever changing global labour market requirements.
  2. Efforts being put in by Corporates (including governments) and all other organizations/firms – whether small or big – to provide regular and effective training and development facilities to the managers as well as the work force.
In short, knowledge economies have made the need for always up-to-date education, training and development a matter or paramount importance and triggered innovations towards this direction. While going through various initiatives, the most interesting thing is that, the strategies developed and being developed are generally based on lifelong learning policy.


What does make lifelong learning a favourite choice of knowledge economies?

Human beings (all living things, not human being alone) keep on learning throughout their entire life span. It is this universal truth that provides self-generated and self-regulated energy for the sustained growth of the learning process. Through lifelong learning, education systems facilitate lifelong knowledge acquisition by individuals for easy adoption/adaptation of new technologies and master and exploit their possibilities for a prosperous life. For industry or business it is continuous learning and development though out ones career, that makes them capable of achieving organizational objectives as well as individual objectives.

I would say, it is the strong presence and effective application of Open and Distance Learning tools that makes lifelong learning a favourite choice of the world. In the education sector, with the conventional face-to-face learning methods alone, no institution can successfully provide for ever escalating demand for learning, especially when costs are also escalating while resources including time are very limited. To overcome this crisis, academic institutions all over the world are offering extensive ODL facilities as well as the extensive use of ODL tools in conventional face-to-face teaching with the support of state-of-the-art Learning Management Systems. This is popularly called as blended learning based on a lifelong learning policy.

Similarly in business sector also demand for training and development programmes are very high. But no organization can keep their employees away from their mainstream activities frequently and for long durations for conventional face to face training because of the same reasons that trigger high demands for training and development. To solve this puzzle, industrial/business houses are also fast adopting lifelong learning policy based blended learning approaches. In an industrial/business Lifelong Learning System, face-to-face training sessions are arranged either in the in-house facility or at the training centres mostly to introduce new/major topics, provide guidance, promote interpersonal communication skills, provide hands-on-training in IT applications etc. Continued learning, assessment of effectiveness of Training & Development activities, self appraisal, review by seniors etc are being carried out using ODL tools with the support of Learning Management Systems.

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