Charles M. Firestone

India is witnessing an economic boom creating several jobs. In some places it is more than what can be filled. It has the advantages such as connectivity and Information Technology skills.

Charles M. Firestone, Executive Director of Communications and Society Programme of The Aspen Institute, the U.S., speaks to M. Soundariya Preetha on the needs and ways to enhance India's knowledge workforce.

According to approximate estimates, out of three million educated people who enter the labour force every year in the country, only about five lakh are considered "employable in an international corporate work place." At the basic education level, less than 20 per cent of the 234 million children, who enter school, reach high school and less than 10 per cent of them graduate. The country has to sustain economic growth, provide equitable access to opportunities and ensure continued global competitiveness at all capability levels. Hence, a programme to get minds on fire has been mooted. This can be done through knowledge centres. These can be a public-private collaboration with kiosks and common service centres. Companies can set up knowledge centres, even in special economic zones. The focus is on skill development where the participants experiment and learn. "We are thinking not of education, but of learning process," he says.

Mr. Firestone explains: "We are all inspired and learn from peers. Young knowledgeable people can share their knowledge with others even through informal sessions. We are all passive receivers of knowledge. When it comes through use of computers, the consumer is in control of the knowledge received. So people learn what they are interested in and develop their skills accordingly."

It was also suggested to involve mothers and children. Children have curiosity and mothers will take what they learn to the family.