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Can Islands Network?

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

Delivering the Godkin Lecture on the theme “Knowledge worker and Knowledge Society” at Harvard University’s John. F.Kennedy school of Management, the Management Guru Peter

F. Drucker said:

"These are unprecedented developments, profoundly affecting social structure, community, government, economics and politics. What is even more astonishing and even less precedented is the rise of the group which is fast replacing both history’s traditional groups and the groups of industrial society; the group which is fast becoming the center of gravity of the working population; the group, incidentally, which is fast becoming the largest single group (though by no means a majority) in the work force and population of post-industrial society and in every developed country: knowledge workers.

The first implication of this is that education will become the center of the knowledge society and schooling its key institution. What knowledge mix is required for everyone? What is quality in learning and teaching? All these will, of necessity, become central concerns of the knowledge society and central political issues. In fact, it may not be too fanciful to anticipate that the acquisition and distribution of formal knowledge will come to occupy the place in the politics of the knowledge society which acquisition and distribution of property and income have occupied in the two or three centuries which we have come to call the Age of Capitalism.

Paradoxically, this may not necessarily mean that the school as we know it will become more important. For, in the knowledge society, clearly more and more of knowledge, and especially of advanced knowledge, will be acquired well past the age of formal schooling, and increasingly, perhaps, in and through educational processes which do not center on the traditional school, e.g. systematic continuing education offered at the place of employment. But, at the same time, there is very little doubt that the performance of the schools and the basic values of the schools will increasingly become of concern to society as a whole, rather than be considered professional matters that can be left to the educator. We can also predict with high probability that we will redefine what it means to be an educated person.

Traditionally and especially during the last two hundred years at least in the West (and since about that time in Japan as well) an educated person was someone who shared a common stock of formal knowledge what the Germans called AllgemeineBildung and the English ( and following them, the nineteenth- century Americans) called the liberal arts. Increasingly, an educated person, will be someone who has learned how to learn, and throughout his or her lifetime continues to learn, especially in and out of formal education."

Why do we hesitate to cooperate with each other to share our knowledge domains for mutual growth and benefit?

Examining the impact of the knowledge society William Ury in his article The Negotiation Revolution says: To survive and thrive in the knowledge economy, organizations of all kinds, from companies to countries, have come to recognize the urgency of breaking down the walls of all kinds- communication barriers, tariff barriers, and barriers of rank and status – anything that interferes with the information- sharing process through which knowledge and wealth are generated. Whereas pyramidal organizations create and reinforce boundaries, network organizations erase boundaries by making connections across them.

The statements of the global thought leaders as given above are becoming increasingly true. The paradigm of social existence is shifting from competition to cooperation and to the ability to negotiate both with the like as well as different.

When this process of change is fast influencing the global scenario, be it industry, corporate business, defence, governance and others, I shudder to think why most of our academic leaders and educational institutions are still living in islands, directly and remotely competing with each other on unfounded images and myths. Why do we hesitate to cooperate with each other to share our knowledge domains for mutual growth and benefit? Why do we stand on imaginary ivory towers patting our back as messiahs of wisdom sent to earth to deliver the generations of the future?

Can we come to term with realities? Can we engage ourselves in becoming active workers of the knowledge society?


About the Author

G. Balasubramanian is the Chairperson of Board of Adivsors to International Council for School Leadership (ICSL)


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