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Information is not knowledge

What should be taught in learning institutions is decided by the data picked up from markets, tragic!
12:00 AM Mar 25, 2024 IST | Prof Ashok Kaul
information is not knowledge
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Knowledge is a reflective process of one’s learning, an accumulative progression of years.  Knowledge is learning from education, skills and experience, while as information is facts and details, statistics and codifications.

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Useful information churned through understanding is knowledge. Information is structured on numbers, letters or symbols to meet the order requirement. Present era is an era of information. Data pool and generalizations mark the requirement. This is the American way, quantity and its measure. It is contrary not only to our way of teaching, but also unlike the British way of teaching and learning.

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The crisis is in subtle contradictions of the two realms, knowledge and information. Knowledge supposed to be power was embedded with information. It is broken, leaving knowledge wrecked. What should be taught in schools and learning institutions is decided by the data chosen from market rationale.

Market is branding of goods and positions. Data is naming that branding. Its codifications are thought to be knowledge. Employability and admissions in professional courses remain with data and its codifications. Since conventional schools and colleges have not yet remodeled its standing vis-à-vis data and information, it has given way to mushroom of private institutions and coaching centres.

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Young boys and girls know themselves with these brand names of coaching centres, which are linked to the chain all over the country. It started with  Engineering and Medical professions, identified with Kota and brand coaching centres like, Allen, Akash, and Bansal. Gradually, all state jobs are now on competitive lines.

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Social Sciences, Fine Arts and Arts and Humanities are also included in these capsule forms. The teacher of a college or a university is one who can teach the specifics that could make a student qualify the competition. The new scholars are those who can furnish the key to these question banks. It has led to the death of classroom and collapse of a traditional scholar.

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Knowledge is not codified. It is accumulative and reflective understanding on leaning and experience. Data is ‘brick blocks but not a building in itself’. Ours is an old society with diversities and different cultures. The data is digitalized. It is a codification of information. This is linked with employability and market. In latent manifestation, it is surveillances for discipline and purvey of exclusion.

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The exclusion is not only in economic sphere, but it is social exclusion as well. It creates radical individualization, which causes erosion to the  established norms of the society. Families are disintegrating, marriages are not lasting and the urge for progeny is suppressed.

The approaches to nation building via market and branding are selective approaches. The ground realities cannot be coded. It can be grasped through plural understanding and intersectional perceptions. The American way is inadequate for understanding it.

True, market brands only those disciplines and professions that have purchase. That too, it should be in codifications.  The teachers who are able to make specific notes on these competitive courses are the most sought after teachers. They carry money and name with them. This is scoring and memorizing the key is new knowledge.

This is not higher education. Scholarship and wisdom come from pluralities and with imaginative-reflective understanding. It is for human project for mankind, not for a selected class across the globe. Therefore, higher education and advanced studies should not be for mass consumption. Those who deserve it and have passion for it should go for it. They should be guaranteed economic security.   

America is a historical country. Experimenting with melting pot thesis, it has tried to exterminate the historical societies and suppressed its cultural urges. We have recognized it right from start in of our civilization. Therefore, Indians would not write social histories in chronological mode. Indians lived in plural traditions and pluralities could not be codified. Teaching in a classroom besides giving specifics of the courses was plural.

Ciphering cannot fill up the epistemic schism; the historical silences, its pain and agony, the merriment of blending, generating a moral universe. It needed holistic knowledge system. That has been destroyed in our education competitive system, imbibed from American management institutions. It was what post colonialist would call ‘affirmative sabotage’.

Anthropologists during the colonial rule tried to codify our traditions to show us uncivil in comparisons. Now, in similar way the coaching teachers take the claim of being scholars. It has produced a crisis  of enormous magnitude in our knowledge system. Teaching in specifics is everywhere, where schools of creating public spheres and pluralities are diminishing.

Our knowledge system had organic link from home to institutions, formal or informal, that market tagging has destroyed. The contradiction is inherent; it may not appear in the din of toxic divisions in the society.  We speak incredibly about our identified traditions and then kill its essence with new economics. It will only produce disillusionments.

Prof. Ashok Kaul, Retired Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Banaras Hindu University.

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