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Knowledge Management In Education: A Key Driver Behind Organizational Success

By Swaleha Sindhi & Adfer Shah

05 October, 2013


One of the new ideas behind improving Educational quality is the systematic management of knowledge in schools. Knowledge management is a response to the explosion in information and the realization that knowledge is together with quality, a key driver behind organizational success. The problem is not how to find information, but to be able to successfully manage it. Knowledge management was a theme of Edwards Deming in his book, The New Economics (1974). Deming believed that all organizations should understand their knowledge sources, manage on the basis of rational data and make decisions based on all the available information.

The term knowledge management is applied to everything from the application of new technology to the much broader endeavors of trying to harness the intellectual capital of an organization. The idea is that knowing what we know and using it creatively and productively is the major source of economic value and competitive advantage at the disposal of any organization and is an idea that educational institutions need to take seriously. However, the educational organizations need to be clear that knowledge is more than information. More and better information does not mean that we are anymore knowledgeable. In fact often the opposite can be the case. Information by itself can often lead to confusion and overload. Information overload is one of today's most serious problems both for individuals and for organizations. It is the productive use of information that is important. A key to successful knowledge management is to exploit all forms of knowledge, both formal and informal. This can be achieved by developing an open knowledge-sharing culture and developing processes linked to appropriate technologies that facilitate the sharing and exploitation of all available information. Thus, what is more important today is that the educational organizations learn to develop a culture of knowledge-sharing and use of modern technologies to share and facilitate the sharing and use all available information.

What happens if we ignore our knowledge base?

There are a number of unfortunate consequences of ignoring the need to properly harness both institutional and individual knowledge. Some of the consequences are listed below:

•  Loss of expertise;

•  Lost or missed opportunities ;

•  having to reinvent the wheel;

•  Loss of knowledge of best practices ;

•  Loss of learning opportunities;

•  Damage to key stakeholder relationships;

•  Reductions in the quality of future knowledge;

•  Damage to the organization's culture and social capital;

•  The danger that other organizations will capitalize on ideas that were once their own because they could not harness their knowledge better

The new approach of “power sharing” and “effective and participatory management” challenges school managers to change from autocratic style based on laws and regulations towards an open approach of dialogue and consultation. School managers need to listen, consult and engage in dialogue more and identify needs of parents, teachers and learners.

Knowledge Management in Education

For any educational organization, knowledge is a key asset that creates and adds value to the organization's products and services. It is composed of those insights and understandings that give meaning to the information and data at the organization's disposal. Knowledge originates in the minds of knowing subjects who evaluate and interpret it in the light of the framework provided by their experiences, values, culture, and learning. In the organizational context knowledge takes a range of explicit forms and formats, including processes, procedures and documents as well as more tacit forms, including values, beliefs, emotions, judgments, and prejudices. If properly applied, all forms of knowledge can provide the driving force for action . There are two types or concepts of knowledge that are crucial to knowledge management and to using knowledge effectively in the organizational context. The two concepts are generally known as explicit and tacit knowledge.

Explicit knowledge is:

•  Objective and formal knowledge;

•  Tangible information

•  Capable of being codified;

•  Consciously accessible;

•  Easily networked on databases and intranets;

Educational establishments routinely collect huge amounts of information in the form of data about students, their background, their progress, their assessments and their examination results. Harvesting formal and explicit knowledge is essential for the proper functioning of these educational organizations. However, while there is purpose in collecting it, often there is little overall plan within the organization to fully exploit it. It is usually just collected for the task in hand. Often little thought is given as to how it can be exploited for the organization's own long-term benefit, even though the potential power of harnessing it can be enormous. It can be shared and used to create new and useful knowledge. With modern technology it can be downloaded into databases and made accessible over institutions intranets and the Internet. In many educational institutions, if a typical teacher is asked to produce the school organization chart, programme of self evaluation, student recruitment figures, the internal telephone directory, or a list of courses and programmes, it often becomes a chore when it should be a quick and routine activity. It is often said that finding the internal telephone extension takes at least five minutes in the average organization. 

Tacit knowledge is:

•  Socially constructed knowledge;

•  The folklore of the organization;

•  stored inside people's heads;

•  The knowledge of the mastery of a skill;

•  A mix of values, insights, hunches, prejudices, feelings, images, symbols and beliefs;

•  Difficult to codify and to store on databases and intranets;

•  Often difficult to communicate and share;

•  A valuable and rich source of experience and learning.

Philosopher Michael Polanyi sums up the concept in his memorable phrase ‘we know much more than we can tell'. In using this phrase he illustrates how difficult tacit knowledge is to communicate and to share. Tacit knowledge highlights the importance of subjective dimension to knowledge. It is personally and socially embedded knowledge that contains hunches, insights, intuitions, feelings, imagery and emotions. It is deeply rooted in an individual's experience and consciousness and is fashioned by his or her experiences, values and culture. It is the knowledge that helps individuals make sense of their world and as such is often deeply affected by personal beliefs and values.

Implications for Educational Managers

An Educational Manager usually performs many of the following tasks:

•  Implementing educational program

•  Equipping the education centre

•  Preparing financial reports

•  Maintaining health and safety practices

•  Preparing curriculum

•  Supporting staff

•  Attending administrative meetings

Harnessing tacit knowledge requires excellent management, interpersonal and communication skills as well as a good IT infrastructure. Realizing the potential of tacit knowledge involves an enormous culture shift and is a much bigger project than just investing in information technology. It is about trusting and valuing staff. Simply listening to people talk about their personal knowledge is an important activity in an organization and is the reason why appraisals, performance review, feedback sessions, mentoring, exit interviews and other good HR practices are so important. Teamwork and more informal networking and mentoring groups can also be a very useful means of sharing tacit knowledge. As organizations grow, it becomes increasingly unlikely that word of mouth will be an adequate means of conveying all the tacit knowledge that needs to be shared. There will be a need to find more formalized means of sharing. Here, role of Educational Managers is crucial as it involves technical competence in time management; organization of resources and handling an enormous amount of details. For educational organizations tacit knowledge can be shared by promoting Action Researches in the organizations as a good method where an inquiry team investigates an issue and reports their findings back to a wider group. Thus, knowledgeable managers are able to find processes to make tacit knowledge communicable and available to a wider audience wherever possible.  


The focus of Educational Managers needs to be on understanding the dynamics and the psychology of personal knowledge; tacit knowledge is difficult to control in a predictable way. For example, many employees do not recognize that the knowledge they possess is even the property or province of their employers and may see it as their own intellectual capital. In many organizations, individuals perceive their greatest value to be what they know. For them knowledge is power. Their unique information gives them status, and often guarantees that they are listened to and consulted. Bearing these considerations in mind people usually have good reasons to hoard and with hold information. It is the task of educational managers to develop practices that encourage knowledge sharing. It is a key aspect of quality improvement that people can share their knowledge and expertise. Proper teamwork cannot operate without it building up trust is key to knowledge sharing.

(Ms.Swaleha Sindhi is Assistant Professor in The M.S.University of Baroda & Mr.Adfer Shah is Research Assistant in SNCWS, New Delhi.Email:ms.swalehasindhi@rediffmail.com)



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