Many possible futures

Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on the Corona Virus pandemic and the pivot, or lack of it, that this may represent (see here). I was optimistic and concluded that while science will rise to the challenge, the shock will not break the economic system but instead reinvigorate it. But at the same time, a short crisis would indeed consolidate some of the worst aspects of our current social system - inequality, the surveillance state, national chauvinism - and leave us even worse off. The only hope I could see was in the resurrection of our political selves while the economic man has been forced into hibernation. 
However, while I was far too certain, I was perhaps not clear enough. I considered only one kind of future, a rather short crisis, and yet, did not say what life on the other side of the crisis would really look like. While I am painfully aware that prediction is a perilous business, speculation in this season of uncertainty isn't out of place. But this, though, must start w…

A Sense of Endings and Beginnings

A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? 
My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of those Liby…

Virus diary: Did we need more isolation?

I spoke more than I ever did.
I thought this would be a day of quiet. I pulled out the books and papers I used for writing my dissertation on the history of Higher Education in India, with the intent to turn this into a book-length work. Basically, I was doing what most students do once in a while: Try to read the books they did not read when it was necessary.

But, then, it became a day of calls. From different parts of the world, with different people. Some chat too, long ones. And, unlike a normal business day, this was no business. Rather, it was a festival of relationships.
But this is a perfect time to look back. And, given my current state of life, wanting a pivot in life isn't unnatural. Despite promising to myself never to go back to teaching again, I have lately discovered that it is exactly what I wish to do. Only thing is that I would rather teach History, what I really like, rather than pretend to teach business management.
If anything good comes of this enforced idl…

Virus diary: Retreating nowhere

This lockdown couldn't have come at a worse time for me. I was just about to start travelling and was looking forward to fusing my ideas and lessons learned in a new form of global education, and then everything stops.
I am tired of doing bits and pieces. For some time now - 9 months to be exact - I have been doing things I don't really believe in. It's such a contrast with what I was doing this time last year: Then, I had the opportunity to apply the insights I gained from my work at Knod into corporate learning. What came off it was inspiring: A completely new way of doing things at work. 
But, since then, I have faltered. I signed up to set up the European campus for a private education company, but that project was not destined to go anywhere. My over-optimism, not for the first time in life, came to bite me. Not for the first time, I failed to distinguish projects with strategic commitments behind it from mere good ideas and exciting talk. And, when the project final…

Virus diary: Almost spring

It's almost spring. Mildly cold, with occasional rain and green shoots everywhere. I am waiting for summer like everyone. 
This was the mildest of the winters and yet, this is going to be one of the most enthusiastically received summer in history. A summer that will save civilisation, as well as ourselves.
It's somewhat revealing to see how fragile our 'civilisation' is. Even a virus that doesn't kill has shaken it to the core. Soft vowels are shaking; decency has been done away with. Frankly, it was a disaster putting a couple of scientists in front of the TV Cameras in the vain hope that people will regain their faith in science. After years of voodoo, that was not going to happen. And, besides, this was the wrong game: Most scientists are not very good at saying 'I don't know' and that was exactly these scientists were required to say.
Will this, as it will not kill me, make me stronger? Or was that a mere wordplay of a nihilist, daring the dead Go…

Education innovation and domain knowledge

There is an argument, common in the education start-up scene, that one doesn't need to have prior education experience to create a successful education company.
The reasoning goes - what's the point of knowing anything about something we are going to break apart? 
Some go even further: Prior experience in education, for them, is a handicap. It breeds bad habits, with obsolete mental models. 
And, this is not frivolous self-justification of a few founders: Investors put money on this basis. In fact, one person, a very experienced former University president struggled to raise money in Silicon Valley because he was too old for them and had done too much education already. His handicap was that he knew what he was talking about.
No wonder then that we don't actually get to hear too many successful education start-ups. Some float a while on the bubble of private valuations, which is nothing special in this day and age of interest-free money, but almost always they fail on the…

Getting back to International Education

I am back in International Education again.
I had a three-year break from international education. Part of the reason was my own work preference: In 2016, fatigued from years of constant travel, erratic habits and living out of a suitcase, I requested a change of role into a more home-bound one. I always enjoyed travelling but perhaps I did too much of it. After years of boasting about Airline tiers and the quality of food at airport lounges, I was, at that point, keen on a new life of office work and daily routines.
But that was only part of the reason. The other part was that I became all too aware of the limitations of 'global education'. I wholeheartedly believed in what I did: That project-based education would represent a great step-change in education. I engaged with all my heart to bring employers ever closer to the learning process. But, as I did that, I saw that any universal formula really doesn't work - the tension between the specificity of the employers and …

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