Showing posts from May, 2010

How To Return

I am starting a new life and today is the first day. This is a private note I shall keep, and publish after a year.

Being on the verge of my 42nd year of life, there are promises to keep. I said I shall change my life completely when I am 42, which will be on 2nd June 2011, and this gives me more or 369 days counting today.

As of this moment, I am rather desolate though. I am just coming out of the clutches of the worst company I have worked for. A lapse of judgement for me, surely: I took the job because I liked the position and the scope of work. To be honest, I have got some exposure and learnt interesting things. But, on the other hand, the three years with these cowboys were exhausting. The company is just unreal: ego-driven, irresponsible, speculative. This is a man who got rich because he was at the right time at the right place when Northern Ireland peace came about, and then lost all his bearings. My job was to make international his company, which has as much sophistication …

Undoing Macaulay: The Case for 'Inglish'

Since I wrote about Lord Macaulay in 2008 and praised the brilliance of his scheme, I have been engaged in the debate about Macaulay endlessly. If anyone has any doubts about how profound the effects of an education reform can be, Macaulay is a case in point. He used English Language as a weapon of empire building, and helped dominate a much larger country, India, through the creation of a franchise of privilege based on the language.

Indeed, India was divided and had no sense of nation, as John Stratchey would later say. With the breakdown of state power, the indigenous education system was dying. These factors made Macaulay's passage rather easy - he did not have to engineer any full scale cultural revolution. Besides, his scheme was not an original invention as some would like to say. An education system based on the language of the state was an established way of dividing and governing a society, somewhat since the Roman time. In all fairness, Macaulay was only applying the lib…

On Globish

From Wikipedia:

Globish is a subset of the English language formalized by Jean-Paul Nerriere.[1] It uses a subset of standard English grammar, and a list of 1500 English words. According to Nerriere it is "not a language" in and of itself,[2] but rather it is the common ground that non-native English speakers adopt in the context of international business.

[For more, see HERE]

Now, Globish has its own book : Jean-Paul Nerriere and David Hon has written a book in Globish, on Globish. [This book is not available through Amazon in the UK, my first port of call for such projects, which lists instead Jean-Paul Nerriere's Parlez Globish, in French]. Robert McCrum, of London Observer, has now written a book on Globish, though he chose to write in English, and The Economist has recently reviewed it. So, as they say, Globish has the momentum!

The idea is, as stated above, a platform for non-native speakers of English language to adopt and use the language, without any of the socio-po…

Education Across Borders: Reassessing The Challenges

As I continue to explore the possibilities of a web-delivered model of education, I am faced, all too often, with the question how to 'port' education across the borders. The enquiry is a many-edged one; my exploration is not just taking me into the nuances of curriculum design or certification, and the policy frameworks for education in different settings, but also to the fundamental 'social' nature of education. With the renewed perspective, I would think I have made the transition from a 'publishing' paradigm to the 'education' paradigm, and this is making a significant difference in my thinking.

Let me stop a moment and explain how my thinking has evolved. I started with a bit of wide-eyed wonder for the foreign degrees, and thought of building an efficient system of delivery of education, by which the learners can achieve these degrees without having to leave their home countries. This is, of course, in line with the existing models of online educat…

Education and Freedom: An Alternative View

I write this primarily based on the conversations I had in India, but this holds true other 'developing' countries I know well; Like, Bangladesh and the Philippines. The story runs like this: The government is under pressure from a young, mobile population, who, empowered by the new technologies of communication, have started benchmarking themselves against their developed country cousins. They have started 'demanding' things much to the annoyance of grey haired policymakers who expect compliance above everything else. The most pressing political problem in these countries is the pressure of aspiration, expressed in the language and value system of hope and enterprise. This should be good news. However, this is creating a disjuncture in social policy, and in education provision more than in any other area.

In stark contrast to the past, when the governments were to provide a standard education to get a standard job, which earned a lifetime of keeps and a dignified retir…

Being Non-Resident

I discovered my identity only after I started living abroad. If I go back to India some day, which eventually I will, this will be key learning I carry with me.

This reflexive construction of identity took more than one step. First, when I arrived, with all the comfort and reasonableness of modern Industrial life, I started to wonder why some of my relatives and friends did not ever think of migrating. In the cacophony of requests that I started to receive for assistance in migration, I grew a private frustration - why doesn't so and so want to come - and a feeling that the talk about 'Indianness' is all excuses, a cover for lack of enterprise from my own folks.

Then, even in the subliminal reality of the equal opportunity world, my colour of skin became more and more highlighted. Contrary to the common perception, racism, at least in Britain, is far less 'up in the face' and far more systemic. So, unless one is travelling to more 'exotic' parts of the countr…

In Defence of Idealism

Viktor Frankl defends idealism, why we must believe in others to be what they should be, rather than what they are.

Deeply moving and inspiring, this comes as a gift in the middle of my despair. I am struggling with my innate idealism, something I inherited and grown up to believe, in the face of the usual mid-life crisis, a point where I start thinking where I am going and how much I have lost being a dreamer and not a realist.

However, here is a man who has seen it all, who has seen the moral bankruptcy of incomparable magnitude, and yet kept his faith and believed in the ultimate goodness of mankind and the meaning of life.

On Great Depression II

When I was writing about the economic recession in October 2008 [Memoirs of A Recession, for a local literary journal], I expected a short, painful recession, which will be ended by splurges of public spending. I also thought this would be an unfinished recession, which will come back in a few years with sovereign bankruptcies. President Bush was still at the helm, and I thought about the mother of all bankruptcies, that of America, and how that will mean the end of economics as we know it. I likened it to the First World War, which was an unfinished war, only to culminate in the mother of all wars, in 1939. I fancied telling the story as if sitting in 2040, old and wise, reflecting on lessons learnt and not learnt.

It seems now that I was optimistic. The world has been on a downward spiral since then. We failed to learn the lessons. We tried failed and discredited remedies to new diseases, not recognizing the limitations of our thinking nor the complexities of our situation. Mostly, w…

On Corporate Training in India

My take: Indian training market will go through a major change in the next twelve months.

Call whatever you like, though 'Coming of Age' may seem most appropriate. It may offend some people, justifiably so, some Indian companies are leading training companies in the World. Like, NIIT, indeed. But, somehow, I think they categorise themselves wrongly. Many of these companies, like NIIT, Aptech etc, built themselves filling the great void in the education space. They are great private education companies, as good as any in the world. They are very vocationally oriented, mainly IT, and this is possibly why they benchmark themselves against training companies like New Horizons, Learning Tree or Oracle University. However, the motivation, commitment and alignment of most of their learners are quite different from the ones in the West. They are mostly school leavers than the mid-career professionals. Not that these companies don't offer a bouquet of in-company programmes, but that…

A New 100-Day Plan

I am back again with a 100 day plan.

Yes, I previously tried and failed, but this time, I think I can successfully pull off a real transformation. Two reasons. First, I have taken the difficult decisions that I needed to - walked out of my job and taken time to reflect and reorganize - something that gives me greater control over my own life. The current scheme of things will also mean less travel, which means greater predictability of how I am spending time, which will help. Second, I believe I can be more transparent and honest, which was always my intent. So far, cultural car-crashes, huge misunderstandings primarily arising out of inadequate cultural and business understanding, were far too frequent for my comfort. I had to stop reflecting on my work life altogether, because, despite my caution and discretion, the chances of being misunderstood were far too high. This changes now, because I am starting fresh and this time, I am doing something that I love. I am not under the scann…

What next?

As I go through this period of transition, which is both interesting and challenging, what I want to do next is the question I have to contend with constantly. One needs a direction, indeed, and uncertainty and instability are hardly enjoyable conditions. Like everyone, I would love to put some dates and plans on my diary; but, to be honest, I am taking it easy at this time, allowing myself the space to reflect, exploring possibilities and seeing life with a panoramic view.

Last three years of my life was very challenging. In a way, these were my Don Quixote years, with all elements in full play - the sense of honour, and the windmill. This was hard, indeed, and in the end, I was in a permanent state of resignation. That does not help: A sort of certainty which was going nowhere in the end. I feel well now as I contrast that lack of freedom with the current state of possibilities, and uncertainty is a small price to pay.

I should not say the years were all wasted though. It is not. For …

Celebrating An English Victory

England has finally won, after many many years, a World Tournament for Cricket. Yes, a proper one, the World Twenty-Twenty Title, beating the all-cylinders charging Australia. However, winning is only part of the whole celebration; England looked unstoppable after the few initial hitches, and the team contained so many young, exciting talents.

It may be naive to expect a contagion of success, but one must hope: England can sure win the Football World Cup in South Africa in a couple of months. That will be really really big! We have a great team, which combines the best footballers from the best domestic league in the world. So, why not expect a rerun of 1966, when England won the football cup last time, and never played a final since.

That's not far fetched by any standard. English sport is currently going through a sort of renaissance. For next few years, Burton/Hamilton duo will always have a running chance of lapping up F1 title between them. And, if Andy Murray, though he is ver…

Learner & Tutor : The Classroom Equation

It is interesting to explore how the power equations in the classroom, or for that matter, any learning environment, are shaped.

The starting point is that the two primary participants in the classroom, the learner and the tutor, are both human, and they carry with them their unique psychological make-ups, shaped by their individual histories and backgrounds. They carry with them their Freudian personality, their unconsciousness driving their value systems and their super-ego desperately controlling their direction.

It is interesting to watch how these personalities play out in the classroom. Someone who had a difficulty in learning herself would often try to project learning as difficult; someone who grew up as her father's special child will often pick up a special pupil, to the jealousy and dismay of everyone else. On the other hand, learners will often come with their sets of expectations to the classroom. This will often be dictated by what they missed in their lives, the roles…

Value of College Education

A study of Graduate earnings in Britain indicates that going to the university indeed pays. Neil Faulkner makes the point in the Yahoo! Finance article, which can be accessed here.

I shall quote a few interesting bits of statistic from the article.

For example, consider this list of highest paying subject areas:

Subject studied Average extra earnings (compared to non-graduates) Medicine £340,000 Law £245,000 Engineering £245,000 Maths £240,000 Physics £190,000 Chemistry £185,000 Business £185,000 European languages £165,000 Psychology £100,000 Linguistics and English £95,000 Humanities £50,000 Arts £35,000
This is, of course, the 'lifetime' premium of a degree, which is quite modest for some of the subjects at the bottom of that list.

The top order has few surprises, though Chemistry graduates earning more than Business Graduates is interesting, particularly considering many university Chemistry departments are struggling.

The other interesting statistic is the comparison of Annual…

Training For Reflection

My understanding of the Workplace Learning is that the practise is dominated by behaviourist paradigm. So, the key principles held dear by the workplace learning practitioners are the following:

(a) Observable behaviour change, rather than internal processes, is the key. So, the effectiveness of any training interventions should be measured or evaluated by what people do, rather than what people think, see or feel.

(b) The environment shapes one's behaviour. What one learns is determined by the environment, the design and delivery of the programme and incentives at work, and not by individual learners. So, a programme should be seen as a part of the environment, designed to enhance the experience and create a common platform of understanding so that common stimulus-response pattern can be expected.

(c) Workplace Learning should establish contiguity [how close two events must be to form a bond] and reinforcement [any means of increasing the likelihood that an event will be repeated] a…

Political Transformation of Britain

Britain is changing, for all purposes and intent, from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential one.

The process would have started some years back. One can't really pin it down to a particular event, though Tony Blair, with his gift of presence, largely initiated the process. His successor in office, Gordon Brown, accepted and continued the process, first by insisting on a mid-term succession, and then making the election, wrong-headedly, a referendum on himself.

In doing so, however, he lost; though not before a never before Leader's Debate on TV, where the three party leaders took carefully pre-selected questions from a carefully pre-selected audience and made their various political statements. Besides, the British Press intervened in the political process, as is the tradition, but this time, they were focused far more on personalities, particularly that of Gordon Brown, than on the parties.

The process of transformation into a Presidential system has only hastened after t…

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