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Showing posts from December, 2012

Taking Stock: 2012

New Year is nothing but another morning, but it is the opportunity to start anew that we really cherish. The Year-end, in contrast, is quite under-rated - the crowds on New Years Eve seem to want to let it go as soon as they can - but this allows the time to pause and reflect, a luxuriant activity unaffordable for most of the year. But, without this pause, there is no new start in the New Year, no opportunity to do anything new, no breaking free - since we won't discover what kept us back. 
So, this is to 2012: The year that is on its way to history. At this point, this year is like any other: Fading rather than exiting, not with a bang but a whimper. But, may be, this will have a special place, as events in 2012 may change things in many places, which may have broader impact. When recounting the year, one may talk about less about celebrities who appeared and disappeared, or politicians who made it (Obama, Hollande, Xi Jinping, Mohd Morsi) and those who didn't (most spectacu…

Indian Education, Foreign Investment and The Search for Change

Finally, the debate everyone wanted to have, has kicked off: Deloitte, a consultancy, has started this round with a new report, India's Higher Education Sector: Opportunities Unlimited, Growth Aplenty, recently, and called for increased foreign investment in the sector. This reflects a shift of emphasis from 2010, when Grant Thornton, another consultancy, was talking about opportunities in Indian Education (Education in India: Securing the Demographic Dividend) and highlighted vocational training, backed by increased government spending on skills training, as the growth sector. Grant Thornton report was then predicting a 25% CAGR in the vocational training sector, reaching US $3.6 billion in 2012, which is most likely to be surpassed. Given the high school drop out rates in India, vocational training surely deserves the attention and can potentially

Discernibly, the government's focus is shifting, perhaps as the urban middle classes, squeezed by inflation, goaded by 24x7 new…

The Coming Transformation of India

I feel optimistic about India just when others are feeling despondent, growth seems to be stalling and the media, with the daily diet of horror stories, is proclaiming the end of the world everyday. The Commonwealth Games fiasco, the corruption scandals, the crimes against women, the lethargy in decision making, have all painted a picture of drift and confusion, lack of leadership and a deep crisis in governance; but the fact that all these seem to be a crisis, that people are marching on the streets, the state seems perilously fragile, should be a symptom of a much more forceful, positive, change that would remake India.
India's chief problem has so far been that the state is so dangerously distant from the affairs of the street. This distance is about disconnection, of an unaccountable existence, of its functionaries and officials. This is inherited, in many ways, from the British colonial administration, whose mechanisms Independent India took over and kept intact. Primarily, …

What Makes A Global Manager?

I am writing a course on International Management and that allows me to research and reflect on who a global manager is (and, indeed, how to prepare one). I think many people embark on global assignments with little preparation, which happened to me in the past, and only learn as they go along. Reflecting on my own experience, I think companies can get a lot more out of their staff if they prepare them ahead for such assignments: The problem indeed remains that this is still a fuzzy field and it is hard to agree what one needs to prepare on.
The most usual preparation is indeed to talk to someone who had a similar posting before. So, if you are being posted to China, you talk to an old China hand, soaking up as much as you can. This is useful, but if this is the only thing you do, which often is the case, such preparation can be counter-productive. Usually, this means that the presumptions of that mentor gets passed on to you, and unless you are lucky to have a mentor who learnt and …

Making Global Education

This is a bad time for globalism. The recession has renewed the fear of the others, and various politicians, from Japan to Italy to United States, are inventing foreign bogeymen to obscure their own failures. Companies, while desperate for ideas and for growth, are receding to respective homelands for safety: The only international bit they would still like to do is to keep their cashes stashed in tax havens. In fact, by doing so, they have given global business more bad press - Starbucks dodging taxes, Wal-Mart paying bribes and various banks, almost all of them, defrauding customers and governments alike.
Critics can say that this was bound to happen and globalisation is a sham: But when it comes to climate change, nuclear disarmament, human rights, the issues that the same critics love, they concede that there is no alternative to concerted global action. I shall contend that global connections (or disconnections) are a function of technology and due to progress in transportation …

The Future Literacy

A little survey on my favourite research cohort - students - and everyone tells me that they don't read books anymore. I am not delusional - I already expected that - but I am still sad: It is as if no one cared about the death of my old friend. But there is more than that: I am also puzzled how to teach a Postgraduate qualification without books interfering. Some younger friends tell me that this is a Generation X problem though, something like dementia, people successfully complete research degrees without reading books, which may very well be true. However, this is a personal problem: I live surrounded by books, I spend most of my money on them and my greatest regret in life is about being separated from the collection I built up over the years but had to leave behind in India when I migrated. So, I talk in books - my teaching is often walking through the ideas etched on paper, and my efforts in the classroom are mostly focused on making students discover the joy of that secre…

The Point of Higher Education

Higher Education is in crisis, it was proclaimed. MOOCs and various other avatars, depending on who you ask, either cause the crisis or present a solution. The government is in full retreat, after making access to Higher Education central to democratic legitimacy, and indeed, various interest groups are up in arms. Central to this debate, various debates as we should see it, is the question what Higher Education is for: It is on this question, rather than any other, where the battle lines are drawn most clearly.
Like any other public policy debates, there are lots of rhetoric and lots of fudge on this: Terms such as 'Opportunity Society' has won votes and lost meaning many times over. The scarecrow of loss of competitiveness (to South Korea, mostly, these days) and the teardrops shed on 'lost soul of Higher Education' compete for influence and column-inch. But all these various shades of grey can eventually be put in two boxes - the 'Power' argument and the &#…

Education to Employment: A Flawed Prescription

McKinsey published a report on 'Education to Employment: Designing A System that works' in an attempt to draw attention to an urgent issue: With 75 million young people unemployed around the world, and twice that number unemployed, this is becoming one burning issue and indisputable proof that the current system does not work. Mckinsey argues that educators and employers seem to live in parallel universe, and this causes the problem. Their solution is to bring the two together: To make more employers educators, and educators employers, which roughly translates into more vocational education. However, I shall argue, that the problem runs deeper.
First, educators and employers indeed reside in parallel universe and would always will. Educators' job is, or at least should be, to enhance the capability of the learner, so that, if employment is the goal, their earning potential could increase. However, the employer, usually a business, wants just the opposite: His profits are …

Breakpoint: Another Pivot

Start-up life is exciting: Disappointments and rejections come thick and fast. Just when one thinks that there is light at the end of tunnel, another endless tunnel starts. In what could be the reverse of bungee-jumping, indeed one would imagine the sky having gravity after talking to any aspiring entrepreneur, one lives the life in spurts of joy and endless despair thereafter; indeed, it is this experience that is thrilling, indeed only after all of it is over, and would be material for heroic stories for telling one's grandchildren, minus the silly bits. 
There are lots of silly bits, unavoidably perhaps. At this time, slightly sulking from the latest disappointments, I am onto this what's-going-wrong quandary, and the thinking whether the whole project is quixotic, only to realize quickly that the main problem Quixote had was of not accepting the world as it was. The mantra of what I am doing now is to be able to pivot, to change and to adapt; and my solace should come fro…

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