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Showing posts from August, 2013

Indian Higher Education : The Quiet Death of Foreign Education Providers Bill

Some media reports emerged that the Indian Government has now quietly dropped the Foreign Education Provider Bill from its legislative agenda. This may not be surprising, given that this bill was around - in different forms - for more than 10 years now, but was never a priority; despite a late flourish during the first 100 days of the UPA government, this was never much talked about, debated or considered important enough.
Despite the disappointments this will bring, this may actually be good news. The bill, as it stood, was deeply flawed. It was conceived with the justification of stemming the flow of Indian students to universities abroad, worth $4 Billion of expenses a year: However, such mercantilism is out of step with the global world, and would have ended in a failure anyway. Given this limited goal, the bill was highly protectionist, focused on limiting any outflow that may happen from the Foreign Education providers' activities in India, and left little financial incenti…

India 2020: Coming of the Facebook Democracy

Indians are feeling ashamed that the Rupee has touched a new low today, hovering around Rs 67.5 a dollar, presumably on account of the Government's insistence to pass the Food Security bill, which will guarantee 5 Kg of Rice and Cereals every month for every poor person, estimated to be about 800 million people. In a way, such shame is useful, because it was completely absent even in the face of starvation and poverty visible to any casual traveller to India. And, surely, the shame in the decline and fall of the Rupee is profitable too, as this would allow the well-endowed to simultaneously display their patriotism and make some money by hoarding dollars or sterling and helping the free-fall further. 
Events such as this bring out in sharp relief what democracy is really about in India. At one end, there is this claim about the 'muddy', 'corrupt', 'populist' staff that the government does at an enormous cost to the economy, somewhat around 2% or 3% of the …

The Story in Person: Reinventing Me

About a year ago, I set out to do what I always wanted to do: To create a technology-led network of global colleges, offering competence based education abroad. I was fully aware that this is a challenging project, having spent more than four years thinking and planning for it. However, doing it was always going to be different, and it was - full of new insights, unexpected turns and opportunities, and learning, which no amount of planning could have prepared us for. I am coming to the end of the bootstrap phase that we had to live through to get things going. It is, therefore, time to reinvent myself.
One of the great rewards of doing something like this is that I come to know how much I wanted to do this. There should have been no doubt, given the time I spent thinking and talking about how this could work. I took on a rather unappetising job of working in a chaotic private college environment for a period to build my network and ideas: Those two-and-half-years of my life was not t…

Indian Higher Education: The Globalisation Conundrum

Indian policy makers like to view India as an emerging superpower. Their policy making in Higher Education is guided by this ambition, which goes beyond the usual rationale of labour productivity and national competitiveness. This is understandable: After all, a democratic government in an emerging country must forever keep it emerging for its own legitimacy. However, the ambitions of building an education system worth a superpower are problematic because this distort a practical, labour market led approach to Higher Education. This may open up wide gaps between demand and provision, making talent shortages worse and more permanent, and make the rhetoric unsustainable.
Whether India can become a 'superpower', whether the world needs another one, whether this would bring any benefits to Indian citizens (who, no doubt, have to stump up the costs) are all valid questions, but should be left for another day. I intend to discuss here a few conjectures (which, admittedly, are not e…

India 2020: Dealing With Corruption

The Indian General Election of 2014 is quickly turning out to be a single agenda event - a referendum on corruption. The chequered records of the incumbent government necessarily makes it so: The continuing discovery of skeletons in its cupboard, its inability to deal with it due to the power politics of the coalition and the sheer scale and audacity of some of these scandals, make it almost the only story dominating the media. It is rather sad, as this steals the focus and detracts everyone from the great promise that India seemed to have shown early in the new millennium. The spectre of complete breakdown in governance makes people shy away from investing, even involving, in India. 
However contrarian this may sound, it is worth asking whether this should indeed be so: Whether we should single-mindedly focus on Government corruption at the expense of everything else. India is a big country with myriad of issues; some of those, like communal or regional harmony, is as at least as cr…

15th August: A Wish

'Happy Independence Day' is a new kind of wish, which may neither denote too much happiness nor independence. But chanting this may remind us of its exact opposite - that we were 'dependent' once - and that, one may hope, should remind us to strive harder and protect the Independence. This is needed because that state of servitude is a distant memory: Not many of us have known that state and what that may mean. Such vacuousness is easily demonstrated in the text and social media messages congratulating each other for Independence Day, but this has a more sinister effect as well.
Take, for example, the current blockbuster joke, initiated by one prominent politician: 'One Dollar used to be equivalent to one rupee on 15th August, 1947; it is now equivalent to the Finance Minister's Age'. This statement has all the qualities of being nominated as the Joke of the Year in a Comedy competition, and would be hilarious if it came from a Comedian. However, coming fr…

About 'Unbundled' College

I am often told not to bother about content. That is odd, considering that my business is Education. Only a few years ago, the advice would have been the other extreme - Content was the key! And, considering that we are really only a few years into the era of digital content, compared to 500 years of print, content could have been, should have been, exciting business. But it seems common sense that being in the business of content does not make sense any more.
Indeed, it is obvious how much open content is out there. And, it is not just the various universities giving away their content, and often videos, for free, and not even YouTube, TED, Vimeo and the like, but the whole array of contributions on SlideShare, blogs, Scribd and the like. In educational content, it seems like Internet's promise to be the great commons of knowledge has been somewhat realised. Against this fascinating array, it is hard to see why a small education company like ours should bother about making conte…

India 2020: Re-Imagine!

What seems a lack of choice in most cases signify a need to make a hard choice: It is actually quite obvious in most pursuits of day-to-day life, where such a situation will be called a 'dead end' and the usual way ahead at that point would neither be left or right, but rather a reverse or a plunge. However, in political life, such dead ends seem to lead to sleepwalking, choosing bad alternatives just because one does not seem to have a choice, and putting up poor arguments justifying the unjustifiable. One wouldn't complain if such conciliatory behaviour did at least lead to a status quo, and not resulted in, as it does so often, the rapid decline of the standards of governance over the last two decades. Clearly, the compromise does not save us, but rather pushes us down the slippery slope of corruption of democratic ideals, limitations of our liberty and worse, makes all of us so cynical about politics that we are likely to reinforce our  fate ourselves.
But, if we can …

If MOOCs fail

Last few weeks have been quite difficult for the MOOCs: After the initial flurry of change of the world rhetoric, suddenly some setbacks dampened the momentum. This started the usual I-told-you-so chatter, that MOOCs are just a passing fad. On the other end of the spectrum, the very usual optimism continues to persist: The balance has invariably tipped and will continue to tip, regardless of the fate of one or two companies. And, as in many other things in life, the sensible stance to take is somewhere in the middle, to consider the issues but not write off the phenomenon altogether.
To be clear, what we are dealing with isn't any reversal of fortune, but slowness of progress. And, despite the slowness, new things did indeed happen. Coursera raised another, bigger, sum, and new services, like NovoEd, did indeed launch. Some of the older services, like Alison, got eyeballs and traction, somewhat because of the general media enthusiasm about the MOOCs. The balance did indeed seem t…

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