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Showing posts from September, 2013

'De-imperialising' Indian Higher Education

I learnt something new about India when I travelled around the country in April/ May. I was accompanied by two colleagues: One, my Co-founder, a Briton who has never been to India before; Another, a senior colleague who is the Chair of our Academic Board (and previously been a member of the executive in an UK university), who was born in Mauritius but settled down in England three decades ago, and have become as English as anyone (in contrast, though settled in England, I preserved my Indian, arguably Bengali, identity in day to day life, and even in work). I learnt a lot seeing India through the eyes of these two close colleagues,who were visitors to a country I consider my own.
What I learnt went beyond the usual staff one expects: One gets embarrassed by the lack of basic facilities in India when accompanying a 'guest', but at the same time, on reflection, feels proud about how little we have to go by, yet how aspirational we are. Coming back-to-back to a visit to China, o…

Rethinking the Professions

It is an odd thing to say that professions may be dying. If anything, experience would typically suggest the opposite: Never before, such prestige was attached to the professions much as Law, Accounting, Medicine or Engineering. In fact, one would suspect a professional credential is absolutely essential to get by in the modern world, and therefore, practitioners in many non-professionalised fields, such as Business, want to be professionalised.

However, it is usual to see the future with the patterns of the past, and I would argue that the Professional Society may actually be behind us now. The evidence may be all around us: Andrew Keen moans this fact in The Cult of the Amateur. We can debate whether this is good or bad (for Mr Keen, it is a disaster) but the sense of seize is all around us. The Accountants who fear self-assessment returns, the lawyers who hate the legal advice websites, the karaoke hating professional musician, the journalist made redundant by internet news. Every …

On Being Free

I have always been one for serendipity, the view that the best things in life happen unplanned. Being raised in a highly disciplined environment, which I was, the best things in life were always outside for me: It was always about being free. 
This is why, perhaps, I lived the way I lived, doing various things at different points, setting off on journeys without planning out where I am going. This is why I perhaps write like this - conversationally and confusingly, veering off to different subjects and putting on different styles - leaving the structuring of thoughts and ideas to people reading it. This is what defines my politics, averse to authority and to conformity, equally ill at ease with the groupthink of the left and market-fetishism of the right. In a way, this is what makes who I am - excited about new ideas, purveyor of new opportunities, but bored with structure and set ways of doing things.
However, one question I always left unanswered is what those best things in life …

Why might 'the college' be dying?

Eric Schmidt seems to think that the college is a 'slow dinosaur', on its way to extinction. This is somewhat counter-intuitive, given that more students are going into Higher Education than ever before and the promise of skills, when jobs are disappearing fast, is the only hope that the working class has. In fact, one can argue that the modern society stands at the back of the college - the hope of social mobility that it provides - and without it, there will be no social order.
One way to think about this is that for too many people, this is turning out to be a false promise. The college does not lead to redemption, as it is promised to be; it rather leads to the same old place in the social pecking order, now made a bit more difficult and a bit more expensive to achieve. For all the talk of becoming a sentient being and developing a critical consciousness, going to college means turning out huge debt and becoming prudently conformist thereafter.
Of course, in sunny Califor…

And There Will Be Blood

Let's be irrational: Friday the 13th. Four Death Sentences. An Announcement that can define India's future. Despite this being plucked from Hollywood lore, such connections always appeal to Hindu mind. However, even if one does not believe in omen and try to be rational, Friday the 13th of September would still appear to be a great day for the Indian Middle Classes - as they got what they wanted: Death sentence for the four people who brutally raped and killed one of their own, and a 'strong' leader who would drive India to its destiny.
If one wondered what that destiny may look like, the signs are already there. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party in India, calls the inflation in India 'Jijiya Tax'. Inflation is corrosive, and it spiralled out of control under the callous economic management of the incumbent government, and has indeed hurt the salaried middle classes. Protesting against inflation, however, is not the point here: Likening i…

India Education Conference: 'A Case For Changing Higher Education Paradigm in India'

A Conference is being held to discuss Indian Post-Secondary Education in London on the 2nd and 3rd of October. About 100 delegates, from India and UK, comprising of University Representatives, Indian Educational Institutions, Education Innovation Companies and Private Equity Organizations, are expected to attend. Here is an opinion piece I wrote at the Conference Website outlining a case for change in Higher Education in India. For more on the Conference, visit http://indiainvestmentconclave.com/ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 “India has an examination system, not an education system”: Prime Ministerial Advisor C N R Rao used these words in April 2011 to argue for a plan to introduce an American-style common university admission examination across India, but he also managed to capture deeper maladies of the Indian Education system well.
Indian education, evolving from its colonial roots, still ce…

On Writing This Blog

The question keeps coming back: Why do I write this blog? Those who don't see the point wonder where I find the time. Those who appreciate what I do tells me to do it 'more professionally'. I have so far remained true to my original purpose of writing - to create a digital equivalent of a 'commonplace book' - to maintain a scrapbook of ideas and record my wonder. 
However, I agree that my occasional attempts of weighty posting - trying to write academic essays, for example - make things go off kilter. While these create a great timeline for me, something that reflects my state of thought at the time, that is no use to anyone reading the blog. While this blog indeed serves many purposes, being a record of my life is the most private of those and it is indeed unfair to impose the same on those who generously give me their time in reading and commenting on this blog.
In summary, then, I acknowledge that this blog, anything public for that matter, isn't mine any l…

Indian Higher Education: Nationalism Redux?

The context is the apparent demise of the 'Foreign Education Providers' Bill' in India, an event causing much anguish among certain sections of International Higher Education community. It is difficult to mourn for this bill, as this was an useless piece of legislation in the first place. The bill was initially designed for the Top 500 universities in the world, and the purpose of the legislation was to allow these universities to set up campuses in India and teach students and not take any profits away ever from India. In short, the purpose of the bill was to make India's educational improvement a responsibility of the Top 500 universities in the world.
Despite the bill being an exercise in futility, this could still be considered an important artifact in Higher Education policy: Its insistence on the requirement that the university applying under it has to be in the Top 500 list on Times Higher Education or Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings, a provision that was dropped e…

India 2020: 'How India Got Its Funk'

India has a problem: Suddenly, everyone seems to agree on that. In a few short months, India has gone from being the beacon of a new economic order to a prospective failed state, only to be engaged with to avoid the creation of a black-hole equivalent of a state. Strangely, the Indians seem to agree: There is hardly any resentment in the country towards the fickle bond traders and currency speculators, who are primarily responsible for the anorexic Indian rupee, and rather a mood of self-blame, though not of introspection. India's time in the sun, and the hope of being counted alongside China, seems to be over.
The International Media has started commenting on India's fall with gusto. Almost every major newspaper has run stories, mainly blaming inefficiency of its government, and primarily, of its Prime Minister, who seems to be a 'natural follower than a leader', as a German magazine hopefully observed. The Economist pointed to India's failure to reform its labou…

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