I am getting into that time, after 18 months of bootstrapping, when people have started asking whether the personal sacrifice is worth it. My views are unchanged: I am soldiering through my otherwise miserable life of lecturing four days a week to earn the keeps, so that I can do one thing that I really really wanted to do in life. This is about building a truly great educational institution.
I know it does not make any sense. Educational institutions are all about big money, big land and big buildings. It is about having grants and scholarships, playing to the tune of government policies. It is about rankings and prestige. You don't just get up and create an education institution, much less a great one. I disagree.
My ideas may be less quixotic that it sounds, and here is my defense: That we are at a time of fundamental discontinuity. I am one of those who believes that the next twenty years isn't going to be like the last twenty years. This is not just about Internet and technological nirvana, though that plays a big part in my thinking. This is also about how society will change because of this, and because our institutions may start changing fundamentally. And, if there is one institution which needs to change fast, I see that to be the educational institutions. This is, therefore, the object of my work: To build an educational institution which will be fit for the future. And, I don't see any.
That's a big statement: The world is full of great universities doing cutting edge staff. Technological progress isn't going to knock them away. But then, I see that those universities are somewhat blinded by the technology and prestige, and neglect the key role of education in the society - creation of opportunities. In fact, these great institutions do more to worsen our social problems, stratification and exclusion, than other facets of our society. And, so far, balancing the great institutions with the ones designed to 'widen participation' has been a failure.
Because there is no clear will to widen participation, not inside nor outside the education system. My perception is that this is all a big game, an elaborate system of status, power, politics of entitlement, with its own reality shows and reward systems. I see the narrative of the modern universities (which I intend to write about when my life has settled down a bit and I can spare time to write) in terms of the sub-narratives of adjunctification of the faculty, rise of processed knowledge and credential-driven student culture. So, we increasingly have institutions which look more like an ordinary business organisation than an educational institution, run by and full of managers who manage, but does not teach - and often does not know, and does not want to know, the students. The people who teach are most marginal in this bureaucratic organisation, rather like factory hands who come and go. The knowledge creation and its celebration is a process, structured and tied to the sources of money and their dictat, ever more increasingly: It is not the creative persuation but the ability to play the system that become, more often than not, the chief narrative of academic life. And, finally, students who are almost like shoppers, engage in a quest for credentials and careers. The confluence of all these factors to me, all of them entirely justifiable, though a touch tragic, represent the rise of the 'consumer university', which is an incredibly efficient organisation but one without any guiding purpose. It is like a factory which produces goods that no one should need except its own mechanics of marketing that makes people feel they need them: It is a great system till the music stops.
My work is based on the assumption that we are in stoppage time. If Robots take our jobs, the road to Nirvana through university education will become harder sale. Inconvenient truths like the fact that 28% of university graduates in the UK in 2007 was still without full time work after three years will become discussable. The graduate premium is really not a graduate bonanza, but rather reflect the disappearance of non-graduate jobs and salaries will become apparent. So, my point is how do we create a system of education which is inclusive, but yet open up its students with intellectual stimulation, imagination and all that is needed for the future.
Indeed, this is all connected to the view what the graduates will need for the future: What I am after a system that enables Global, Creative, Practice Oriented, Technology Savvy, Lifelong Learners. Agreed, I am only just at a starting line, and it is a lot to talk about. But, my lack of money shouldn't be taken for the lack of commitment or ambition: This is what I believe the graduates of the future will look like and I am still working on the nuts and bolts of an institution that can produce such graduates.
Such as, a distributed institution: This is not going to be based in one place but will be embedded in many communities in different countries, all linked together by technology. The learning will be all about creative application and exploration of practices in real context, in association with employers, social organisations and businesses, in these different countries. The pedagogy will represent a balance of teaching, project work and online learning: isn't that the shape of all learning to come? And, finally, the consistent focus will be self-responsible learners - we want to go back to those conceptions of education when one didn't stop learning at the attainment of the credential, but rather was admitted to a brotherhood of the seekers at that point. More prosaically, we want the learners to demonstrate initiative and take charge of their own learning.
Right now, my work is imagining this new institution, and slowly, haltingly, imperfectly, putting this together one step at a time. There are days of despair, balanced by occasional joys of finding a fellow traveller; there are moments of privation, all made worth by some unexpected interests - all the things that start-up life means, but more, primarily because at the end of road, the promise of reward is so much greater than just making money.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
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 th
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The Creativity Imperative Businesses today consider creativity of their staff as a critical, possibly the most critical, factor for their ongoing survival. This is because the environment, political, social and commercial, has become so fluid; as Yogi Berra put it, “the future isn’t what it used to be”. Constant change, demanding and more aware customers and citizens, rapid information dissemination through new technologies of information and communication, and intense competitive and regulatory pressures, are pushing companies and people who work for them to innovate and adapt continuously. Set in this context, employee creativity has a whole new meaning. It is traditionally understood as people thinking about products and services, which did not exist before, or tweaking and improving the existing ones. Competitive pressures add to this creativity imperative. Information is fast and cheap, and communication technology is driving the costs of production and distribution
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.