The theme of my work is to explore the possibility of creating a new kind of educational institution. I have changed jobs and done many things in life, but among all those discreet projects, there has always been this continuous pursuit, an education for possibility.
Education is too often about privilege rather than possibility. In every country, though a suitable excuse of judging by merit is used, merit is often defined as all those things with social privilege; the rationale for education, therefore, has become providing social justification for continuation of inherited privileges.
This flies in the face of the other claim - that education is all about social mobility. It used to be, because education is the engine which has created the modern middle classes, in every country, and helped create the current political and social consensus that we live by. Indeed, education used to be the bedrock of progress. And, that is precisely my point: That education as it is practised today, to rationalise privilege rather than create social mobility, is antithetical to the very concept of progress we stand on.
True, ours is an age of compulsory schooling and mass Higher Education. But then, one can see that claim as the great con of our time, because it is fails all too often. The mass Higher Education fails to educate. Education means debt and desire more than confidence and freedom. Most countries have this two-tier, even multi-tier systems, where students are relegated to mediocrity even before they had a decent shot at life.
This is the frontier I have worked on. My work is not about great and the good, about crusty privileges and art of genteel conversation; if I have done anything, I have worked with pupils who were outside those elite institutions and yet wanted to get ahead in life. My work, therefore, was filled less with scholastic conversations and more with nuts-and-bolts of real work, playing out in the Small town India, Bangladesh or Philippines or within immigrant communities of Britain. My work was all about nurturing aspirations.
I know this space, and I do it well. Even after twenty years of doing this, I am still passionate about what I do: I find meaning in this work. However, lately, I am increasingly queasy that this whole business is changing - and my quest is to find the answers to the issues that bother me. It is this: That the future work looks different, and social mobility can not any longer be taken for granted.
This rather sour outlook may be a function of my age, but this looks real. I am not just afraid of the self-driving cars making taxi drivers redundant (or, tablet computers transforming restaurants), but also see the change coming to accounting, report writing, editing, cold calling and all that. I see the entire generations of people across the developing world getting ready for jobs which will disappear within 5 to 10 years. I see the confluence of IT and Globalisation creating a different kind of reality, which leaves out a lot of people who are aspiring for the middle.
Even the self-touted education innovation today does not take care of this emerging reality. The talk of education innovation is mostly merely how to integrate technology into education, not the post-technology future of education. The few thinkers who are looking at the horizons, comparing this oncoming wave of change with the transformation wrought by industrial revolution and ensuing educational expansion, are still at a loss how the financial globalisation and inclusion of millions of people from India and China (and all the others) will play out. And, indeed, the labour replacing technologies of today are very different from those of the Industrial era; these replace work which we assumed to be essentially human, and they are destroying the middle classes. This is a whole new ball game.
The educational playbook may look simple but it is not. One may say that simply shifting to a more entrepreneurial educational model will prepare us for the future, but really? The institutions we have built, all their culture, protocols and norms, have not yet reached the industrial age: In fact, the factory age of university education is only just arriving and surely it looks outdated just as it started. The whole structure has to be reimagined, and the changes may happen outside the established institutional structures than outside: The manifesto for such a revolution is yet to be written.
This is the issue that bugs me and this is the object of my current work: A new kind of education. I stop teaching - I was spending too much time within the bounds of a traditional institution - and will take on a peripatetic role, which will take me back to India and other Asian countries, in three weeks time. I am also working on the idea of a conference to discuss some of these issues, to be held in London in January: I have got two institutional endorsements already and believe that it will be the right platform to start talking about some of these ideas. I am also transforming my current business into an experiment to train on entrepreneurial thinking and activities, and unexpectedly, receiving some help from a Chinese city government making it a reality. And, indeed, all this should provide the context of the thing I love most - to connect with people worldwide who are working on the same issues and facing the same challenges, and those who have spent their lives democratising educational access. In that way, the theme of my work remains the same, even if I concern myself with a new kind of education at this time.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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 ‘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
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.