The policy-makers conceiving grand vocational education schemes in developing countries often talk about 'demand-led' education. While their policies are almost always focused on the supply-side - the provision of money, creation of infrastructure, curriculum and teachers - the dream is that the employers would join in and indicate what kind of people they need. Consider India's 'skilling' initiatives: Millions of dollars were spent for 'capacity creation' before figuring out whether and what vocational training is needed, and then, creation of 'sector skills councils', apparently to work with employers to project skills requirements, happened. It was an afterthought, indeed, but seen as the panacea: A 'demand-led' approach will solve the 'education-to-employment' gap.
While this may sound common sense, this is as much a good thing as centralised five-year plans would be in today's world. It indeed makes sense for educators to prepare people after knowing the employers' needs to solve the education-to-employment gap, just as it was a good idea to direct resources to national priorities before the age of globalisation. The problem today is that employers have a limited perspective, and the students' lives are too dynamic. So, regardless of the appeal of the idea, demand-led model has not taken off. I would often meet policy-makers who will blame the apathy of employers; in fact, I have now come to equate the two - those who complain that employers don't want to engage in education are usually trying to take a demand-led path.
I have indeed seen this play out at the individual enterprise level. Ever so often I meet vocational education companies whose great strategic leap-forward is to create a 'demand-led' model, where they train towards employers' specifications. Indeed, these models don't work too, even at that small scale. At that level, things go wrong differently: Employers may indeed engage and give the specs, and the training company may indeed turn around quite quickly, by recruiting learners and training them over a relatively short period, but it falls apart thereafter. Often, after the training, the learner discovers that she does not like the job. Other times, employers discover that they were not adequately trained.
The employer apathy that one complains about and the failure of 'demand-led' models to deliver the goods should be naturally linked, but this is not the way officials think. Indeed, the whole proposition that the government can effectively do the skilling is informed by a 'planning mindset', even if the approach is fully endorsed by the anti-planning World Bank. That the economies will follow a certain predictable path is inherent in these policies, and they overlook the incident of globalisation altogether. On the other hand, for the World Bank type policy-makers, who are only too keenly aware of globalisation, such predictability stem from fixed models of the world they work with, in which the developing countries would follow the path of industrialisation and development following the classical models seen in Europe and North America. For them, globalisation is supposed to ensure such staged model, rather than allowing variation, and they forget to take into account local aspirations, which may often veer away from the predictable path. So, we return again and again to this elusive quest of planning, of establishing the shape of the demand, but no one really knows what the demand for skills will be 12 to 36 months from now.
Long before I got interested in education policy, and when I worked in recruitment, I tried and failed in combining training and recruitment businesses (See my earlier post from 2009). The reason, plainly, was that the time horizons for training and education are evidently different from those of recruitment. There was no silver bullet for getting a person trained. Recruiting to train on a mandate often meant bad recruitment and bad training, because of the time horizon mismatch. And, education, which is expected to prepare people for a longer period of time than just a job requirement, is completely out of sync with this model.
So, the 'demand-led', to me, seems like a misdirected rhetoric, creating an illusion of control for the policy-makers and an illusion of strategy for individual firms. A more sensible strategy to bridge the education-to-employment gap is to try to bring them together, through project-based learning. This is what I do now. This is about achieving educational outcomes through completion of real life employer projects - the opposite of the demand-led model - and in doing so, exposing the student to the language and the practices of the employers. This is the free market approach as opposed to the central planning of demand led approach, involving no guarantees but allowing a dating process through which the students may find the best opportunity and the employers the best students. The trick here is to reduce the stake of the employers - making this a low-exposure involvement rather than one where they have to commit significant resources to design projects for students, and to take that responsibility as an instructional design opportunity. Surely, the challenge of this model is that it can only work at a scale, one needs many employers and many projects for this to be sustainable (so this model may be born-global by definition) but this is indeed more in sync with globalisation than the 'demand led' talk that we are so much in love with.
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.