I have posted about Global Workforce Crisis and Education as its only plausible solution. However, the question remains: If the problem is so obvious, and everyone more or less agrees that good education is the solution, and, more importantly, as everyone seems to talk about it too, why do we have so little done? Indeed, one could say that there has been a surge in private investment in education - in fact, education, and particularly technology-led solutions to education, has been one of hottest sector for venture investment since 2011 - but the impact of it, particularly in improving access and quality of education for poorer people, has been very limited. In fact, apart from the eye-watering amounts that some of the MOOC companies raised (and one could argue that MOOCs are not for everyone, but just the well-educated), most of the education investment has gone into creating top-end schools and colleges, improving the quality and opportunity for the top 5% - 10% of the population [In the developing countries, for an even narrower range of beneficiaries].
The logic of the investment is quite clear: The money goes to the segments which can pay for the services. However, the Global Workforce Crisis, if we accept it, poses a bigger question: Should we not be looking at ways to provide good education to everyone? And, indeed, under our current funding models, is it at all possible to do so? And, if it needs to change, what needs to change?
There has already been some debate about it: Parag Khanna and Karan Khemka's solution was to enroll the world in For-Profit universities (see here). They blamed the regulators for making innovation in education difficult, driving away private investment even when the need is so urgent. One could argue whether the track record of For-Profit education sector warrants such optimism. There were also other arguments about changing how we educate. Michele Wiese of Christensen Institute argues for Online Competency-based Education to replace the tradition-bound models of Higher Education (see her paper here). Again, she points to the academic inertia, and portrays a picture of a lethargic professional class who has lost touch with reality and abrogated their social contract. Her point was to call for an urgent 'reformation' (I use the word deliberately) of education, changing what is taught and how it is taught.
There is some validity in all these points of views. However, one should also take into account wider social issues than just trying to answer who is teaching and what is being taught. This is important because it is rather silly to complain that straightforward plausible solution exists for the education problem. The rich in the United States, and in almost all countries in the world, enjoy an enormous political leverage (so much so that Lawrence Lessig calls United States 'Lesterland') and since the Global Workforce Crisis may indeed upset the economic balance and cause deep problems, it is incomprehensible why more was not done more urgently.
The problem with democratizing access to good education, I shall argue, is that this in itself is deeply disruptive to our current economic structures and institutions. The enormous inequality that we see in our society is legitimised on the basis of merits and smarts. We, however, know that such merits and smarts are tied to educational outcomes, and the educational outcomes are tied to family income more than anything else. However, perpetuating the myth that certain sections of the population are stupid (and, as Baroness Jenkin recently said, they can't cook) is easier than opening up education access. In fact, both Messers Khemka & Khanna's solution, and Ms Wiese's prescription uses popular rhetoric to frame a solution that limits, rather than expands, access to good quality education, as it seeks to limit public involvement in education both short term (by driving education for profit, which essentially creates a system of differentiated education, on the basis of ability to pay) and long term (by undermining the need for involved citizenship, which guarantees the continuation of such public involvement). David Rotman in his recent MIT Technology Review article on technology and inequality makes the point that we may be overpaying for our educated workers by limiting access to good education. But then such an arrangement may actually make sense to all those who matter.
I am not one to point to any conspiracy theories, but just that good education upsets the power structures that we have, because it undermines the core assumptions behind those power structures. Indeed, the Global Workforce Crisis does the same - upsets the institutional structures we have built - but it does so over a longer period of time. Our democratic governments, stock-market driven corporations and individualistic morality make us prioritise on stability today over stability in the long run. It makes sense not to be serious about education, just as much as it did when Louis the XVth said "Après moi, le déluge" (Revolution will come, but my time will pass).
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.