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Showing posts from April, 2014

Reflections and Interests: How My Life Is Changing, Again

My life is changing. Or, pivoting, as it should in the entrepreneurial journey. A year of bootstrap living teaches many things, not least what you truly desire, and I have reached the point of reconciliation with reality. This is, in a way, the time when I trade off my desire to change the world to the more modest aim of making the enterprise succeed. This is also the time when I understand what can and can't work - that I am no longer twenty year old and fit to the culturally acceptable stereotype of entrepreneurs - and finding other ways of making sense. 
This starts with finding out what I truly want to do. Indeed, my efforts to build something meaningful allow this to come out in sharp relief. And, indeed, my efforts to build a global network business is not recent - I have been at it at least since 2007 - and therefore, what I know now is accumulated over time, through successes and failures. For example, despite my continuous protestation, the point of my work seemed to be …

'Futureducation': What Technology Does To Education

Technology changes education. If it sounds some kind of obvious, it is not: There are people who will argue that there is unchanging, unchangeable, soul of education. But this besides, there is a huge gap between the claims about how technology could change education and how it actually changes. The point of this post is have a closer look at this argument.
To think about how technology can change education, one must think of not just technology in education, but technology in context. So, this discussion should not be just limited to how Fiber Optic connections make education through video ubiquitous, but about such technology creating new expectations, jobs and careers as well. So, it is not just that one should use video because it has become possible to do so, but because it will be a normal feature of the workplace or professions that the learner may go into. 
This is something like saying that one needed to read books in college when jobs and careers were dominated by reading f…

'Futureducation': Preparing For The Wrong Future

The last two decades were a great time for educational expansion. The ideas of mass education caught up, not just in the West, but also in the rest of the world. Population is no longer seen as a problem, but a source of strength, of consumption and of production, and 'demographic dividend' was added to our lexicon. Personnel quickly became Human Resources and then Talent, and in this transformation, education came to be seen as the key to unlocking the great wealth that lies hidden in the teeming masses. Especially in the last decade or so, schools, colleges and universities were built at a furious pace. Governments accepted the fact that they can't build the educational capacity fast enough, and looked for ways to build private capital into education, and entrepreneurs saw this as the new frontier of opportunity. The importance of education is one thing that everyone agreed upon.
Now, it is perhaps time to look back at all that has happened, and start asking an uncomfor…

'Futureducation': On Educational Change

Education should be changing: The kind of education that helped us create the workforce during the industrial expansion may not, would not, work at a time of computerisation and globalisation. While this may appear kind of obvious, this is not what we are discussing though. Indeed, there is a lot of discussion about globalisation and computerisation, but the discussion is focused not on the educational challenge, but on the politics of it: For some, this is an elitist conspiracy which needs to be resisted at all costs; for others, all debate on the path to profit is utterly futile.
In the middle of this charged debate lies the somewhat ignored issue: How can we create an education that helps people to adopt to this changing world of work? From this position, that change will happen is a given: One could clearly figure out that such changes have happened and those tried to resist it, rather than trying to benefit from it, usually ended up on the losing side. So, teaching people to de…

Thinking About Markets

It is time to talk about markets. Differently.
One may think there may be nothing new to talk about markets. After all, we have been talking about this endlessly for thirty years now. Markets as the mantra for everything under the sun, the panacea for all our ills etc. Or, if you are negatively inclined, for all the problems we have. Including a new word, to be spoken every time with the same disdain Lady Thatcher used for the word 'socialist', 'marketisation'. What more can there possibly be to talk about the markets?
For many, the last few years have shaken the unquestioning magic of the markets: It does not seem to solve all our problems after all. In fact, it can make things quite ugly. Many of the words, 'ethics' prominently among them, which were becoming antiquities have been brought back to use. On the other hand, there is little appetite to revive the old socialist past as we knew it: No one could yet come up with a satisfactory explanation why Soviet…

The Banksy Problem

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Seven works of Street Art by Banksy are to be auctioned at a London Hotel today. (See the story)
If you are not into art, or not into street art, should you care? 
I think the 'Banksy Problem' is not about art, but about all forms of creativity. It is about 'market' and 'non-market' debate, and the ideas of how to live. Today's story brings out the issues involved in sharp relief.
So here is a celebrated, but unknown artist, who would sneak in the middle of the night and create a graffiti. No one really knows what he, or indeed she, thinks about this latest auction. The hypocrisy of the auctioneer is evident: He is not doing it for money, he says, but to save the building owners who are fearful that with a Banksy on their wall, their buildings will be listed Grade 2 (a building of special interest where every effort should be made to preserve them). He further adds that he does not approve of street art, and considers it illegal. 
I am wondering what he may…

The Liberal Folly: How We Made Narendra Modi

This is an admission of failure. 
This is about Narendra Modi's rise to prominence, and his preeminent position in Indian elections right now. The fact that he may become India's Prime Minister soon is one of those dreadful prospects one has to live with. Whether this happens or not, though, this is one example how all those who cared about the 'idea of India' got it wrong.
Simply, the prospect of Mr Modi, with the blood of Gujrati Muslim's in his hand, enraged us so much that we talked about that all the time. When our self-interested friends claimed that it is not the genocide, but the stock market that matters more, we got so enraged that we talked about it even more. All this helped, rather than hindered, Mr Modi, who indeed turned this against us, with copious sums of money thrown along the way.
The fact that Mr Modi is the front-runner in polls today poses not just one problem - that a man of such terrible record could be elected - but several others. He is …

Tired of Facebook..

No you may not be tired of life. The streams of other people's lives can be overwhelming: It may make you a retro-phile, full of nostalgia for the secret gossips or unrequited love, or all those things that were staple of the 80's teen-life. Suddenly, what was boring - you may not even remember how you really spent all the time that you now spend on Facebook - may look exciting. The fact that you can't find the girl who fascinated you in college on Facebook may be pathetic - you should have told her then - but then Facebook won't really change all that. Facebook or not, you are still alive.
Oh yes, Golden Age is always in the past, just around the time when one was twenty! If only - and there goes another list of moments missed, things unsaid, all those mistakes and missteps. But then, is it not a happy feeling that those are safely buried, gone, hopefully forgotten, rather than protruding out in your timeline? At times like this, should it be called Facebook Fatigue,…

Is Average Over? And What To Do About It?

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The claim: The age of average is over. Tyler Cowen says this, so does Tom Friedman, Andrew McAfee and others. All those middle class jobs, Administrators, Receptionists, Secretaries, Accountants, are going, and will be gone in the future. 47% of all of today's professions, mostly the refuge of the average among us, will disappear. The only jobs left will be those which require extra-ordinary capability and professional skill of some kind. 
In short, middle class is doomed. The economists have a solution - a sort of a negative income tax, or tax credit as it is known in Britain - to provide for them. All those who complain about dole must take note: We are heading for an universal dole of some kind. Though this does not sound very promising, this is at least better than those practised in some developing countries, where, if you missed the bus, you are left to fend for yourself. Welcome back Welfare State, though this shows we are running out of ideas.

In a way, 'average' …

Developing Global Expertise : 3 Exploring A Framework

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I am working towards a framework for developing global expertise. In my mind, it starts with a disjuncture, a disconnect, when things don't turn out the way it should. This should indeed be easy, it happens all too often when one travels to another country or starts working with someone from a different culture. Or, so we think. In reality, though, it does not happen that way at all. Even when we travel, or start working with someone from a different culture, we still remain within our own context: The disjuncture does not happen, we reject anything odd as an anomaly, an exception. So, my starting point is how one could establish the starting point - the disjuncture!
Also, most of this may happen in a classroom or workplace setting, rather than travel (which I am now getting to think about - whether I start working on a travel learning model) and hence, I have to find a way to simulate 'disjuncture'. I don't think this is a particular challenge though, because disjunc…

Why Building Universities Should Not Be About University Buildings?

India is building new universities, at least at a rate of one a week. Same is true for many emerging countries. Building universities is seen as the panacea for lack of modernity. The route looks ever so simple: More universities will mean more people in Higher Education, which will mean better skilled workforce and higher productivity, and hence Higher GDP - and everything else will follow.
India is also a great example of what could go wrong with this formula. The universities are being legislated into, but most become weaklings at birth, most with only a few students, limited number of disciplines, almost no research activities and no industry linkages: The prospect for future GDPs don't look that bright. If anything, they hardly herald a promising future and rather stand as monuments of wasted opportunity. 
However, anyone will be impressed if they visit these new institutions. Some aberrations aside, they are mostly shiny new institutions with adequate infrastructure. Visit…

Developing Global Expertise: 2 The Reason for 'Globalism'

Before we talk of the mechanics of how to develop global expertise, we must attempt to answer whether such an endeavour is worth it. The education system as it stands today has changed its goals, from the modernist vision of 'Reason' to the promotion of National 'Culture' in its glory years, to the current idea of Developing 'Excellence', which, as Bill Readings argued, means very little. But even if the efforts to promote a national culture looks spent, and the universities today are multinational corporations with great sophistication, they are decidedly in the business of 'soft power', which is, crudely put, about exporting 'national culture' to faraway lands. The object of the universities, therefore, is grounded on national values and cultures, or what goes in its name, and 'globalism' of the kind we are talking about is quite alien to its DNA.
This is not to deny some parts of our education system is more global than others. As o…

Developing Global 'Expertise': 1

The issue my work primarily concerns with is how to develop the 'global expertise' of the people that learns with us. Often, this is a bit too woolly, what is global expertise indeed, as expertise is seen as an ability to do something specific. And, in that is our first challenge - working out a definition and explaining why it is important.
'Global Expertise' grows out of the common sense dealings with globalisation around us. It is about being able to work together with people from all over the world, who come to work in and with our businesses. It is about taking opportunities that may be available to develop our expertise, and to derive best value for them. This is about adjusting with transient communities - communities that change all the time around us - rather than clinging to nostalgia and some fixed ideas about how life should be. And, yet, within this melee, global expertise is about developing a sense of self, a set of values, a professional identity and i…

On A 'West Bengal Model of Development'

My particular interest in West Bengal should be obvious: That's home. And, with all my familial and cultural roots firmly embedded, it is unlikely that my quest to be Global makes any difference to this feeling. In fact, the more interconnected my life becomes, I feel more connected to Bengal, even more responsible. It is a chromosome thing, as Amit Chaudhuri may have illustrated, and whatever I do, I can never truly stop caring. This brings me to one of the things I always wanted to do, build a coalition of all the people who care for the place to bring together in a global conversation on what can be, should be done. Indeed, this is not about government and politics - the state's politics remains toxic - but rather a civil society thing. However, as the recent rise of Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi has shown, the civil society's moment in political conversation may have come: 2014 and its momentous election may just be the perfect time for all concerned to engage in the conve…

India 2014: Democracy and Development

Indian election is quickly turning into a battle between democracy and development. Underlying this tension, there is a thesis that democracy is only a luxury and can wait. Despite India's pride in being a democracy, this idea is as old as the country itself. Many people thought it was madness to have democracy in India, a poor and illiterate country at the time of Independence, in the first place. The privileged, the upper caste Hindus, the landlords, the princes, the educated, almost always thought this was a disaster. Indira Gandhi's brief adventure in authoritarianism was cheered on by many of these people: This was perhaps the reason why she was so wrong-footed eventually - everyone around her told her that this was great idea until the voters threw her out. Wealthy Indians nowadays point to China's development and blame their own democracy for failing to catch up, and this has become well accepted among the rich, powerful and the non-residents. Middle Class Indians …

On UK-India Education Partnerships

One of the things I get to do is to talk many UK institutions about their partnership plans in India. This is partly because of my engagements in the India Education Conclave last year, and partly because of my general interest in the area: However, this is not a commercial activity for me, and my interests are primarily educational and of maintaining links with India. 
This gives me a rather interesting position of being both an insider and an outsider to these conversations, having just enough knowledge about the negotiations but a disinterested perspective, which is quite beneficial. I have noted my frustrations with the limited perspectives that the UK institutions often take in these partnerships, making the students the losing side in these transactions. (See the earlier post) What was left unsaid, however, is that the role the Indian institutions play, which contributes equally to the failures of these partnerships. 
Understanding the dynamic of an Indian institution seeking p…

The Consumer University: Understanding Financialisation

My contention that the idea of the university has changed since last time we noticed and talked about such changes (in works such as Jencks and Riesman's The Academic Revolution) and undergone what amounts to an 'Institutional Corruption', which undermines the effectiveness of the institution in discharging its public duty and undermines the public trust in the institution in discharging its public duties; and that such changes are primarily due to 'financialisation' of the institution, which can roughly be understood as enabling finance (financial institutions, financial rules, financial prism) to determine the shape, the priorities and the objectives of the institution.
Financialisation as a concept is attracting an increasing amount of scholarly interest. While the concept has popular acceptance, and there is a growing unease about the roles financial institutions play in our societies and how they shape the priorities, financialisation as a concept has wider i…

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