Showing posts from April, 2015

New Education Business - Scale, Access and Relevance

There are two problems in modern education - access and relevance. 
Access is an economic issue, and it is mainly a developing country issue. The developed countries mostly have access issues sorted out, through various funding mechanisms, particularly educational loans. In developing countries, however, a number of issues come in the way of access, including physical (there are no schools to go to), social (people of certain caste, class or gender are not welcome) and indeed, financial (one can not pay for school or afford to be in the school). 
Relevance, on the other hand, is a more complex issue, and afflicts developed countries as well as the developing. At one level, educational relevance is about whether the person is getting educated at all, and we know that many people come out of school/ college not being able to do even the basic tasks meant for that level of education. And, at another, related, level, education does not deliver the expected outcome, job, career, self-actu…

Exponential Education

Investing in education is the rage. Given that there is a really big problem globally - of educational access as well as educational relevance - investing to create solutions that can scale is naturally attractive. At the same time, however, education does not scale very well, given the regulation, cultural barriers and deeply held conservatism that come with it. The current models of education, the ideal of personalised instruction, models of exclusive privilege, the idea of deep thinking away from the humdrum of daily life, the connotation of cultural development as a slow process, are all anti-scale. In fact, many people will privately deride any goals of scaling education, the idea that education is only for a privileged few is so entrenched.
The investors in new educational models put their faith on technology. Technology can help scale the classroom and beat the cost disease of education, as conceptualised by economists William Baumol and William Bowen. The point is to replace …

Time for A Sunday Post!

My silence over the last few weeks - I did only a few posts since the beginning of April - was only partly intentional. As much I would like to claim I was busy, I was on holiday, traveling through Middle Europe and taking a train journey through the Alps, something I wanted to do for a long time. A family of friends joined us, so all this was family and friends time, as relaxing I could perhaps ever expect. It was full of beautiful sights, the grandeur of Vienna rather overwhelmed by dark romantic Prague and natural magnificence of Salzburg mountains, and of contrasting experience, very touristy Sound of Music trip around Salzburg contrasted starkly with a monastery stay at the centre of Vienna. It was my time to be with others, and go around in a bus ride across Schonbrunn Palace endlessly for a day, and of being myself, an early morning walk through Bergstrasse to stop across the road from No. 19, where Freud lived and worked most of his life. 
But, this holiday, and the few weeks…

The SIM Model of Employability

In my conversations about Skills Training and Employability, I have started using the SIM model. This is indeed based on my various conversations over the last five years with employers and educators, and attempts to understand why the Employment-to-Education gap persists. And, indeed, SIM is the shorthand for the three dimensions of this gap, Skills, Information and Mobility, which I wrote about earlier. (See here)
Instead of seeing Education-to-Employment gap as a massive cognitive failure for the Educators, or an original sin emerging out of narrow self-serving attitudes of the employers, this model allows me to see why such a gap may exist. Indeed, over time, I have come to feel that I should be speaking about the problem in plural, or problems, because these three dimensions are really three distinct challenges to be overcome. And, anyone focusing on any one aspect of it is likely to be frustrated by the outcomes.
Consider the frequent complaints from the Skills Training provide…

Explaining The E2E Gap

Education does not readily translate into employment, hence there is a E2E gap, says McKinsey. It is a double whammy - we face an unemployment problem as well as a labour force problem - and causes all kinds of difficulties. On one hand, growing populations of young people, unable to find gainful employment, become disaffected. On the other, companies can not achieve optimum levels of production or service, and often operate sub par. This is a big problem, getting bigger, and this has resulted in some earnest discussion about all the elements of the E2E chain, flexible labour force strategies, more employment orientated education etc. 
While the Skills gap - education is not creating enough skilled workers - gets the maximum exposure, it is only a partial reason for the E2E gap. The reasons why E2E gap exists can be classified in three parts - Skills, Information and Mobility (how is SIM for an acronym?). 
Skills is a big problem, and educators endlessly debate why this is so. Driven…

Digital Native, Digital Immigrant and Digital Refugee

At a recent event, the oft-mentioned terms - Digital Native and Digital Immigrant - were invoked, with the cast-iron borders set by birth on or before 1985. I come from the wrong country here, but that is only part of my discomfort with the doctrine. This, and other generational divides, handy as they are, represent, for me, both a tendency to generalise and at the same time, to divide, representing two wrong ideas at once.
My first problem with this doctrine is even more personal than my age. Are the immigrants not the drivers of change and innovation? At a time when immigrants are being called Feral Human Beings by The Sun, the hateful British newspapers which would give up decency for sensation at the drop of a hat, being hunted down by bullies in South Africa, being demonised in Mexico and Germany, they are still proof of human energy and human enterprise, an essential part of what made the world we live in. Civilisations, as much as they may seem to be, are not monoculture - th…

College Or No College?

Universities are dying, we hear. This is a strange announcement, because more people than ever are going to the universities. The achievement gap between those who go to the university and those who do not are growing. And, going to university has become an universal aspiration, swelling in Sub-Saharan Africa and remote islands in the Pacific alike. This is an institutional form at the peak of its power, prestige and popularity. 
The point of pessimism is indeed that the promise this popularity is based on is floundering. The allure of middle class life, that of stable life, job and income, drives the millions to the University. Yet, the middle class escalator is jammed, as Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman says, and not many of the teeming millions going to the university can really realise that dream. The alternate promise, that there will be entrepreneurs, is perhaps all too optimistic - and, in any case, unrelated to the proposition of the university. So, while the universities are d…

Foreign Universities in India - Right Thing, Wrong Reasons

India is looking to fast track the legislation to allow Foreign Universities to set up campuses and even operate as For-Profits, Hindu Business Line claims. Indian media could be excitable, and we have seen such stories before, so this should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. However, given that this is a story on the Front Page of a respected newspaper, it deserves some commentary.
I noted in this blog earlier that I would be surprised if the Government does anything on the foreign education front. This scepticism was based on observations about the general approach of this government to Higher Education, with its urgency to indianise education and introduce, as much as possible, traditional Indian values into it. While this story only confirms some of the feelers I received earlier from people in the know, the consensus was that the Government would bring some new legislation just after the Budget session, it directly runs counter to the approach of controlling Higher Educatio…

India - Beyond The Back Office

I am in India, and one conversation that I notice is the aspiration to grow beyond the Back Office. More specifically, I am in Bangalore as I write this, the city which indeed built itself being the global back office, and one could perhaps both see the idealistic and pragmatic logic why India should grow beyond the back office.
The idealist rationale is about capturing a greater portion of the value that is created, as evident in the aspirations of the start-up networks here in Bangalore. These new entrepreneurs, unlike the generation before them, are not content building Development Centres, which will do the jobs of the Western clients. One hears conversations about building software applications that will potentially change the way things are done, here in India but also abroad. The confidence deficit that defined the Indian businesses in previous decades seemed to have lifted, and the talk of taking on the established global brands and players have started in all earnestness.

What Should You Know About Culture When Doing Business Globally?

I come up a lot against the issue of culture, given that I mostly do what one would call International Business, and do so in Education, an area which is so culturally specific that most people banish both International and Business from vocabulary when dealing with it. So, in my day-to-day interactions, I both come across the Not-invented-here syndrome, that anything from a different culture should be rejected out of hand, and its inverted form, that culture does not matter.

Indeed, I have a view, and I shall claim to be qualified to have one in this case. This, not just because I migrated mid-life and settled in another country, but because I escaped the entrapment of my native culture by deliberately trying to see it from outside. This, I believe, worked better for me than just reading about culture, which I had to do for professional reasons, and indeed, doing so made me think about the limitations of engaging with culture as a technical thing, a system of acting in a certain way…

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