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 the teacher - who in the Cost Disease model have a limited productivity (because of the class size) - and augment her services through the use of technology, just as the string quartet would have been augmented by various forms of audio and video technologies. This is the underlying assumption behind various MOOCs, one form of exponential model for education, which puts the best professors from the top universities in front of the camera and allow people, regardless of their academic background, location or ability to pay to join in.
The other model for exponential education is based on an even more radical doctrine of Self-organising Learning Environments (SOLE), championed by Dr Sugata Mitra, whose early work on this area I had experienced first hand during my work in NIIT. The idea here is that with right enablers, which, in Dr Mitra's terms, are inspiration and encouragement, students can learn themselves, playing with machines which are designed for self-learning. This has also been tried and tested in various parts of the world, and gaining traction. In one way, this is radically different from the MOOCs, because the teacher here is not the Subject Matter Expert, but, as Dr Mitra is building, a Granny Cloud, a group of British grandmothers who just prod and encourage.
Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, in their new book, Bold, talk about a 6-D framework for exponential transformation of an industry. The D-list starts with Digitization, which has started in Education, with Google et al, creating vast stores of digital content. The next D is Deception, which is about that sinking feeling everyone had about electronic learning, all those shortcomings and poor performances that seem to say that this was going nowhere. Next is Disruption, the time to come of age, and this is where Education perhaps currently is. Whether or not MOOCs replace the college, it is already impacting the Lifelong Learning sector, perhaps the fastest growing segment of Higher Education, significantly. MOOCs, SOLEs and other initiatives are reaching out to the previously excluded, bringing non-users to access education, which is one key step in disruption. The last three Ds, Dematerialisation, Demonetisation and Democratisation, still lie in the future, though we have seen some significant movements towards the same. It is the last three Ds that could indeed unlock the exponential potential of education.
This next level transformation will of course need thinking beyond just the role of the teacher. The biggest challenge of scaling education is often the regulatory frameworks. In fact, education might not have been transformed as fast as some of the other industries just because it is regulated. Being educated is usually not about learning something but gaining credentials, and this credentialing function reflect the vested interests in the society. Therefore, even if the technologies exist, the educational consumption is not venturesome. If one is taking chances, they would not be talking about doing a degree. Rather, being educated is a very conformist activity, at least so far.
Getting outside this framework of conformity is what will get the new educational enterprises on the path of Exponential growth. Dematerialisation of education is not about getting away from the teacher-led classrooms and getting content on the cloud, but to go beyond the credentials as it exists today and avoid being degree sellers. This is also an essential step for demonetisation, because come to think of it, the huge costs of education has nothing to do with learning - because one can learn for free or at a little cost - but the regulatory structure whose sole purpose is to deny the validity of such open learning. And, surely, this is why education is not democratised, because non-recognition of open education is one essential part why regulatory structures remain in place.
There are some discussions about how to create a new, inclusive credentialing mechanism. Much of this discussion assume a central role for the employers, and seek to create a framework by which real experience could replace academic credentials. However, as I now know from experience, the employers are as much an entrenched part of the credentialing business as any other. The big employers, particularly in developing countries, are happy to replicate the social pyramid of privilege and exclusion, as they sit atop the food chain for talent. The disruption of academic credentialism is much more likely to come from start-ups and ecosystems that surround them, because they gain the most from disrupting the settled order. Indeed, the movements such as Uncollege married with start-up ecosystems stand the best chance in the dematerialisation stage of education, rather than the University of Phoenix model or even the MOOCs, which has only a limited ambition to undermine the academic credentials.
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.