I have been working in International Education for the last fifteen years. This has been an interesting journey as I have done various roles, right from teaching classes to establishing operations in different countries, selling courses as well as managing university partnerships. And, indeed, I was writing about this as I went along, using this blog as a scratchpad of ideas and records of interactions with people from different backgrounds and interests.
I am not sure I thought of this as a career path in any sort of meaningful way, but it somewhat became one. Some of the things I did was deliberate, others less so. In fact, if anything, I discovered that a career in International Education is quite different from what I perceived it to be. Or, that there is no career in International Education if one remained Indian, by appearance and at heart. International Education, in more ways than one, is about promoting courses from Developed countries in the Developing, and this requires a different approach, and I must add, appearance, to be successful there.
Instead, my idealistic impulses, shaped by my life experiences as a student in India and then as someone building education networks across the country (and then elsewhere in Asia), made me think that being in International Education is about combining the best ideas in education with the needs and realities of the countries like India in order to make peoples' lives better. This is indeed the rhetoric of International Education, but the reality is quite different. There is nothing about responsiveness to local needs and wants. In fact, the business of International Education often operates with the assumption that if one seeks international education, then the local options must have failed. So, it is indeed, at least mostly, neo-colonialism in the new garb, a tool for subjugation of the mind than anything else.
Matched with this are indeed the barriers various governments create in keeping education local! Though such restrictions are increasingly untenable because of the spread of online learning, education must be controlled as it is the well-spring of power. The local elite wants to control local education as this is both the justification and the goal of their power over local populace (I sometimes question whether the developing countries truly want to expand educational access) - and they want to keep away the International Elite entering their backyard. I became a first hand witness to this culture war.
From the tone of this post, one would perhaps see that I am rather disillusioned about the rhetoric of International Education. I have tried, in vein, to talk about the lessons that the global corporations have learnt over the last three decades about International Business - that the time for Corporate Imperialism is limited, that global is really multi-local, that the market at the bottom of the pyramid operates differently than other markets etc. However, Education is not an usual business - it is Culture business! And, regardless of what is being said, education is about power, privilege and peoples deep-seated assumptions about the hierarchy of relationships. Working in International Education, in whichever role, is about buying into, and reinforcing, these power relationships.
One may claim that the new, disruptive, technology-led initiatives (such as MOOCs) are all about democratizing (the American spelling is deliberate, as this is a very American word) education, but this is just another form of cultural domination, even more so because of the embedded technology. Technology is not value-neutral, but it carries the handiwork of its maker. When one organises the MOOCs in a certain format, and arranges a certain activities, it reflects a set of cultural assumptions and a certain way of doing things. That one may be talking about reaching out to a global clientele but unable or unwilling to discard, or at least examine, their own parochial assumptions, is a reflection how the business of International Education operates. No wonder if one listens to educators and students in Global South, which I get to do perhaps because of the mixed-up nature of my work, the limitation of this approach is clear. They are willing to eclectically draw upon the International Education buffet, but construct their own solutions - partly due to their reverse parochiality and partly because they see the designs quite clearly.
I am at that juncture in my career when I have started thinking about these issues deeply. I love what I do. I have come to see education of a certain kind as the route to emancipation, because, indeed, of my growing up experiences in India and my middle class background. I chose to live in Britain and went to study in different countries and institutions because I wanted to access global knowledge and culture. As with many other people from Global South, I learnt to embrace the values of enlightenment but reject its very Eurocentric view of the world. The hypocrisy of 'All Men Are Equal, but some are more equal than others' have become clearer to me because if this exposure, and through my work in International Education I came to see the contemporary application of that principle.
For me, such realisations should not lead to the rejection of internationalism though. Parochialism of any kind, whether that is top-down cultural imperialism that I am complaining about or the rhetoric of local fiefdoms, work against emancipation of the disadvantaged and opportunity for social mobility and creation of more open societies. There is a job to be done in creation of a new kind of International Education, which is not about lusting for a certificate from a Western university but one built around global exchange of knowledge, understanding between different peoples, and openness towards diverse ideas and cultures while appreciating one's own.
From that perspective, I know my work is somewhat misdirected. I love the writing and advocacy part of my work, and I guess I shall do it more as I go forward. However, I shall perhaps do less of the usual For-Profit work that I have done in the past, and do more work with local institutions promoting knowledge exchange and other projects that promote bottoms-up internationalisation rather than the other way around. My work in International Education would continue, perhaps in a different form, most probably in working with institutions in Global South to build a new approach to Internationalisation.
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.