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Showing posts from October, 2015

Inverting The Education-to-Employment Debate

The Education-to-Employment transition is one hot debate worldwide, with a host of endeavours, both within traditional education and outside it, directing enormous amounts of money and innovation towards solving it. And, despite all these efforts, gap is just getting wider, and more and more people are completing education but not getting a job. And, besides, if one looks at starting salaries, the problem is even worse - underemployment is rife and level of jobs that these candidates get often do not need the education they have got.
All of us possibly know people who did not get a job after finishing education, and indeed, people who are underemployed. But, chances are, we also know people who found their groove, as one would say, after a few years of drifting around. I almost see a pattern with people who come out of school with a degree in, say, Arts, that they would have a succession of poorly paid jobs and internships, and then, the most resilient of them, would actually start o…

The Question of Company Culture

There is a conflict at the heart of management - the question of culture.
Culture will eat strategy for breakfast, said Peter Drucker, and he, as always, was right on the money. And, yet, culture gets insufficient attention in management practise, although not in management theory. Many small companies, who collectively employ more people than ever, think of the question of culture really as a big company thing. 
The underlying view is simple - you worry about culture when you are a big company! It is logical too, because big companies are large, somewhat inorganic entity, having to align diverse elements all the time in pursuit of certain objectives. In contrast, small companies are, well, small, organic entities often consisting of a man and his dog, where the business is defined by the opportunity of the day. The day-to-day reality of the small company makes the question of culture, which is often long term both as a concept and in impact, a luxury.
But, the point is - even in thi…

Three Identities and The Story of India

Simplifications are good for focusing our minds. Without claims of being exhaustive, they are wonderful tools for us to see what really matters. Hence, here is my attempt to portray the story of Independent India in the story of three competing identities.
It must be said that the politics of identity is indeed all about simplifications, with the pretencion of being exhaustive. You can be one thing, and nothing else. Though in real life we carry multiple identities - a British Citizen, Indian by heritage, Entrepreneur, Blogger, Teacher, Liberal, Friend, Son, Brother, Husband and Father can all be the description of the same person at the same time - Identity Politics is all about highlighting one primary identity at the expense of all other. In that formulation, a Socialist may become a Socialist Father, even if there is no such thing. But, despite its apparent absurdity when seen in the context of individual life, such simplified identities are the life-blood of group life in the co…

Degrees - Foreign or Local?

I get asked a lot - what is the value of a foreign degree?

The correct answer is - it depends. It depends on where you study, what you study and where you are from.

We know the first part already - where you study matters. This is both in terms of the country where you went to school, and the school you went to. The school matters more than the country, but if the school is obscure, the country counts.

The effects of other two parameters - what you study and where you come from - are seldom talked about.

The discipline matters a lot. Parthenon, a consultancy (now part of EY), studied the effect of foreign qualification on job prospects of a candidate and pay. They concluded that while employers prefer a candidate with foreign qualification over others, it has no discernible impact on pay, except in some disciplines. They pointed out Hospitality and Digital Media as two of the areas where foreign education impacts pay, and perhaps it is easy to guess why that would be so.  In other ar…

On Open Frameworks and Talent Exchanges

In my work at the fault line between Education and Employment, it seems obvious that we have this problem in the first place because of the closed frameworks we have built. In Education, the accreditation has become an end in itself, and educators try to solve all the problems with a course, a big hammer no matter how tiny is the nail. Employers, on their part, are focused on identifying and attracting employees who have specific skills as required, another closed framework with a tiny opening. 
At one level, everyone seems to be happy with the situation as it is. Educators are intent on building a complete person who does not need a job, and employers are happy with that perfect employee whose education does not matter. At another level, this is a big social problem, as politicians sell their middle class economics on the basis of education-to-employment transition. They usher in globalisation at will and hail technological progress, and promise the magic of education to make this a…

Going Beyond Happiness

Whatever Jefferson meant with Pursuit of Happiness, it has become a global mantra.

We may like, hate or be indifferent to different aspects of American life and culture, but this essential American Dream now underpins the Chinese Dream, Turkish Dream, African Dream, Indian Dream - dreams everywhere! It has become a governing philosophy, and sometimes at the expense of the other two essential aspects of life Jefferson had in mind.

True, happiness means different things to different people. An Indian may see it as a comfortable life alongside his parents, which would perhaps be unbearable for a Brit. A man would define happiness differently from a woman. But, despite all these differences, our society could be defined as one unified in pursuit of happiness.

Why did this catch on? When Jefferson was writing, Life would have been the most important goal, given the number of autocrats then ruled the world, followed by Liberty, which was perhaps the point of his writing. Pursuit of Happine…

A Model for Global Professional Training

The time to change Professional Training has come.
Despite its prominence, Professional Training hardly features on the agenda of Education Innovators. This is because of its legacy - clearly defined professional bodies, enabled by charters, defining the standards and assessing the competence - and its clear linkages to jobs. In many ways, this is the least broken part of the modern, industrial age, education system.
But this is perhaps not the picture one gets to see from inside. The professions, and the national monopolies that they implicitly draw upon, are indeed challenged by the same two forces that are transforming education - globalization and automation! Some professions are more exposed than others, and in some countries more than others, but there is an unmissable case for transformation. 
To understand why it is so, one needs to look at the changing nature of professional knowledge. That there is self-service (or should we call it DIY?) in many areas from tax returns to l…

From Knowledge Workers to Relationship Workers

As Machine Learning becomes real, our minds are focusing on what really is human. There has been a flurry of publications, both scholarly and popular, exploring this - some looked at which areas humans can trump the machines, and others at how to organise the human society when we arrive at the age of intelligent machines. We are looking at anywhere between 2030 to 2045 for Singularity to be achieved - the machines become generally intelligent then (instead of the current special purpose intelligence they are now programmed with) - and while some may have a different view on this, no one is doubting their effect on the workplace. Automation is reconfiguring all human work, and by extension human societies. It is time to explore what this really means.
There are some excellent studies that I wrote about earlier which assess what humans can do better than machines. These superior human abilities, as Researchers figure out, fall under three categories - Dexterity (our fingers and bodies…

The New Global Higher Education

To paraphrase Dickens, this is the best and the worst of the times for Global Higher Education.
There has never been a time of greater demand and greater desire for it. As millions join the ranks of middle classes in Asia and Africa, the West, its lifestyle, income levels and culture define the shape of the dream - and global higher education represent the pathway to it.
On the other hand, these students were never less welcome in the metropolitan centres of Europe, Australia and the United States. For all the high-minded rhetoric of borderless knowledge, the West feels overcome with migration, the modern-era exodus through the heart of Europe being its most visible manifestation. It is under an intellectual seize, with extremist rhetoric and isolationist tendencies on the ascendance. Global education, in the form we came to know it, has never been more difficult to attain or costlier.
One crucial factor that opens this chasm is the nature of the new middle classes. In a sense, the …

India - What's The Beef?

If it was not so tragic, it would be amusing to watch Indian politicians fight it out on television on the issue of eating beef.
The facts are indeed tragic. A family was accused of - wrongly, they claim - eating beef at their home. So, a lynch mob sets on them, kills the father and mortally wounds the son. Politicians appear on TV, with Ministers quoting Gandhi how he would have preferred a beef ban. The ruling party, true to its Hinduvta, proclaim that, for them, life of a cow is sacred, though human life may not be (in context). 
This is indeed supposed to be the most populous democracy on earth! And, one that revels on its diversity and culture of tolerance! That rhetoric is alive and kicking, but the ruling party, elected on a mandate of economic development, has been pursuing a social agenda by stealth. This is just the latest flash point in the silent transformation of India.
Regardless of the party in power, though, India has an appalling attitude towards lives of its ordinary…

Exit and Voice in Higher Education

Rajiv Sethi, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, calls Albert Hirschman's book, Exit, Voice and Loyalty Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States, one of the finest books ever written by an economist. However, while by that description this short treatise stands alongside Keynes General Theory or Adam Smiths The Wealth of Nations, it has none of the glamour and recognition of these peers. Yet, in some ways, Hirschman's work has a timeless quality about it - its topic and its exposition appears strangely contemporary despite the frantic transformation of our world and our thinking since the book was published in 1970. 
Hirschman was dealing with an unconventional subject in Economics - decline in firms, when they do not do things well - and therefore, his work stood outside the mainstream economics. Mainstream economics, as Hirschman himself pointed out, operates on the basis of 'Consistent Rationality', which means decline of operating perform…

Education-for-Employment : The Role of Information

I spent a lot of time over the last few years at the fault line of education and employment. This is a sort of no man's land, a messy swamp of practice that many educators would ignore in their pursuit of an imaginary complete individual who need not care for a job! The employers, who built industrial-scale recruitment operations with the aim of commoditizing hiring, would not bother too much about this area, which fell outside their area of influence. Well-meaning executives, who privately wished for better education in their country and community, thought it best not to challenge educators in their own turf, recognizing the institutional nature of education and feeling rather powerless to change anything. However, almost everyone admitted there was indeed a big gap, and a range of initiatives were spawned in the recent years to solve the problem.
In this, I had taken the usual journey. It started with seeking out better courses - could one design courses to meet the ever-changi…

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