The conversation about Education Innovation should go beyond Education Technology, and try to address fundamental questions: Do we need schools? What should the teachers' role be? How do we make people think critically? What makes students creative and innovative? What credentials should one have?
My favourite one among these is about Professional Education: How should a '21st Century Professional' train? There are several reasons why I want to ask the question. I have seen professions transforming both from inside - as a Professionally trained Marketer - and outside - as someone working closely in technology and technology training. But, more importantly, I ask this because this is not a fashionable question to ask. That professions, defined as a sort of social monopoly in some service areas, are supposed to be well-regulated and well-defined, which makes them less susceptible to change, and as a result, near-blind to the possibility of change.
But this immunity means nothing when deep and fundamental changes are setting in as a result of technological change and changes in the global economic flows. This is particularly relevant as globalisation reaches service industries, after fundamentally altering manufacturing. The services, accounting, media, law, and perhaps medicine, is globalisation's brave new frontier, and while machines do comparatively less well in services (than manufacturing), its impact has been no less dramatic. It is not for nothing one would say that United States has lost more jobs to Microsoft Word than to China!
The headline example of the transformation of the professions could be the recent Indian proposal to establish new professional regulators for Accounting, Company Secretaryship and Medicine. This is surprising not just because India's Charterd Accountancy body, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), is one of the most powerful and closely-guarded in the world, but also because India is not any hotbed of innovation in Professions and Education and rather, one of the most conservative of the professional cultures. Indian Civil Service, for example, still does not accept any outside expertise - for example, from Academicians or Corporate Leaders, as is common in other countries - even in the case of pressing requirements. The professional bodies affected by this move have been quite willing to exert their influence in policy-making - ICAI successfully kept big 4 and other accounting firms out of the lucretive audit market and resisted the global accounting standards successfully - and their members occupy most of the major decision making roles in the industry and in the administration. And, yet, the Indian Government wants to create a new and independent regulatory body, separate from the Professional bodies, with the intent to promote India as the 'Global Service Hub' - an effort to globalise to take advantage of globalisation!
The effect of technology is all too well-documented, and right across the spectrum, from the still-precarious practice of self-prescribed medicine to bot-Lawyers and book-keeping software, professions have been transformed. While it may be easy to dismiss the possibility of an algorithm replacing the needs of professional skills and expertise in foreseeable future, we should know that technologies have fundamentally altered the nature of knowledge - we are validating professional advice, rating our doctors and connecting with communities of users of professional services - and this is a fundamental change in the way the Professions operate. There is no smokescreen in effect, and some professions are less ready for this transparency than others. And, finally, expectations are changing too: As professionals change from 'knowledge workers' to 'realtionship workers', the concept of professional distinction and paths of professional progress are being redefined.
The problem that the Professional Bodies face in redefining their trade is that their charter, their reason for existence, is built around protecting the profession and its privileges, and not to push an agenda for change. Most changes, particularly the self-sufficient customers, are likely to be a threat to the very existence of the professions. And, this is not just a technology-versus-profession narrative in which the profession should be the 'bad guy'; Intuit, a technology company which made its fortune by disrupting the accounting profession through its book-keeping software, fought change in their turn when the Federal Government wanted to simplify individual tax returns that may have eliminated or reduced the need of its software. However, Professional Bodies are designed for a state of stability, rather than the flux we are into, and are often low on imagination how the next generation of professionals need to be trained.
While some aspects of the answer are obvious, that the next generation of professionals need to be more global, more relationship oriented, more technology savvy, and more transparent, it is more complicated to create a workable model within the current professional structures. Take any of these aspects - the balance between regulated processes and global-mindedness, for example - and the emergent picture is always more challenging. The mindset, inevitable at the time of great change, is that there is an inevitable trade-off between these newly preferred abilities and the traditionally defined competences. While a customer may not see the logic why a friendly doctor may not be competent as well, for the Professions itself, whose job it is to define the standards and work as a gatekeeper, there may be a real trade-off in valuing one competence over the other. For them, it is also accepting broader, externally defined standards in the place of well-established code of practices: The professional oath of a lawyer has now somewhat been superseded by the demands of transparency, and this may indeed mean a new way of looking at, and doing, things.
While these conflicts and trade-offs often make the conversation about change of professions into one of entitlements, of winners and losers, with technologies on one side and professionals on another, the true challenge for professional bodies to meet is one of rising expectations. What the customers (or society, if you wish) want is faster service, greater empathy, more inclusivity and deeper transparency. Framing the story as one of 'disruption', though the word means two different things for technologists and professionals, does an enormous disservice, and take the focus away from how we should train the next generation of professionals.
Indeed, these demands are not new, but we are at a point when these demands have become so crucial to the professions that they are fundamentally different. So far, the Professional bodies responded to these 'additional' demands by creating 'Plus' models - introducing requirements of soft skills, adding technology training, creating premium Continuous Professional Development courses for global exposure, and upping the standards of transparency - but stopped short of redefining what the Professional Expertise meant. So, even with this new and updated standards, an Accountant is meant to be an Accountant, not a Finance professional trained to measure risks in a global and technological environment, adept at making decisions and communicating this to the wider world. This has led to crisis of the professions: Professional Accountants ignored strategic risks, respected organisations failed to detect their own conflicts of interest in advising and auditing the client at the same time, etc.
My work now is focused on creating models for a new professional education - globally conscious, technology enabled, relationship centred - in a variety of ways, through deeper employer engagement, set in a global environment and built around ethical and strategic reflections within the context of professional work. The starting point of this is an Accounting programme delivered remotely in various countries, and I am hoping to transition that into various professional areas and in a global setting, combining travel, work and collaborative study.
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
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
The Creativity Imperative Businesses today consider creativity of their staff as a critical, possibly the most critical, factor for their ongoing survival. This is because the environment, political, social and commercial, has become so fluid; as Yogi Berra put it, “the future isn’t what it used to be”. Constant change, demanding and more aware customers and citizens, rapid information dissemination through new technologies of information and communication, and intense competitive and regulatory pressures, are pushing companies and people who work for them to innovate and adapt continuously. Set in this context, employee creativity has a whole new meaning. It is traditionally understood as people thinking about products and services, which did not exist before, or tweaking and improving the existing ones. Competitive pressures add to this creativity imperative. Information is fast and cheap, and communication technology is driving the costs of production and distribution
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.