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Showing posts from September, 2019

Technologies and Progress

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As Brad Smith invited us to think - any technology can be a tool or a weapon. Which one we make it is our choice.
Often, though, technologies start as weapons before becoming a tool. This is not because all the technologies we have so far are inherently warlike, but because of the money. The powerful can fund the workshop and pay the craftsmen to produce what will give them more power. That many technologies, starting as weapons, become a tool later prove a good thing about ourselves: That our ingenuity is often peaceable and we turn weapons into tools when we can.
Here is a narrative, therefore: The crafty genius in his workshop, funded by and for the Prince, creates technologies of war, and it remains as such until another crafty genius comes up with its antidote. Thereafter, bereft of strategic value, the technologies are deployed in peaceable purposes. There is a lovely, benign, story of progress.
Of course, it's too neat and in real life, it's not sequential at all. Take…

The tragedy of Indian Education

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As India's universities fail to cling to their already precarious positions on global league tables, old concerns about Indian higher education have been newly voiced.
There is much to be unhappy about, not just the position on the league tables. The skewed structure of Indian higher education means the significant number of bright graduates, educated at great expense by the Indian state, leave India every year for fortunes abroad. Despite the overt focus on technology education in India, the technology gap with its neighbour and competitor for global influence, China, is alarmingly wide. And, for the all their swagger, Indian business schools have languished at the bottom of global league tables and their graduates still struggle to find good jobs in India.
But I don't want to lament here about the obvious. In fact, I wish to make a point which is its opposite: The obsessions about global league tables, technology lead or employability, the three key factors driving Indian …

Universities and Nations

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Universities today are as national as the Flag or the Anthem. They are expressions of the national idea, carriers of national message and embodiment of national achievement. Their places in international league tables make headlines in newspapers and politicians speeches, they form a key part of the national strategy and when they attract students from afar, it's counted as an export. 
This is perhaps all too obvious from the outside, but not so much from the inside. One may see, in the university's diverse student bodies, some kind of microcosm of humanity; the faculty may, in keeping with the enlightenment spirit, think they belong to a republic of letters. The international conferences, part of an academic's cycle of life, are portals of those wonderful communities of interest, where a shared disciplinary language - at least temporarily - reconfigure the ingroups and outgroups. 
This is all very ephemeral though, a cultivated feeling than a persistent reality. That tra…

Beyond Employability

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It's time for educators to acknowledge what even a first-time recruiter knows - that Purple Squirrels do not exist.
Employability has become a buzzword in education for several reasons. Governments want to measure and employability - both how many students are getting jobs and at what starting salary - is a neat metric to present to the taxpayers. Private investors in education know that employability - private benefits from education - is the raison d'etre for private education to exist. Whether the faculty, or for that matter, the students, at least most of them until the final weeks of their final year, care about employability is a matter up for debate, but this is definitely the big topic in the Education Conference circuits.
But, sadly, purple squirrels are not real. Employability is an empty goal.
Part of the reason for this is the same as we can't always find the right people for the right job. That gap is both spatial and temporal: As we would say colloquially, o…

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