Looking forward to spring

Katy Milkman points out that the Spring solstice is a good time to start new things. Certain days work well, her research shows, to start new endeavours: New year's day, birthday, anniversary of something significant! I have missed this year's start to do anything new; right now is my next best chance. I am in the middle of a big change. I, along with a few other people, built a business over the years. But it was flawed from the start. My partners had different aims, which they, self-declaredly, did not disclose. It was more like an academic project put together, without proper structures. I went along with it, acknowledging the limits of my power and boundaries of my engagement. The goal for me was learning and doing, which I have done in abundance. But it was never meant to be a successful in its original aims because of its structural shortcomings, and right now, it is being morphed into something other than its intended form. It is painful, as it will be for any creator in

From skills to capabilities: Changing the language

  Are skills dead? It is awkward to ask just when everyone is talking about skills. In our post-GPT age, the consensus is that while ‘higher education’ may be over, we are entering the age of ‘skills’. Governments worldwide are pouring money into skills education, multinational agencies and think tanks are publishing reports on which skills are needed, and even university leaders are straying into the skills language. Yet, the same reports, employers, and experts are talking about the ‘half-life of skills’. That skills get outdated was known, but we are now talking about them getting outdated faster than it takes to master them. For example, a programming language becoming outdated in 2.5 years would mean that it would not be required by the time one gets to a level of professional maturity in programming with that language. One can argue th

Chronicles of a search: Reflecting on 2023

I have learnt a lot in 2023 and want to put that learning to use in 2024. Chiefly, I have tested and clarified some ideas I have had. I got involved in Higher Education somewhat accidentally. Mine did not follow the career paths of my colleagues - a graduate degree leading to a university job - but rather an unsual one: A technical job leading to a career in professional trainining, which in turn led to recruitment (I worked in healthcare and technology recruitment for almost four years), which, in turn, got me curious about what colleges do. Because of this background, I did not start in any academic role or even an administrative one, but was recruited for transforming an institution trying to figure out the linkage to employment. Everything else, including teaching and curriculum development work, came thereafter. Therefore, while I have now spent over twelve years dealing with details of academic planning and administration, my peculiar experience focused me on transformation of ac

Chronicles of a search: Finding my calling

As the year approaches its end, I am travelling around in Europe by train. The apparent pointlessness of my everyday life is pretty obvious from the distance. The usual vocabulary - revenue, valuation, strategy etc. - appears lame from this vantage point. Walking through cathedrals and works of art that stood for centuries, one can see the boardroom pretentions are empty, just speculators speaking to one another. I don't know how I got ensnared in this game, but it was surely a mistake. I never intended to be a 'founder' because I find the idea of founding something for the sake of exiting utterly contradictory and ridiculous. I have more respect for the shopkeeper who toils away her days to keep food on the table than the humbug to fuel a bubble economy with lies and bluster.  Fortunately for me, this party is coming to an end. It was never meant to be serious in this particular case: I didn't think anyone really believed in what we were trying to do and therefore, we

Chronicles of a search: Starting from Prague

New years are for new beginnings, and I am readying myself for one. I have lost my way. Comfort had me, somewhat. Despite all my fear of comfort zones, I became too comfortable with what I was doing. And I haven't moved forward in a while. Hence, a full reset is necessary. I have to break away from the slot I got onto. Part intentionally, because I lacked the energy, but partly because I am bored playing the small game. To sit and watch the world go by is painful. Being limited by the neocolonial international higher education more so.  I came to Prague to start the journey. The next chapter of my life would be a lot of Europe and a lot less India. I am looking to revive my pre-Covid project of moving to Spain, though I don't have a definitive project in hand. It could be anywhere now, anywhere in Europe, including Malta. In fact, Malta is a leading candidate for me as it speaks English and I am getting to know Education Malta well. And so will be Germany, though the news today

Chronicles of a search: What's moral?

I am lately in the question of morality. I almost know that it doesn't matter. History tells us clearly that the sense of morality is historical (what was right in one age, was wrong in another) and mostly relative (based on the person's station in society and context). Yet, a sense of morality is the bedrock on which our certainties about life stands: If there is no right or wrong, it is almost impossible to make the choices one has to make all day, everyday. My problem, therefore, is not that moral sense is pointless, but the unsettling question that I have the wrong sense of morals. I have always maintained a level of integrity at work, and a level of transparency in personal life. For example, I tried to be dutiful and consistent, respectful towards others, democratic in disposition and never greedy or envious. In personal life, I believed that the transparency of emotions will keep me honest: Even when I am making a mistake and don't know it, being open about what I am

Chronicles of a search: Becoming

We are the stories we tell about ourselves. I am one of those writers in search of a story. That story has not appeared, yet. But I am always crafting one. In this, it is not the start that confounds me. It has already begun - I am in it! The reason I have never written because I can not end it.  Because I lack courage. Around me, so many stories begin and end everyday. In fact, I also see beginnings are endings too. But I still can't write about it. Happily-ever-after is cliché, death or departure is beyond contemplation, something dramatic is too unreal! In that sense, I live in the precipice of the story, that kind of safe bourgeois existence where nothing really should happen. Therefore, I am just going from chapter to chapter. But the script is becoming quite predictable now. Characters seem to be desperate for something to happen now. The narrative is becoming one of those overextended TV series whose writers have run out of ideas. Something got to happen - and I am waiting.

Chronicles of a search: something got to change

I spend a lot of time speaking with educators. Most of these conversations are about two things: How the world is changing and how higher education does NOT need to change. The assumption is that there is an unmutable core of higher ed: Some type of transcendent purpose beyond the question of practical application and economic returns, beyond here and now, something that can not be or should not be measured. This is very hard to argue against. What kind of lowlife I would be to question an educator dedicated to building better lives?  But I usually leave with a question. If we want to improve lives, is getting the students to attend school and making them read textbooks the best way to do it? Besides, we don't even do it for free: We make them pay for the pleasure of becoming a better person and often their parents have to sell their land (or liquidate family savings) to be able to afford it.  For me, there is indeed an unchanging core of higher education - that to be able to take

Chronicles of a search: Building a model of enterprise education

I have been on the road for almost two months and now heading back to London. As I write this using the inflight wifi, I have a strange feeling: London is no longer home. It feels just like another stop in a much longer journey, the time for which may have come now. The last year was rather exceptional in my life. This time last year, two things happened. We were doing a little project, as consultants, preparing students for digital economy careers: We decided to showcase what we were doing at a conference in India. One thing led to another and suddenly, we were in the venture game, raising money etc. The project became a company and the goals fundamentally changed. I feel sad about that loss of innocence - there was once a time I could look forward to building things rather than being a part of the speculative world of venture finance! The other way my life fundamentally changed is that this time last year, we got to know that my father has pancreatic cancer and doesn't have long

Rethinking Higher Education: Five building blocks

It has been repeated so many times, it is now a cliché: Our next thirty years will not look like the last three decades! If anything, ever since the end of the Cold War, it was mostly peaceful, mostly prosperous for most of the world. However, One can clearly see that some of the building blocks of that world are shifting now and a new ideas environment is emerging. We don't have to be pessimists to know that the lives of our students would be very different from ours. If we are to design a higher education system today, many things must change. Particularly, there are five foundational assumptions behind how we think about Higher Education, which need rethinking. First, the idea of SMART - a version of the idea of general intelligence ('g')! We may talk about diversity and inclusion, but fundamentally, higher education and the idea of merit are closely linked. This comes from how we organise the school system, which attempts to separate students into academic and vocationa

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