I actually had a good day today. Relatively, at least. This is the first time in many weeks a Friday evening feels like a Friday evening, when I can cosy up with a book somewhere for a well-earned rest after a hard day's work. I know why this is happening. I travel too much, run around too much. It upsets my routine - I work odd hours at different time zones - and while I am working so hard, the work never actually ends. It keeps coming as I hop from one place to another, one project to another. Then, when I come back, I am like a Zombie for at least a week. I fail to allow myself the rest, or if I try to do this, others jump in. So, I live on unmade beds and dusty kitchens, my car does not start and often important mails get lost in the interminable pile.
I am feeling settled now because I was in England for a while now. I did go to Ireland for a couple of days, but that was not too long to disturb my schedule. I am more or less coming back in step in now, though I can see mountains of work as I look around. Besides, this week was productive, full of ups and downs, but in the end, I got somewhere.
One thing I do not like in what I do is the focus is too much on short term. The more difficult the market becomes, the more short term everything becomes - resulting in a frenzy, almost a stampede. I lived as a NIIT salesman for a number of years, and that was not cosy at all. There were constant pressures to achieve growth, all the time. But I remember Raji Pawar talking in one of his conferences [with us, regional managers] where he talked about how funding for education ventures should be different from the funding of software businesses. Basically, he was saying that these two businesses give different types, and levels of return. Hence, the investor expectation should actually be different in these two businesses. Those days, NIIT used to be one business - training and software - but later they split it into two. I would think this short term/ long term investment objective was one of the key drivers for that decision.
Even after I have left NIIT, and it is five years now, I remembered that discussion. And, that sets the perspective of my thinking when I see the privately funded education spreading fast in India. In fact, this will probably be one of India's biggest growth industries today, and after the global financial crisis, as money leaves real estate and stock market investments, education is becoming the next hottest destination. I believe in the power of enterprise and the individual investor's ability to innovate and improve, while government bureaucrats are unable to do either, by design. However, one of my over-riding thoughts is how sustainable is the model of private investment in education in India.
This is an interesting point. No doubt, private investment in education is needed. This is needed for capacity building and the country's long term competitiveness. Government can not, would not be able to create the kind of explosion of capacity that we are going to need. So, some kind of private participation is inevitable. The question is how much and in what form.
My fear is this: If you look at the education market in major Indian cities, there seems to be a glut in business schools. There are dozens of business schools. All of them charge quite a bit of money, though there seems to be a price pressure forming on how much an MBA can go for. However, even more are being initiated. This is more because of economic reasons: education is big business, and there is a lot of capital on flight from the stock and real estate markets.
However, we have seen this before, there will soon come a point when education institutes will fail. They sure fail in every country, but in India, before they close their doors, they will do silent harm by offering low quality teaching and selling degrees. This is obviously because the regulatory framework is flawed - too lax where they need to tighten the belt and too tight where innovation and enterprise need to be allowed in.
But I think the key point was what Raji Pawar told us. He thought investments in education should be made with an expectation of steady long term returns. He thought investors who seek such return, like pension funds who would want to invest in predictable, no-surprises business, will be ideal for an education venture. However, looking at the current spread in India, you can see the problem in the 'quality' of capital. Besides, this quality of capital issue also distort the market and bad capital drives away good capital from business sectors. I am sure the government is doing a lot, but it sometimes feels that they are trying to do too much.
And, we unfortunately have a fairly unimaginative HRD ministry, which is unlikely to change even if there is a change of government after the elections. HRD ministry, unfortunately, is seen as a retirement place for ministers in India. Unfortunately, that too is short term thinking.
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
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
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 was gui
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, as
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
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
A lot of conversations about Kolkata is about its past; I want to talk about its future. Most conversations about Kolkata is about its decline - its golden moments and how times changed; I want to talk about its rise, how its best may lie ahead and how we can change the times. In place of pessimism, I seek optimism; instead of inertia, I am looking for imagination. It is not about catching up, I am arguing; it is about making a new path altogether. It had, indeed it had, a glorious past: One of the first Asian cities to reach a million population, the Capital of British India, the cradle of an Enlightened Age and a new politics of Cosmopolitanism. And, it had stumbled - losing the hinterland that supplied its Jute factories, overwhelmed by the refugees that came after the partition, devoid of its professional class who chose to emigrate - the City's commercial and professional culture evaporated in a generation, and it transformed into a corrupt and inefficien
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.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.