We have no choice but to turn to technology if we have to solve the problems of mass Higher Education. In Higher Education, we have so far taken a model that was designed to serve a few, and tried to expand this to service the needs of an exponentially larger population. By doing so, we have worked ourselves into the twin problems of soaring cost and declining quality, alongside other attendant problems like creeping irrelevance of Higher Education and degree inflation. In this setting, the only way to create and run a High Quality Higher Education offering is to maintain selectivity, but the social value of it is highly questionable: One could argue Cambridge is a great institution because it only admits great students, not because it does a greatly superior job in teaching.
This presents a number of problems. First, this is neither consistent with social expectations, a selective system is seen as elitist and a target of regular attacks by politicians and policy-makers, nor it is helpful for economic development of any country, as selectivity means a huge waste of human abilities and shortage of skills for industry and other employers. Selectivity also hugely distorts the educational preferences of the populace, attaching more prestige to more selective subjects and institutions, and regularly burning out a significant number of people who fail to make it and wasting a vast amount of talent of others who go through the gates only to realize that they have come to the wrong paradise. The quest for selectivity often undermines the efforts to teach better - the elitism creeps into the tutors and the students - and makes the learning increasingly disconnected from the real world. In a sense, selectivity somewhat distorts the purpose of education - that of opening up human possibilities - and end up creating more old boys' clubs than we need.
What's worse is that the century-old argument that selectivity indicates a meritocracy, which is somewhat fair by definition, looks increasingly thin. It is easy to buy advantage in terms of better schooling, educational resources available at home and parent's connections. British Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, found himself to be in a bit of a pickle when it came out that he got his first internship in a big investment bank through his father's connection: He indeed defended this as a 'common practice'. There is increasingly debate that America, seen as a land of opportunity and of meritocracy, is growing an educational aristocracy through its prep schools and ivy league institutions, while the aspirationals, the rest of the middle class who are chasing the higher education dream, end up broke after taking huge loans and spending this on useless education handed down by various out of touch state universities or greedy private colleges.
As the American student debt exceeds its credit card debts, and across the pond, the British government takes the first steps to enforce an American style education system, the only way left for educational policy-makers and leaders is to look seriously at technology adoption to solve the problem. There are hugely successful examples already: The British Open University, founded in early seventies, have been a great example of using the technology available at the time, broadcast media, into education. This has opened up education for many, and the Open University courses have excelled not only for expanding access, but for quality and rigour as well. This has allowed a flexible format for people to construct their own educational experience, picking and choosing courses to construct their awards and combining various methods of learning to achieve the learning objectives. However, Open University remained committed to its core audience, British Working Class, and have only allowed limited adoption of 'High Technology'. Besides, Open University is designed to be the University of Second Chance - an effort to re-skill the British working class women and men for demands of a service economy - whereas the current challenge is to stop young people from dropping out of life altogether because they can't afford or don't find interest in education anymore.
This must call for serious attempts to employ technology to solve the education question, and indeed, private sector is better suited to play a leading role than the public institutions, which are currently caught in the middle of an antiquated model of education delivery and the selectivity conundrum. There is already a lot of technology employed in education, but the model so far has been to employ the information and communication medium to serve the existing paradigm of education: That of teacher as the guru, learner as the receiver and knowledge flowing more or less in one direction. One would argue that things have changed and we have moved on, successively, to the age of teacher as the designer and then on to the learner as the designer, and from education being classroom bound to open education and then, omnipresent education. In the age of mobile searches, Google Goggles (which recognize objects, and though Google did not release the feature, can recognize faces and search information on people's details), Facebook friends and always-on networks, the medium must alter the message: One needs to create a model of education which can follow the learner. We have so far avoided the debate and tried to hide behind academic rigour: But, as Open University has shown, access and academic integrity are not necessarily at odds. What is needed is imagination - shall we call it re-imagination - of what education can do.
Rest will be easy.
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
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
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.
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. Reli
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,
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
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.