Employability, at the time of writing, is the buzzword in Higher Education, some sort of holy grail defined by the governments, pursued by the institutions and seen as an opportunity by all sorts of companies, including the large ones involved in publishing. A number of initiatives are underway: New websites and apps are being developed, new books being published, and there are even companies which offer 'employability certificates'. In short, the confusion in Higher Education is in full display with this business of employability.
This is a worldwide issue. It is an old one in America, and most people are therefore keen to import content from the States. It is a new one in Britain, as the Government of the day has suddenly woken up to it and mandated that every university should publish data on students' employability. It is a critical one for India, where the poor quality private schools are creating a degree inflation but the students are mostly stranded without a job, causing all sorts of problems. A number of companies, including Pearson, is already building solutions for employability training. I also met a number of Indian entrepreneurs who suggested that employability training, rather than higher education business, is the most interesting thing in India. Good luck to them!
For me, employability training is like payment protection insurance, one shouldn't need it if they were rightly evaluated in the first place and their education actually worked. The reason we suddenly have all the buzz around employability training is because Higher Education Institutions have failed their students. So, we have swathes of degree holders who can't do a thing, and in most cases, are looking for what newspapers call 'graduate level jobs' without necessarily having the required skills.
The source of the problem is manifold, but starts with this mirage that higher education means a better job. This is then amplified as poor teaching, out-of-touch curriculum and pointless certification are added on top of this. Suddenly, we have graduates who may have a degree but have sleepwalked through the college. On the other hand, the tutors in colleges have felt that it is not their job to think about employability, as the students should pursue knowledge for its own sake - just that s/he forgot to tell this to the Admissions Counsellor. In summary, as I said, the buzz around employability training tells us how badly the Higher Education has failed.
Because, Higher Education should make students employable on its own. We shouldn't talk about disinterested pursuit of knowledge unless we attract students who are interested in that: We can't sell Higher Education as a life-changing proposition and then, at the end, turn around and say that employability isn't our job. Worse is the pretension of those who believe that employability can be injected into someone with a few hours of additional training, and laughably, can be certified.
May be, I am being pedantic, because what most of these employability training does is to present packaged formula to get through interviews etc. They should rather be called Interview Prep workshops rather than employability training. However, I think even that basic job of interview preparation is not easy to do, and there are certainly no formula to get it right. In fact, trying to give people wisdom is usually the worst thing one can do, to create false confidence, which backfires in most places and leaves the candidate clueless. Besides, most interview preparation workshops are done by people who have been on the receiving end of the interviews, so this is an art of mostly blind teaching the blind. Employability training, in short, perpetuates dis-employability, if there is such a thing.
It is not easy to solve the problem, admittedly. It is not about talking to employers and getting the right requirements, because this may mean too many specific skills which may leave graduates with very narrow career options. It is not about changing the curricula with labour market movements, because there is a time lag by definition and one would always prepare today's graduates for yesterday's jobs. It is certainly not about training on and certifying employability - who cares about such certificates anyway?
However, there is an easy solution, which is far too obvious to be glamourous. It is about making education work - endowing graduates with practical skills such as good manners and communication, enterprise (which means flexibility and eye for an opportunity in context) and the practice of hard work. Every employer looks for those skills, and one of the reasons behind graduate unemployment is the fixation of graduate level jobs, of which no one has a right idea. I shall happily hire the person who says he has been working in a newsagent while looking for a job, over the person who kept looking for graduate level job and sat unemployed (in Britain, on Jobseekers Allowance) for many months.
I know this will not float employability boat, nor it will please the HEIs which are used to selling Higher Education as a mixture of voodoo and rocket science. But the only way, at least in my mind, to get it right is to wake up and acknowledge that employability isn't something people wear around their necks, but something which people acquire, through hard work and commitment.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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 ‘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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.