About a year ago, I set out to do what I always wanted to do: To create a technology-led network of global colleges, offering competence based education abroad. I was fully aware that this is a challenging project, having spent more than four years thinking and planning for it. However, doing it was always going to be different, and it was - full of new insights, unexpected turns and opportunities, and learning, which no amount of planning could have prepared us for. I am coming to the end of the bootstrap phase that we had to live through to get things going. It is, therefore, time to reinvent myself.
One of the great rewards of doing something like this is that I come to know how much I wanted to do this. There should have been no doubt, given the time I spent thinking and talking about how this could work. I took on a rather unappetising job of working in a chaotic private college environment for a period to build my network and ideas: Those two-and-half-years of my life was not the rosiest time, but it was an useful induction into the muddy world of private higher education. I started and completed a Masters in Education from UCL - I thought I needed to understand education to do this as one would need an Engineering degree to do a software venture - giving up my social life and weekends for at least three years. However, living through a period of bootstrapping thereafter, one without income and supported by myriad part time work to pay my bills, was more intense than even all of these. The intensity of this experience made the first part look like picnic on the beach.
Hopefully, now, the elements of the plan are coming together. The courses are ready. The accreditation is complete. Some partners are getting started and soon there will be students. We are talking about an ambitious geographical diversity - once the partner centres open - with outlets in India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Vietnam. We are in the final phases of negotiation with institutional investors, and this may give us, finally, the financial platform needed to make this happen. This is a moment of start of a new phase of my life - and this time, not just an imaginary one - which must be lived anew.
My life, so far, is all agency and no structure: I have become that kind of person doing various things and creating things for myself, rather than living the usual happily ever after scripts most of my friends prefer. I am always full of long term plans and ideas of big projects; I would like to believe that I am that sort of hardworking dreamer one does not find too readily. The dreamer bit is all too obvious, indeed; but I would always point out that I have followed those dreams diligently, and often made them happen. I have changed careers, gone back to school, earned professional qualifications and lived in three different countries, which is quite a journey from my suburban beginnings which seemed to have clearly defined, or at least attempted to, what I could or could not do in life.
This boasting, though, is not about claiming that I have arrived, but just about pacing myself for the next plunge. And, at this point, it is indeed the next plunge: I am, at this very moment, trying to imagine my life anew and setting goals for what I want to achieve. This is an useful exercise, because what I achieved is only part of the story: At the same time, I know that my original goal was to see the world and indeed get back home, and I have so far done neither. Coming and living in England was only a step in that process: What must follow is a stint in another country and then eventual return. Indeed, this whole global education project was about this: This is my way of finding my way back to the world.
So, as I build now, hopefully, the networks of global colleges, I am ready to move to Asia or Africa, wherever work will take me. I shall indeed be seriously looking at moving to South-East Asia, as I see that region to be critical for U-Aspire's success. This is also the region which will help us maintain close connections with India and build our network there. From my previous experience, I know this is possibly the world's most dynamic region, with the exception of silicon valley; and I am one of those people who believe in a powershift within a couple of generations. This is also a great base to do business in India, with my home in Calcutta being 4 hours away from Singapore.
Surely this is an aspiration rather than a plan right now, and I am not going anywhere this Christmas. We are talking about a start-up here and not a huge global bank, where people can move with an week's notice. By announcing the intentions here, I start a long and elaborate process of planning, getting ready, just as I did for my business: It took me more than four years to come to the point of launch. However, this is a goal that I intend to pursue - this is in alignment with what I always thought and spoke about. I am not yet sure what path this will exactly take, and how it will really play out: But I know that if this is what I really want to do, I have to work for it and start working for it now. This may include sharpening my understanding of the region, learning Bahasa Indonesia and developing a network of contacts there, all of which may take time. But, as I have come to see it, this is the logical next step in building my global expertise.
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.