Vocational Education is designed to be a poor man's thing. It is for those kids who faltered through the school and didn't do okay in the things that matter. Those who couldn't get the right GPA or work out the system of examinations to get a good college. Those whose parents never went to university and didn't know what counts in the game to get to good college. Those who perhaps couldn't pay the tuition for the private school. You get it - those who are not smart enough, not connected enough, didn't know enough.
I see this as an opportunity. Because the whole system of exams and colleges are so misdirected. They are almost always preparing people with wrong skills and abilities, for professions that may cease to exist soon. I could see a model of vocational education that could be constructed on the back of various government attempts, vain and pointless as they may be, and provide a disruptive force in the education sector of the developing countries.
The reason for being so optimistic about vocational education is because the opportunity to innovate in vocational education is quite wide. Because it is a poor man's thing, no one gives much attention to it, and therefore, regulators, who keep all kinds of education innovation beholden to vested interests in these countries, are less fussed about what happens in vocational space. The current outpouring of money in vocational education has already been mostly pocketed by big companies under useless projects, but there is still a smattering of it available for small companies for the sake of legitimacy of the whole thing. And, besides, a bit of Jugaad, despite my deep aversion to the spirit of shortcuts that this means, goes a long way in vocational education, but does not help in highly regulated Higher Education space.
So, this is what I want to do: I want to create a network of vocational education training centres for vocations of the future. And, I want to create a model by which the learners get self-esteem at the same time, and not just feel like a failure as they usually do when they arrive in vocational education. This is against all cultural stereotypes in these developing country settings, but I want to create an opportunity for people to say that they did not go to college and they are proud about it.
This, I hope, will result in better education. For a start, the students we train will be able to do something, will be good at something. They will have none of these middle class confusion and aversion of doing anything by hand. This may sound idealistic, but the only idealistic assumption there is in this plan is that with the right stimulus, everyone can think. And, once unleashed from the stranglehold of education regulation which are mainly designed to ensure that social privileges don't spread out too much, vocational education of this type can be the change agent these societies need.
I am thinking in these terms because mentally, after labouring with U-Aspire for more than a year, I now seem to know what I don't want to do. I have come beyond the initial proposition of U-Aspire being the conduit of British education abroad: While we still offer British courses, we do so for its merit and design advantages, not because of its Britishness. This allows us to think about costs and designs that are appropriate to countries it is offered in. The second change, which I am getting at as our first course cohort in India come together, is that I have given up on the goals of pleasing investors, and focused instead on making it worthwhile for our learners. This means small groups, focused offerings and less time spent on thinking how to scale or what our margins are. I think it was a huge mistake that we spent so much time thinking about these issues, alongside the customary business plan, initially. I am at a point when I have realised what a wonderful opportunity there is to create a worthwhile model for vocational education by being responsive to the markets we operate in, once we are ready to play the long term game.
Therefore, this new plan: To create U-Aspire Academies to offer a range of courses in Entrepreneurship, Digital Media, Creative Professions, and Business, a space for people to learn skills really well at a global standard and start their micro-enterprises. My starting point is India, where we are planning to leverage our partnership into a Joint Venture and create the centres on our own. These ideas, that we need our own centres and that we would rather establish a model on the basis of vocational education, are new, but I have a deja vu feeling once I got to it. At the core of it remains our original ideas of global-local education, competence-based learning and deep engagement with companies and start-up ecosystems; but the additional element is to manage the environment and pedagogy that we initially planned for. This somewhat reflects a reversion of importance of scale, and the fact that we are less focused on Higher Education, though all our courses will have a Higher Ed pathway. The learning is immersing, delivered with deep engagement; it is funded through the existing arrangements of funding vocational education. The courses will be delivered in English, and learning the language will be one key part of the overall learning experience.
This is indeed not a big change from the original model. But there are important differences: We thought we would deliver courses using partner facilities and personnel, but now looking for greater involvement and control. Though we do the same courses, our proposition is pivoting to the 'vocational training' space rather than playing the Higher Ed game, which means a change of target audience and the value proposition. This is now less about doing a British qualification, but more about doing a flexible qualification which allows competence-based credits to be counted towards an educational qualification. And, finally, this will be about entrepreneurship at the core - an idea I always carried with me - rather than jobs and employment, as Higher Education is deemed to be.
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.
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
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
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.