Showing posts from March, 2014

Reverse Migration: Good or Bad?

I spent an entire day today discussing Reverse Migration and how this could be facilitated through Corporate Philanthropy. The underlying assumption of the whole exercise was that reverse migration is good thing, and we did little to challenge that assumption, and focused instead on the mechanics of how this could be facilitated. Since this discussion was in the context of a region I don't know well, it was inappropriate for me to question the assumption that everyone seemed to have taken for granted. However, it does create an opportunity for reflection within the contexts I know - India in particular - and think whether reverse migration is a good or a bad thing. Such ambivalence may be completely out of place given all the research about Brain Drain that we know of. And, the case for this may be acute in some cases: There are more Ethiopian Doctors in America than there are in Ethiopia. My college years were full of readings regarding the economic impact of brain drain (al

Why I Studied Adult Learning?

Over the last three years, I have had several conversations explaining why I chose to study Education, and particularly Adult Learning. It struck some people as odd that when I thought of gaining professional credential, I chose to do a Masters in Education, rather than an MBA or study online learning technologies; and, that I chose to focus on Adult Learning as a discipline, and not study Compulsory Education, which is indeed the more popular thing to do for an Education graduate.  It was a common sense decision for me, as I wanted to pivot my career into Adult Learning: All the things I did in the last few years, taught Postgraduate courses, wrote curriculum, designed online environments, explored international partnerships, wrote and conducted assessments, explore education policy, and built an education start-up, all those activities centred around this one clear decision to build a career in adult learning. So, the decision to study the discipline formally was a no-brainer.

India's Journey: From Manmohan to Modi

India's election in 2014 is going to be a defining one. Whoever wins, and whoever becomes India's leader afterwards, it is going to be a definitive break with the Post-Independence Republican experiment. And, though it is far from certain that Gujrat's Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, will finally prevail, powered by a carefully orchestrated campaign by the American firm APCO Worldwide, his prominence is symptomatic and an indicator of things to come: Hence, the title of this post. There are lots of things in balance. The balance between the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the city and the village, the English Speaking and the non-English Speaking, the Big City and the Small City, the metropolis and the regions, the Majority and the Minority, all the balances that the constitution makers had to grapple with, during the founding days of the republic, are up for grabs again. The foundational principles, yet again, need to be interrogated. However, we are per

Developing A model for Adult Vocational Education

After having spent one year on developing a management training proposition, I am at a pivot: My principal focus of my work is developing a system for effective skills learning. In one way, this is an extension of the management training idea that we started with; in another way, this was at the core of our thinking all the time - how to connect learning and practise and make people effective practitioners. However, this may represent a broader change - and perhaps a meaningful one - that this will take us beyond the management training. As I am learning as I go along, management training is less about doing things, despite the idealised conception of it as an enlightened practise, and more about prestige, credentials, rankings etc. The point of it is, as one of my students put it, whether you can 'talk the walk'. So, my current project is about getting involved in Adult Vocational Education in India, and developing a model that can work. There is lot of talk about vocati

UK-India Education Partnerships: A Personal Perspective

I often get asked about doing business partnerships in India, primarily, but not exclusively, by UK educational institutions and training companies. Indeed, this is my day job, because the UAspire proposition is largely based on building partnerships in India: Lot of my work is now directed towards writing reports and strategy papers on the same. However, my usual advice to those who approach me to do the work has usually been to turn around and ask - why do you need to get into India? True, India is perhaps the World's most exciting Education market. It has all three things that an educational institution may thrive on - lots of students, a not-so-good domestic competition and an industry hungry for skilled employees at all level. It is English speaking and most of its institutions are shaped by the colonial legacy, which makes it even more attractive to British institutions. The Indian institutions and businesses, potential partners, show a prima facie interest in attaching

Is English Unstoppable?

English is fast becoming the world's language. While some Frenchmen are perturbed, and call the language penetrating even their universities 'American' rather than English, the Tower of Babel seems to be reaching a final solution.  Why does this matter? The apologists of English do not see this as an imperial project but a triumph of pragmatism, a natural corollary of globalisation and rise of an uniform consumer ethics. And, indeed, there is one view that it is the 'democratic' nature of English - the language can be molded and adapted to its host cultures infinitesimally - that makes it so popular. They claim this is not about English or American, but the story of many Englishes. So, you can speak any language as long as it is called English, which means an expansion of what some observers will call an Anglosphere. This is a sphere of influence of a certain kind of rhetoric, enabled by the unity of media and thinking. In one way, this is a function of te

Does India Need More Universities?

Indian policy-makers always come up with this comparison: United States has more than 4500 degree granting institutions, but with four times the population and a middle class of the size of US population, India has only about 700. So, India needs more, is the implicit conclusion. There is no clear consensus on how many more universities India needs, but one tends to hear a number between 1200 and 1500. However, in the rather hasty rush to create universities, as expected, India is creating more problems for itself. Surely, university creation is mostly state business than a Federal matter in India. But states have caught on to the Central rhetoric. Some states in India allowed private universities, some allowed a free-for-all business, but some, like West Bengal, MP and Maharashtra, always maintained a conservative line. Those last bastions seem to be falling now. Consider West Bengal: It is no surprise that the Communist Government that ruled the state for more than 30 years

Reflections and Interests: Five Minds of My Own

I have always been a great admirer of Howard Gardner's work, and therefore, my views of the abilities required for the future is indeed informed by his formulation of the Five Minds - the Disciplined Mind, the Synthesising Mind, the Creative Mind, the Respectful Mind and the Ethical Mind. To put it simply, these are the five cognitive abilities and/or ways of being Professor Gardner thinks are necessary for a professional of the future. It is quite a departure from the 3 Rs, Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic, that I grew up with, and like many of Professor Gardner's other work, this indeed seems intuitively correct. However, while thinking about these Five Minds, it is perhaps important for me to think what these means for me, and how I shall further develop these abilities and skills. And, only as I do so, I can start translating some of these ideas into my practise - develop five minded professionals through my various educational projects.  Disciplined Mind

Rise and Fall of Vocational Education: An Indian Story

I have written about vocational education and the imperative of fresh thinking in the field. My point is that we may be at an inflection point in the history of work, both in terms of technology and in terms of economics, and one needs to carefully think through the likely path in their own country context to develop an appropriate model of vocational education that works for the people. The current models, rolled out primarily for political reasons, unthinking, badly implemented and out of step with time, usually works for no one other than providers, usually local big businesses, and global publishers, who tend to recycle their obsolete materials into the developing countries. I find it fascinating that governments around the world has now bought this vocational education mantra, but doing it so badly that they are doing more harm than good. My ideas are partly a reflection of my experience, and I thought of writing about my experience in Indian vocational education in general

Politics of Vocational Education

Vocational Education is in deep trouble. Despite its new-found charm - it is often flaunted as the panacea for development problems - all its existing model is out of date. All the money being poured into it, and quite a bit of money is being poured into it globally, is going down the drain. And, this is not just an implementation problem: There is a deep idea problem here. Vocational Education is currently perceived to be a canon fodder for a non-existent canon. The received wisdom is that all the developing countries of the world would go through the stages of industrial development that the developed world has gone through. And, therefore, they need to build up a skilled workforce, using the lessons learned in these industrial countries. They are lucky, they don't have to go through the trial-and-error, the social upheavals, that the developed nations had to go through: They just have to pay up to buy the ready standards and intellectual properties from these developed nat

On Knowledge

One of the most troubling questions for me is what is happening to knowledge. Knowledge has been commoditised, I am told. It no longer matters, as one can know by typing a string of words on Google. My interlocutors' point primarily was to say that education must change under these circumstances: It should be about something other than knowledge. That knowledge is easily accessible is a somewhat common-sense observation, but I wonder this is one of those things that we call conventional wisdom. While it may be waiting on the other side of Google, do I always know what to type? And, even before that, do I know what I should be searching for? Would this count as knowledge? However, I must concede that the contemporary discussions about the effect of Google on Knowledge somewhat acknowledge the first issue: Knowing how to search. In fact, this is their precise point, that education will be less about memorising facts and more about the mechanics of fact finding. That has

'From The Ruins of The Empire': Interrogating The New Asia

I have now finished reading Pankaj Mishra's From The Ruins of the Empire, a fascinating tale of the idea of Asia in the time of European conquests. This is a colonial history in the reverse, a sensitive, balanced tale of interactions, tensions and ideas around the lives of men who made it. The story is structured around the lives of two central figures, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838 - 97) and Liang Qichao (1873 - 1929), and their many contemporaries who debated and developed the idea of the new Asia in the face of the advances and adventures of the newly industrialised Europe. Other prominent Asians, men like Rabindranath Tagore, Gandhi, Rashid Rida, Sun Yet Sen, Lu Xun, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, leading men of Japan leading the Meiji restoration and imperial Japan, the young Ottomans and European Socialists all make an appearance, all in stark contrast with the old world colonialists such Lord Elgin, the Czar, David Lloyd George etc alongside a rhetoric-obsessed, duplicitous Woodr

Towards A New 'Framework' for Vocational Education

Vocational Education is the new-found panacea for development problems, we are often told, as one ambitious programme after another are rolled out by High Profile politicians. I have earnestly followed the fortunes of many of these programmes, often looking from inside as well as outside, here in Britain, in India, in Malaysia, and in Africa. I have written about these experiences on this blog, mainly noting that these programmes usually represent a colossal waste of public money, offer poor education and fail to build up confidence and professional expertise among the learners. While there may be successful experiments, society-wide as in Germany or in individual cases (I have also written about the historical Bailey Schools in China, which kept the economy alive during the Sino-Japanese war), these lessons are usually ignored in the now-prevalent model of mass scale vocational education, funded by the state, delivered to the unemployed by 'providers', usually commercial org

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