I am getting into that time, after 18 months of bootstrapping, when people have started asking whether the personal sacrifice is worth it. My views are unchanged: I am soldiering through my otherwise miserable life of lecturing four days a week to earn the keeps, so that I can do one thing that I really really wanted to do in life. This is about building a truly great educational institution.
I know it does not make any sense. Educational institutions are all about big money, big land and big buildings. It is about having grants and scholarships, playing to the tune of government policies. It is about rankings and prestige. You don't just get up and create an education institution, much less a great one. I disagree.
My ideas may be less quixotic that it sounds, and here is my defense: That we are at a time of fundamental discontinuity. I am one of those who believes that the next twenty years isn't going to be like the last twenty years. This is not just about Internet and technological nirvana, though that plays a big part in my thinking. This is also about how society will change because of this, and because our institutions may start changing fundamentally. And, if there is one institution which needs to change fast, I see that to be the educational institutions. This is, therefore, the object of my work: To build an educational institution which will be fit for the future. And, I don't see any.
That's a big statement: The world is full of great universities doing cutting edge staff. Technological progress isn't going to knock them away. But then, I see that those universities are somewhat blinded by the technology and prestige, and neglect the key role of education in the society - creation of opportunities. In fact, these great institutions do more to worsen our social problems, stratification and exclusion, than other facets of our society. And, so far, balancing the great institutions with the ones designed to 'widen participation' has been a failure.
Because there is no clear will to widen participation, not inside nor outside the education system. My perception is that this is all a big game, an elaborate system of status, power, politics of entitlement, with its own reality shows and reward systems. I see the narrative of the modern universities (which I intend to write about when my life has settled down a bit and I can spare time to write) in terms of the sub-narratives of adjunctification of the faculty, rise of processed knowledge and credential-driven student culture. So, we increasingly have institutions which look more like an ordinary business organisation than an educational institution, run by and full of managers who manage, but does not teach - and often does not know, and does not want to know, the students. The people who teach are most marginal in this bureaucratic organisation, rather like factory hands who come and go. The knowledge creation and its celebration is a process, structured and tied to the sources of money and their dictat, ever more increasingly: It is not the creative persuation but the ability to play the system that become, more often than not, the chief narrative of academic life. And, finally, students who are almost like shoppers, engage in a quest for credentials and careers. The confluence of all these factors to me, all of them entirely justifiable, though a touch tragic, represent the rise of the 'consumer university', which is an incredibly efficient organisation but one without any guiding purpose. It is like a factory which produces goods that no one should need except its own mechanics of marketing that makes people feel they need them: It is a great system till the music stops.
My work is based on the assumption that we are in stoppage time. If Robots take our jobs, the road to Nirvana through university education will become harder sale. Inconvenient truths like the fact that 28% of university graduates in the UK in 2007 was still without full time work after three years will become discussable. The graduate premium is really not a graduate bonanza, but rather reflect the disappearance of non-graduate jobs and salaries will become apparent. So, my point is how do we create a system of education which is inclusive, but yet open up its students with intellectual stimulation, imagination and all that is needed for the future.
Indeed, this is all connected to the view what the graduates will need for the future: What I am after a system that enables Global, Creative, Practice Oriented, Technology Savvy, Lifelong Learners. Agreed, I am only just at a starting line, and it is a lot to talk about. But, my lack of money shouldn't be taken for the lack of commitment or ambition: This is what I believe the graduates of the future will look like and I am still working on the nuts and bolts of an institution that can produce such graduates.
Such as, a distributed institution: This is not going to be based in one place but will be embedded in many communities in different countries, all linked together by technology. The learning will be all about creative application and exploration of practices in real context, in association with employers, social organisations and businesses, in these different countries. The pedagogy will represent a balance of teaching, project work and online learning: isn't that the shape of all learning to come? And, finally, the consistent focus will be self-responsible learners - we want to go back to those conceptions of education when one didn't stop learning at the attainment of the credential, but rather was admitted to a brotherhood of the seekers at that point. More prosaically, we want the learners to demonstrate initiative and take charge of their own learning.
Right now, my work is imagining this new institution, and slowly, haltingly, imperfectly, putting this together one step at a time. There are days of despair, balanced by occasional joys of finding a fellow traveller; there are moments of privation, all made worth by some unexpected interests - all the things that start-up life means, but more, primarily because at the end of road, the promise of reward is so much greater than just making money.
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.