This blog has become my space to converse, learn and reflect about education. Education, however, is a forward looking enterprise: While I explore motives and purposes of education, which is what I tend to do, such ideas are invariably embedded within our view of the future. My sense of urgency to work for educational innovation comes from the sense that we are at a discontinuous point in our history, and the magnificent model that we have built over last two hundred years may have run its course. This sense of urgency drives all my work, my current endeavours to set up online competency-focused higher education, to organise conferences around education innovation, of writing this blog and my studies and conversations. But, all these, as I am as aware as anyone, are laden with assumptions about the future.
While we may all anticipate a discontinuity - because our recent living experience has been a journey of continuous discontinuity - we may not necessarily all agree on the exact shape of it. Besides, it is difficult to imagine which parts of our world will exactly change, and this process, however scientific we want to be about it, is dictated by our own values and ideas on how we live. There is a view of the future which is emerging from Silicon Valley (and its offshoots in other metropolises around the world) - one of a 'power law' economy, in which a select 'information elite' dominate the world economy and take a disproportionate share of rewards, leaving everyone else with some kind of handout. While this is presented as obvious and inevitable, there are alternative visions which look equally obvious and inevitable from different vantage points.
The vantage points are important, because, as someone fighting for justice for poor peasants in India told me, the only future that matters to him is the one that applies to him personally: If he has to starve, he has to be ready for starvation. Education is, despite all our grand mountaintop visions, a deeply personal enterprise: One that is designed to educate me for someone else's future is inherently pointless. However, though it may seem so, we are not talking about designing education with a limitless number of perspectives, which will render the enterprise futile, but rather around a few key themes. Besides, the ideas about education should be informed by which vantage points are producing a misconstrued perspective - they are facing an allegorical rear-view mirror which makes future look like the past - and the job of an educator may be, first and foremost, to challenge such a view.
With this in mind, we can perhaps all agree that the dominant theme of education as it stood for last two hundred years, aimed at preparing people for various kinds of 'process based' jobs, is fast becoming redundant. Whether or not Information Technology can change the world, it certainly transforms the office jobs. As files disappear, so do those who filed, kept track of them and fetched them when needed, along with those who managed them. This may seem obvious at certain parts of the world, and less so in others, but it is a mistake to assume that low-cost economies are immune from such technological effects. What carries this technology wave even to those places where labour is cheap is globalisation, at one level of trade and commerce which brings the prices and wages closer across the world, and at another of values and ideas, where the managers, trained in a certain way in business schools, all start thinking similarly and measuring the efficacy similarly. This disappearance is important because, as it stands, this is what education is for, right now: Those who think that they can continue educating for such jobs just because their economies will remain protected should be challenged, and justifiably so.
But does this automatically mean that we have to buy into the idea of 'power law' economy? This view is that the convergence of automation and globalisation will out wipe out the kind of low cost advantages that powered the emerging economies in the last two decades, and create production and service clusters near where consumption is. This view seems plausible - a natural extension of the technological disruption we already see in office work and yet deeply disruptive, at least for the education frenzy the last wave of global sourcing set off in the emerging economies. However, there are fundamental assumptions underlying this view. This is based on convergence and expansion of consumption, and technological triumph over environmental concerns. Its effect, creation of a global information elite, depends on a global consensus around fundamentally contested concepts like money, intellectual property, propriety, value of human life etc. In many ways, this view is rational, but in the past, human civilisation did not follow the most rational course available to it: It often created different possibilities.
So, it is perhaps possible to imagine alternative futures even while accepting the preeminence of the machines. One may accept the growing powers of automation but reject the assumption that it will happen everything else remaining the same, i.e., within the context of the same value system that we live with today. Automation may fundamentally alter the value we ascribe to different things: Self-driving cars may make self driving a status symbol - a man of leisure! One may feel that the system of values that we live with is a given and unchanging: However, it is easy to see their social construction and know that they are inherently changeable. Besides, one problem that the economists have not solved yet in their grand vision of convergent consumption is the consumption itself: How to keep circulating the wealth if the power law economy comes into being. Self-driving cars are a great improvement, but they wont keep buying cars as cab-drivers do. The current proposals are based on tax credits, basically dole, to keep the wheels of commerce moving: However, one perhaps can see this more as an acknowledgement of the problem rather than a solution.
Finally, the emergence of the automated future also rearranged the resistance to it, and the shifting, malleable nature of this resistance, and the strange coalitions that this entails, perhaps indicate that we should not commit to any deterministic view of the future. The idea that the human beings are meaning seeking animals (rather than wealth seeking ones) should perhaps be taken seriously: Recent history may be read along those lines. Our assumption that all those who are protesting against the grand future are doing so because they are left out and desolate may only be partially right. One could clearly see that there are those among them for whom the protest, and the consequent misery, is only a choice - they have given up great luxuries to have chose the alternative paths! From the conventions of middle class life, such departures may appear inconceivable, but we may be approaching a point where middle class life become inconceivable in itself and the only conversation worth having is which departure one should opt for.
In summary, then, we need reimagine education in the context of the technological progress, but not necessarily by accepting wholesale a deterministic view of the future. The future is likely to be ever-changing, creative and full of possibilities, just as it always turned out be all the time in the past. If not, it won't be worth educating for.
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
Italy recently apologised to Libya for its occupation of the country between 1911 and the Second Word War and offered an investment deal of $5 Billion over next 25 years towards reparation. This is largely symbolic, and investment deals could have been done without adding this moral halo . But the apology itself is an important step. The key question is one of principle, indeed. It is about whether the occupying countries do accept that their colonial exploits did enormous harm to the occupied, and whether they are ready to accept the responsibility. As the world becomes more sensitive towards the wrongness of occupation [even George Bush was heard saying that occupation of Georgia by Russia is unthinkable in the 21st century!!], and the world justice system gears up to try the leaders causing genocide and violence, paying for past crimes - including occupation - becomes ever more relevant and important. There are several issues which are still hotly debated - slavery, for example,
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.