2015: The Pivot Point

Finally, Christmas: Time to pause. I drove around rather aimlessly on empty roads, not least because my car needed a bit of run after being ignored for weeks of my absence. But driving around in Christmas is pleasant, often with no one else on the roads at all, except on the ones which are heading out of town. This was a perfect end of a year of wandering around without a purpose but with an objective, when being on the road was more important than going somewhere. And, like this ride, one gets to know which roads to avoid even on the Christmas Day - I now know what I don't want to do next year!

If I learned one lesson through the last couple of years, it is this: I have become weary of the educational-industrial enterprise. This is not just about profit motive in education: Having spent most of my time in For-Profit Education, I have none of the weariness about education businesses. I have, however, noted the apocalyptic view of sending the world to For-Profit schools: This, in my view, ignores the reality of For-Profit business models and that it is not very good in doing most of the things educational institutions are designed to do. This apocalyptic view really comes from the army of consultants, and a slew of trade bodies that belated caught up to this, who see education as one of those public-to-private conversion areas where money can be made.

This is now a either-you-are-with-us-or-against-us debate, and my view that businesses can play a role in education, both in defining the educational agenda and participating in education delivery, makes me a part of the For-Profit brigade. However, I hardly belong to this busy crowd, busy in undermining social commitments and value systems: But my view that For-Profit education is good for certain areas of education (and not others) is too nuanced to earn me any friends on the other camp of battle-hardened education workers who want to resist the attack on their privileges. Over time, through this blog and other activities that I do, I have tried to escape this debate about 'entitlements' and explore the more fundamental business model issues, and tried to find the difference between the claims made and deeds done.

This is the activity I plan to cease doing now. These observations, and commentary, were useful for development of my own thinking, but my agenda for 2015 is to stop critiquing these business models and to construct one myself. This indeed means lots of interconnected things: One part of it is to stop doing what I do now, a slew of things which are legacies of the past, and a range of consulting projects and skin-deep engagements, and start doing something I love with full commitment and engagement; the other part is to move geographically, because I see my work to be much more meaningful in Asia than in the UK. I have laboured on this decision for a while, but one agenda that I am signing off the year with is not to end next year in London but in Asia. My big decision was indeed about whether to move back to India: However, having engaged in India extensively over the last few years, I know definitively that I don't want to do that. I may indeed remain involved in Indian Education through my work activities, but my plans to relocate next year is not about India. Rather, my next experiment is focused on South-East Asia, and I am planning to relocate to Philippines (failing which, I shall go and live in Singapore) and to build connections and networks in the greater ASEAN area.

My big idea is indeed to create an Asian institution, which will combine the a good creative education, enterprise and social commitments together. The Asian idea of assimilation, rather than dialectical opposition of either-or thinking (which I also find in my other intellectual hero, John Dewey), is at the core of what I want to do. This may indeed take time - I am planning big and would have to wait for things to come together - but I want to make these commitments in 2015. I am hopeful that this engagement will give me what I want - hands on involvement where I can use my imagination and creative energy - rather than tinkering of the edges of the ideas and getting drawn into projects I neither love nor profit from.


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