Showing posts from January, 2015

Humanities and Leadership Journey

I taught a course called Leadership Journey for a few years in a college in London. This was part of their post-graduate programme for practising managers. It was a great little course embedded in an MBA type programme, the difference being the emphasis on practice. The participants were to plan for their own development of leadership capabilities and compile a portfolio of reflections backed by evidence, which made it very different from most MBAs. This was part of a management course, and the rest of the programme dealt with the usual HR, Marketing, Finance, Strategy stuff. However, this one constituent course stood out, because this was more about the learners and less about any one subject, and everyone could choose their own paths to write their portfolio. I did indeed try to encourage a diversity of approaches, though not many of the learners eventually tried to be creative. Indeed, they saw this course without any fixed content as an invitation to do whatever, which means

Rethinking 21st Century Skills

The label - 21st Century Skills - is popular, but the definition behind it are questionable ( see the previous post ). However, this is not to deny that the skills we need - to live and to be successful - are evolving. One interesting and oft-used thought experiment to figure out what we may need is to compare the experiences of a time traveller traversing through the last century. Say, we could get someone from 1900 to come to the world of 1950, and another person from 1950 to come to year 2000 - who do we think would experience greater changes? It is perhaps the person from 1900, who would see automobiles, aeroplanes, widespread use of electric lighting, airconditioners and tall buildings, who might experience greater changes in the material environment. But it is the person from the later half of the twentieth century, traveling to the threshold of the twenty-first, comfortable at first seeing only incremental changes (faster automobiles, bigger planes, taller buildings and more a

India 2015 - The Fragility of Future

Some time back, on the eve of the 2014 General Elections in India, I wrote about the Indian Republic (see Resurrecting The Republic ) as perhaps the greatest achievement of India, and hoped that the Indian electorate would vote sensibly to protect it. I argued then that handing out the Hindu Nationalists a mandate may endanger whatever we have achieved so far. I feared that we might have taken the Republic and the democracy for granted and might, therefore, stand to lose it. A few months on, the Hindu Nationalist take-over has happened, with some predictable outcomes. The development talk continues to dominate the agenda, with the government making tall proclamations while back-pedaling on the old ones. The greatest achievement of the new government so far has been a slew of development friendly ordinances, ten in eight months in office, which they have adopted without reference to the Parliament. So far, there was not much of economic good news, except the Bombay Stock Exchange

What Are The 21st Century Skills?

We have come to accept that there are certain things called 21st Century Skills. That these are distinct from what used to be 20th century skills, and universal across national boundaries, are implicitly accepted. A common list is also emerging, which include things such as communication, problem solving, critical thinking, initiative, and collaboration, skills that underpin any kind of 21st century work, presumably.  The list appears in slightly different modified form at different places, but words, as always, hide more than they reveal. We have no commonly accepted definition of any of these things, except claiming, like pornography, we know it when we see it. But it pays to explore the assumptions that lie behind the idea of 21st century skills. The first assumption, as Philip Brown et al underlines in their insightful Skills Formation in the 21st Century, is that there is a global labour market. The idea that there could be some universal skills valued across national bo

Conversations 26 - The Employability Question

Right now, the theme of my life is getting rid of legacy!  2015 has began positively for me, and I am able to focus on the tasks at hand and also starting to think about the future. There were some minor strokes of luck too, after I thought it had abandoned my path altogether. So, into the third week, as the expression goes, I am looking forward! Which should start with stopping to look rearward. I have been clearing my desks - and indeed my inbox - as quickly as I can, and have started to say no to many of the propositions that come my way. I am indeed tempted by academic life, something I want to live and some of the proposals I have will perhaps allow me that, but I have now resolved to be in business for a little while longer. In fact, after my experiments with living through 2014, I can not afford not to. So, here I am - intently focused on one problem, which, after Mckinsey, everyone seems to call the E2E gap. My day job concerns bringing the educators and employers

Who Wants to Remedy Graduate Unemployment?

Graduate Employability is a big problem. Depending on who you ask, we are looking at 30% - 40% of the graduates not being employed within a reasonable period of time after leaving college. The problem is so bad that we are inventing ways to hide it. Instead of bring it to the fore, we club graduates who get a job and who go to post-graduate education together, and ignore the cases of underemployment, so that we get some respectable data. The granular data that we may really need to address the problem, such as how many of our graduates are working in fast food shops, may present us with a bigger problem, that of busting the myth of the college altogether. We would instead focus our attention to other soothing pieces of data, such as the existence of a college premium. It is soothing but problematic because, people going to college earns more than those who dont, the gap is widening only because people who dont go to college have seen their incomes collapse, while the premium has been

Conversations 25 - The Idea Of An Institution

My agenda in 2015 is to be able to build the kind of institution I keep talking about - a global, entrepreneurial, practical, creative school.  I know the idea but I dont know where I should eventually build it. One tempting answer is, everywhere, which was indeed at the heart of my earlier venture. The technology to reach out to people wherever they are exists today, and building an institution on them is a sort of no-brainer. But, having tried this, I want to build a more traditional institution enabled by those technologies, so that it can reach everyone, but at the core, it offers a rich experience and cohesive purpose for all its learners. One of the things I learned through all my ventures is that it is the purpose that defines an institution, rather than its physical locations, courses or technologies. Too many people think too much about everything else, but forget to ask the why question. My essential starting point is indeed the why question - I see that to be the m

Global Workforce Crisis - Open Competency Frameworks and Learning Commons

The hottest discussion in education is the development of Open Competency Frameworks. Gone are those days when a list of courses is the language educators would throw at rest of us. The conversation is now very much around what the education does, because that is what everyone involved in education, government, employers, community and students, want to know. Yes, indeed, there are far too many prospectuses around with endless lists of courses, but we are getting to a point when they need to be rewritten. However, while there is some kind of consensus emerging around the idea of competencies, there is no such agreement on what they should be. Many educators feel that competency is a corporate word, and education should not subject to employer interests alone. This is indeed a justifiable stance, given that employers are often focused on immediate opportunities and not on building capacity and future options, but the educators must offer a better alternative than a list of courses

On Endangered Words

I am through with a fairly busy Conference Week. My silence on this blog was because of this, though the reason may be slightly less obvious. It is not that I did not have time, I actually never have any time to write this blog, but because I was in the middle of too many words through the week, and I did not add more to it.  Conferences are wordy affairs, as some people they should be. They are usually places without windows, full of people carrying around conflicting agendas and expectations, judging the person sitting next to them with the corner of an eye to see whether they are worth wasting a business card on. They are words, words, words, and indeed, some numbers, graphs and charts. They are about big statements, and going by the consistency of the statements that get made, never to be followed up again till the next conference, when those statements are to be remembered and repeated.  But conferences are also great places to chart the fortune of words, as they rise an

Education and Automation

Automation is fundamentally changing the way we work, and therefore, the society.  Even if one doesn't believe that technology determines everything, it should be added that the social forces, that of capital and of our present governments, also want automation to happen. Resisting automation, at least so far, hasn't been successful, and those who took that stance were generally pushed aside, along with their ideologies.  So, if we are looking at a perfect storm of automation, what is the most appropriate educational response? There are no easy answers, indeed. No one really knows what will really happen when we reach a tipping point of technology, when machines can learn themselves and can do cognitively demanding tasks. The optimists believe that this will be a good thing, as long as we can build a perfect welfare society that supports a dignified life for most people, allowing humans to do higher level of work, and those not capable of doing so, supported by a

Making Sense of India's Skills Training

I wrote earlier about Skills Training in India and how the bureaucratic intervention may have changed the shape of an entire industry. The point is that a change of course is urgently needed, and without it, the current 'skills industry' may end up doing irreparable harm to India 's economic competitiveness.    One of my correspondents made the point that I have not made any concrete suggestions how India could manage the massive task of skilling 500 million people. My four suggestions were the government should (a) try to leverage existing infrastructure of schools and colleges to provide employability skills training rather than trying to create additional capacity through private sector, (b) the government should take a more active role in professional training and encourage upskilling of those at work through training vouchers, (c) the government should look at incentives for employers to encourage them to train their people, and (d) that the government shoul

Mourning The Death of Humour

From: David Pope

Global E-School: A Personal Note

Global E-School is Global and Entrepreneurial, but this is not an entrepreneur's school. It is for all those who need to be creative and imaginative at work, which is going to be everyone, really. I see this as a twenty-first century school responding to two big trends of the time, globalisation and automation. The idea is to build the school to prepare its students for the new workplace that's rapidly emerging. Some of this may be obvious but are immediately resisted. Education is supposed to be a forward-looking enterprise, but also the most tradition-bound. This is because education's function in our societies is perpetuation of privilege and not creation of possibilities. But this is also why the model of education that we have is under threat, because to change the society, and society is changing not in face of any revolution but under the weight of technological change that it itself is bringing about, one must change education. HG Wells' point that history

'Post-Professional Society': Education and The New Middle Class

India is Education's El Dorado: Everyone wants to go there but no one knows how. I say that often enough, sometimes to my peril. People like to treat me as an Indian Education specialist. My past experiences in Indian education, particularly the hard-fought bit played out in small town India, make me some sort of a tour guide to this El Dorado. It is indeed a problem for me if the place does not exist. However, I don't want to be an 'Indian Education expert'. I am in fact rather weary of the professed experts of Indian Education, those who produce shiny reports and make glitzy Powerpoint presentations talking about the new middle classes and the wonderful opportunity there. Many of them, of course, will dutifully carry mineral water in their bag while in India and end their explorations within the city limits of Delhi and Mumbai, and have never stepped inside, much less taught, in an Indian classroom. The very fact that I have been out to those small cities, a

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