My objective is to summarise the idea of '21st Century College' and understand the same in the context of education theory, developments in technology and media as well as economic history. This is one project I have taken on in 2015, and chose to turn this blog into a record of my explorations and conversations.
The first question that I deal with is not whether we should be changing with technology - I shall contend that answer is quite obvious and time-tested too - but what really needs to change. More specifically, while we may accept that the '21st Century College' may employ different methods and technologies to educate, should it have different objectives from that of 'traditional education'?
Dewey, as usual, is useful here. Writing in 1938, about what he saw as a contest between 'traditional' and 'progressive' education, this was his stance:"The general philosophy of new education may be sound, and yet the difference in abstract principles will not decide the way the moral and intellectual preference involved shall be worked out in practice. There is always the danger in a new movement that in rejecting the aims and methods of that which it would supplant, it may develop its principles negatively rather than positively or constructively. Then it takes its clew in practice from that which is rejected instead of from the constructive development of its own philosophy."
The project of '21st Century College' is still to define its objectives in precise terms rather than in opposition to those of the '20th Century College'. The Nineteenth Century objectives of scholastic knowledge and statesmanship are truly dead and gone (though they live on in some of the world's best institutions), and even the 20th Century vision of creating citizens and professionals has become redundant with the undermining of the nation state as the unit of organisation of our society and the undermining of the professions by the changes in knowledge access and consumption. The new doctrine somewhat puts businesses at the centre and seeks to replace the idea of citizenship with an ideal of 'competent worker', but this idea remains underdeveloped except its opposition to 'academic'.
What does a 'competent worker' really mean? While 'competencies' become a buzzword in business schools and consultancies, real world businesses know that 'competencies' are as dynamic as ever and often define them in very broad terms, such as 'Critical Analysis'. However, the meaning of 'Critical Analysis' is different inside a business than in literature what the educators can possibly do (see 'The Business of Thinking'). The reason for this is not just a failure of translation (See 'Lost in Translation') but the fundamental difference in context: 'Critical Analysis' as meant and desired by the businesses can only work if the employee has accepted the primacy of pursuit of profit, and have been motivated enough to accept the need for profits in the particular business they are involved in as the primary goal of their actions. Without this canvass, and its limitations, it is difficult to exactly grasp the term 'critical analysis' as a competency desired by the businesses.
Besides the difficulties in defining what a 'competent worker' really means, there should be the additional question whether we need a separate education system to prepare them. One can make two immediate observations regarding the state of the debate: First, we seem to be saying that we need a lot of creative, collaborative people who can communicate well and are confident in their intellectual capability; and second, we are recruiting a lot of very successful people possessing such capabilities from the top institutions of the world, and yet, we are complaining that the existing education system does not give us 'competent workers'. A justifiable conclusion will be that the education system does not give us 'competent workers' because, designed to serve a different need, the system we have now is structured to be 'tiny at the top': We now need a system that can do, at scale, what the top institutions of the world were doing all this while anyway. Seen this way, the objects of the education remain relatively stable - enabling competent individuals who can live productive lives - though we may need to adjust our methods and approaches to the emergent technological realities and use them to construct a socially viable system. However, we usually make the opposite argument: That we need a new education system, based on the needs of the businesses alone.
Now, while this may be a perfectly legitimate goal, such a system has indeed always existed, and still does. As I mentioned above, the best colleges are doing just fine supplying finest minds that power our most successful businesses. It is, therefore, difficult to see whether the '21st Century College' as a construct should have a different set of objectives, unless of course, we deem a part of our population to be unworthy of 'good education' and want to carry over the 'workhouse' mindset to the new century. This way, the specially designed education is not about INCLUDING a large number of people in the education process, but rather EXCLUDING them from it, by relegating them to an education which constrains their thinking. Moral objections aside, this is not going to solve the problem that underlie the case of a new education: We need people with higher order skills.
The point, therefore, is to build the '21st Century College' not necessarily in opposition to the '20th Century' ones, but rather by trying to find better ways of achieving the same objectives. For all our posturing, college as it stands today has served us well. Acknowledging this, and escaping the 'either-or' mindset (as Dewey argues) would serve us well to imagine an education that serves the future as well.
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.
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
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
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.