There is an Education-to-Employment gap, numerically speaking. But it is more - a social problem - when education is sold as a way to middle class life and fails to deliver. It is therefore worthwhile to identify the reasons for the gap - and to rectify it.
McKinsey, which coined the term E2E gap, sees employers and educators taking parallel paths and not talking to each other. This is rather strange, given the interests of both parties in working together. Some observers blame this on the educators, and bring up the age-old Ivory Towers accusations. Others, educators, blame the employers, as they demand very specific skill-sets and experience, and are more interested in poaching from each other rather than participating in education process.
There are different attempts to address this gap, and mostly, these attempts seek to engage the employers as closely as possible with the education process. By way of disclosure, I am professionally engaged in one such attempt. While it looks straightforward in theory, just as the starting proposition of educators and employers talking to each other was common sense, the actual engagement is far more complex - and requires a strategic approach, rather than case-by-case persuasion, from the educators.
However, before we speculate what this strategic approach could be, it may make sense to clarify another point. It is a mistake to see educators as mere suppliers to employers, despite the relative balance of power in the conversations. Educators have a job to do, and despite the lack of acknowledgement of the role of education (outside its economic worth), one must not lose sight of it. The thesis that the Middle East troubles (Egyptian revolution, ISIS etc) are due to Education-to-Employment gap is only partially true, and the more plausible explanation is that education in these countries failed to foster democratic thinking and leadership. The point made by Matthew Arnold, that, all liberty and industry in the world will not ensure high reason and a fine culture - they may favour them but they will not produce them - and indeed, they may exist without them, remains valid - educators have a job to do even if we had a full-employment society (like Kuwait, where everyone gets a job regardless).
The starting point of a strategic approach, therefore, is about acknowledging this expanded role of the educators. While one must build the bridges between the parallel paths of educators and employers, education is not just the bridge but the territory of culture and reason that lie beyond it. This is exactly the difference between a case-by-case view, persuading the employers to employ the students (which fits more a ferry metaphor than a bridge metaphor), and a more strategic view of building an attractive territory on their side of the divide, so that the employers meet the educators half-way down the bridge.
This attractive territory, however, can not be built without understanding the employers more fully than the educators do now. One unacknowledged reason why students do not find jobs is because they are often poorly educated. Most people come out of college with none of the High Reason and Fine Culture that Arnold talked about. They can not even write appropriate reports, read complex texts or negotiate ideas and concepts, as Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa show. The educators are indeed in some kind of ivory tower, though this is about denying the accountability for student learning and not merely about talking to the employers. Once the educators have owned up the students and assume their responsibility of making him or her successful, talking to the employers will come naturally to them.
Once educators assume this responsibility, it becomes easier to engage the employers. In such a setting, the conversation with the employers is not merely to understand their requirements so that such things can be added to the programme and the students can become employable, but rather a genuine collaborative conversation to understand the needs of the practical work life, which should play a role in the curricular approach. This is indeed a patient, long-term conversation, allowing the employers a close view of the learning process and drawing them closely into it through conversations, student projects and mentoring conversations. This close engagement does not mean surrendering the educators mandate for developing reason and culture, but rather doing so not in isolation from messy realities of everyday life.
What does this mean in practice? Several things, perhaps. First, this may mean assessing the learner skills and abilities in the context of work skills and abilities that would be demanded. The examination system may demand resilience, discipline and quick thinking, which are all useful real world abilities, but miss out on assessing practical wisdom, leadership skills, collaborative ability and communication skills in the broader sense. Understanding the employer perspective may indeed inform a new approach to assessment - and this is the easiest thing to engage the employers into. Engaging in assessment is far more familiar territory for an employer than engaging in education. On the other hand, employer engagement in assessment is perhaps the most useful thing that the educators could hope for. The problem, of course, is that assessment is sacred territory, a source of power that the educators have cherished holding - and despite its obvious appeal, opening up this territory to outsiders is a difficult thing to do.
Second, this may also mean looking at Project-as-Content in the education process. This is an old conversation drawing back on Dewey and Kilpatrick from the last century, but such thinking is still exotic among the Higher Ed circles. The idea that the learning can be driven by projects, which may become the integrative platform for all knowledge, skills and abilities that the educators wish to develop in the learner, and that projects can indeed be closely linked to the learners own interests and abilities, create a possibility in education like none other. It allows the learning to be democratic, open, collaborative, context-sensitive and even research-based, combining the favourite keywords from the world of education with those of the world of employment. To play on the metaphor, the project is indeed the bridge that could be built and employers can meet the educators half-way down.
Third, constructing the language of education side-by-side with the employers language is also helpful, and allows employers to be easily engaged. It is not about accepting the employers language and mimicking it, but rather critically engaging with it and being able to understand and use it - is the key here. Indeed, this is a fine line and most educators try to teach a few keywords, to be used without context, to their learners in the hope of better employability. But the employer engagement in assessment, and project-as-content method, would hopefully circumvent such superficiality.
Finally, constructing an education around the employers language, projects and assessments may still fall short of the mark if the educators failed to provide a safe space for the learners to reflect, to critique and to grow from the boxes that one gets to be put in while at work. This is the educators role - High Reason and Fine Culture, to invoke Arnold one last time - and the learners should be able to dissect their experience, distill it with reference to culture (the accumulated experience of the humankind, Dewey would say), and reflect upon it to grow as an individual both inside and outside the humdrum of daily chore.
Constructing such an engagement has proved to be difficult, not because it does not make sense, but because this flies in the face of power equations that both educators and employers indulge in. The strategic approach, then, is to step outside the comfort zone of each individual silo, which progressive employers and educators indeed do, and to proactively engage into a common language, allowing a more rounded approach than would be otherwise possible. In this approach, educators would not just be a supplier of talent to the employers, but a critical partner, a mirror of reflection and improvement, a safe place of thinking just one step removed from the intense world of action.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.