In my work at the fault line between Education and Employment, it seems obvious that we have this problem in the first place because of the closed frameworks we have built. In Education, the accreditation has become an end in itself, and educators try to solve all the problems with a course, a big hammer no matter how tiny is the nail. Employers, on their part, are focused on identifying and attracting employees who have specific skills as required, another closed framework with a tiny opening.
At one level, everyone seems to be happy with the situation as it is. Educators are intent on building a complete person who does not need a job, and employers are happy with that perfect employee whose education does not matter. At another level, this is a big social problem, as politicians sell their middle class economics on the basis of education-to-employment transition. They usher in globalisation at will and hail technological progress, and promise the magic of education to make this all work. They court new investments, which often threaten or at least transform local livelihood, and sell it to their electorate with the promise of jobs. When a company closes shop, they appear teary-eyed on television denouncing job losses, and promise better education as a path to new economy.
All of this fall apart in the world of closed frameworks of education and employment. The public policy, recognising this chasm, has tried to prise open the boxes, either by tying public money to employability of students, and creating incentives for more apprenticeship offerings by employers. But these solutions often indicate rear-view thinking, a sense of nostalgia rather than practicality. These solutions are designed to keep the boxes as they are, and ignore the emergent realities of global work or man-machine competition. These solutions often fall short of the requirements of a fast-growing population of job seekers, powered by demography in the developing world and by the loss of welfare state in the developed. These solutions, therefore, are often too little, too late.
The talk of Open Frameworks, which would perhaps be the logical way-forward, is an anathema. Educators can not see how it can fit into their world of degrees and courses. Even those who claim to be innovative, their innovation is limited to creating a better box - rather than not having to have the box at all. Employers, in their turn, are increasingly in love with a mythical ever-better mousetrap, one that attracts Mr and Ms Just-Rights into their fold, creating a super-star culture that push them more into a superstar culture and the search for automation. And, in the meantime, the education-to-employment conversation, despite its political potency and social impact, is reduced to meaninglessness - Educators resorting to voodoo of soft skills that they claim can just make anyone succeed, Employers obsessed with their sieve so that they can catch the tiny flicker of talent from anywhere.
And, besides the political problem this creates, there is the question of waste! The employers, though they never may fully appreciate the absurdity of the enterprise, often recruit people to find out they do not fit - more than 50% of the new recruits falling into this category, as some employers report. The educators, at great expense of students time and money, labour with concepts and ideas that go nowhere - and report the students to be disengaged. The poor students, caught up in the triple whammy of middle class dream, scholasticism and commercialism, end raking up student debt, waste years of figuring-out-what-to-do and get a poor start, if at all, in a career.
Contrast this with how the Open Frameworks could work. This will need, to start with, a social consensus around the importance of employment, which is the difficult bit. But if we all agree that a healthy society is one where all members are gainfully engaged or employed, we need to integrate various institutions of that society, political, academic and commercial, in the pursuit of that goal. This means rolling back some of the practises that we have become comfortable with - the political rhetoric without substance, narrow bureaucratic focus of Higher Education accreditation and the tyranny of the stock-market analysts who endlessly punish companies if they raise their head above the parapet and look out to long horizon - and thinking about new habits and practises.
This leads to the point, the starting point of creating an Open Framework for Education-to-Employment transition, that thinking about Education-to-Employment gap is a wrong start. We should recognise, and reconcile, the three other chasm that put our society under stress.
First, the chasm between Political Reality and Educational Practise should be resolved. Educators should recognise the centrality of work in our daily lives, and its meaning, not just in terms of economic sustenance but also identity. The monastic dream of education, of quiet, disinterested pursuit of knowledge should be reconciled with the modern peak experience of the Flow, defined and sustained by work, rather than leisure.
Second, the chasm between business rhetoric of investment needs to be aligned with political requirement of full employment - a society that succeeds, and one can produce historical evidence for that, is the one which engages and employs its people as broadly as possible. So, it is not any investment, and not a meaningless number of jobs quoted at every pretext, but investments that create capability should be invited in. This means many things and may require elaboration, but at even the very superficial level, exclude the pursuit of hazardous industries, or those automated factories which gobble up land in turn of some hand-outs to destitute local population, often aimed to create incentives to never return home again.
Third, and this follows from the one immediately above, once we start recognising the social goals of commercial activities, we should be able to reconcile the educators goal of creating functional communities with the commercial goal of turning profits. The current export-led economic development often create an imbalance, as it is predicated on cheapness of the resources of the producing country and the affluence of a distant land. However, we may be experiencing the limits of this model, with the oncoming automation but also various social and cultural shifts, and in any case, such models of development have proved transient. The commercial models that served the local market, gained expertise and created clusters of experience, have proved to be much better value, and this may be perfectly consistent with the educational ideas of community and sustainability.
Taking all these fault lines together, rather than in isolation as we tend to do now, has one benefit - that it allows us to see the benefits of exploring an Open Framework, as opposed to currently closed and defined boxes that we tend to put economy, community, education and employment in. The basic issue, the disconnection and misalignment of various parts of an organic system, is somewhat obscured when we talk about education-to-employment gap. It is no wonder that we believe a better course (or content or pedagogy) can be the solution without having to change how we do things.
However, once we take all these various aspects of our broken social arrangement together, we should be able to see that the solution may be in designing Open Framework talent exchanges. This is about putting work at the core of the educational proposition, aim of capacity creation and utilisation as the core objective of social policy and creating sustainable, community oriented business models as the way of doing business. In this framework, students should be able to work on various projects available with employers and be able to claim academic credits using a framework available from the educational institutions. The employers should open their doors to students as much as possible - which is not very different from what small and medium sized firms do all too often, and apprenticeships are all about - and educators should take responsibility of their students working within the framework set by employers. In this, the employers should not just pretend to set up a campus and rather behave like a campus, and educators, instead of seeking out placements and hankering after employability, just recognise the value of real work and produce frameworks of learning around that. Once this happens, instead of billeting for superstars, the employers will find it more attractive to continually engage and fund the talent exchange itself, hopefully lessening the debt burdens of the students. And, indeed, the governments would, should, do the same, facilitating it by tax credits to companies for helping the full employment come about.
This may all too utopian now, but as the pace of globalisation and automation quickens, we are in a brave new world, when closed frameworks will indeed come under stress. And, all closed frameworks, including the artificial dichotomies between skills and education, higher and lower education, apprenticeships and degrees, education and employment being one of these.
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
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. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
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 was gui
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
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, as
A lot of conversations about Kolkata is about its past; I want to talk about its future. Most conversations about Kolkata is about its decline - its golden moments and how times changed; I want to talk about its rise, how its best may lie ahead and how we can change the times. In place of pessimism, I seek optimism; instead of inertia, I am looking for imagination. It is not about catching up, I am arguing; it is about making a new path altogether. It had, indeed it had, a glorious past: One of the first Asian cities to reach a million population, the Capital of British India, the cradle of an Enlightened Age and a new politics of Cosmopolitanism. And, it had stumbled - losing the hinterland that supplied its Jute factories, overwhelmed by the refugees that came after the partition, devoid of its professional class who chose to emigrate - the City's commercial and professional culture evaporated in a generation, and it transformed into a corrupt and inefficien
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
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
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.