Showing posts from April, 2016

Platform Thinking For Global Higher Education

I came across a deeply insightful article by Vivek Wadhwa pointing out that the most successful companies in Silicon Valley are not focused on selling products. They are instead creating enabling ecosystems for others to create value, and they are capturing a portion of that value. They know that the value comes from communities and conversations, and not from selling close-ended blackboxes, at least not anymore.  In a different context, this is a message that companies claiming to 'disrupt' global education should take to heart. All they want to do is to sell those products - 'degrees' in most cases - structured as close-ended black-boxes. And, as the marketplace for such education offerings are becoming global, primarily with the growth of middle classes in Asia and Africa, the limits of this model are more and more visible. Education as an activity is deeply shaped by local cultures and preferences, and most attractive markets, such as India or China, already

Two Ideas of Nationalism and Rabindranath Tagore

That Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Bengali Polymath, Nobel Laureate and thinker, is one of the key influencers behind the idea of Modern India, is often a contested topic. Tagore is known for his literature, his Nobel Prize and for his authorship of Indian National Anthem (and, for that matter, the national anthem of Bangladesh, and even the national anthem of Sri Lanka, on which he had a direct influence), but much less for his political activities. In fact, other than the renunciation of Knighthood in the aftermath of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, which would most likely be counted as an empty gesture by an intellectual in Modern India, he was known for his distance from, rather than his support to, the Indian National Movement. While the leading figures of Indian National Movement, particularly Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, were close friends of Tagore, many other equally influential figures, like Subhas Chandra Bose, rejected what he called 'Vacuous Internationalism

Mind The Gap: What Government Policy Does to 'Skills'?

'Skills' is big on government agenda, particularly in countries like India where 69,000 people turn 25 every day. Given that only a few hundred thousand new jobs are being created in India every quarter, this means an alarming proportion of these 6 odd million people joining the ranks of the unemployed every quarter. 'Skills' is the panacea that the Government proposes, to enable a large number of people to be economically productive, either through employment or small enterprise. India is big in skills discussion, simply because of the size of the population and the problem, but many other countries are wrestling with the same set of challenges too, particularly those with expanding, and consequently young, population, and limited industry. This is an urgent social problem and the government intervention should be welcome. To this, even David Cameron's Conservatives seem to agree: Apprenticeship policy receives prime time attention in the UK and one tax that

Mind The Gap: An Education for Employment

I have spent the last four years working exclusively on the faultline of education and employment, and it is time to take stock.  I could perhaps claim that I have been doing this for much longer, indeed, my entire working life of 23 years, except for a couple of years when I was exclusively focused on learning in employment, or corporate training, as it is called. All my work in IT Education in India and then South and South-East Asia, to build English Training Centres globally and even the quest for a new kind of Business School in London, the point of all that was an employment for the learners. The starting point of this reflection is to recognise the distinction between what I did then, and the work afterwards, as I stepped outside employment and tried to set up U-Aspire and then took on a project to establish Knod in Asia: This was about looking to solve the problem, exclusively and with singular focus, rather than theorizing about it. This distinction is important as i

The Enterprise School Idea

When I ran out of money in 2014, I decided to take a two year break, to revisit my ideas and see if I still feel them after a while. Sure enough, some ideas died down as their immediate context changed. But others persisted, and as life comes a full circle and I think about what I must do, one particular idea that I flirted with not just during U-Aspire days, but even before, when I was working to rejig a London college. This is to set up an Enterprise School. An Enterprise School - and I may have to find a better term for it eventually - is not a school to make entrepreneurs, much less for handing out degrees or diplomas of entrepreneurship. One of the people I consider my mentor says that entrepreneurs do not go to school, and indeed, going to school to get a degree is somewhat anti-entrepreneurial. That entrepreneurship, at its core, is about a bias for action, can not be denied: It is about knowing, assessing and managing risks through action and commitment, rather than getti

The Challenge of Public Education

H G Wells' point, that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe, is still valid. A hundred years may have passed, and the context may be different, but we are still just one step ahead of catastrophe: Consider the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency in the United States, and one knows.  Ok, ignore that! That was said in jest - and Education protects Civilisation from more than just Chaos. It often saves us from ourselves. And, while this quote is often brandished to make the case of making people 'educated' - putting them in classrooms and attempting to make them technicaly competent - such progress do not translate into better life, at least for the most of the humanity. In fact, what Wells said is a sound economic argument, and more. Economists look at the paradox of technological progress, all these gadgets, cool apps and disruptive businesses, and the stagnant economic life of the majority, the unaffordable homes, detoriating healthcare and scho

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