Showing posts from June, 2016

The Social Consequences of Brexit

If Marx missed the mark with the Proletariat achieving a deep political consciousness, he was prescient about how history happens: First as a tragedy, then as a farce! So, the recent history of Britain, recent as in the space of an week, is this spectacle in fast forward. Since an overall, though slender, majority voted to force the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the political news has become sexy again. It would have been comical if the consequences were not so far reaching: Declaration of UK's independence (as John Oliver rightly puts it - the United Kingdom was an independent country before last week, and in fact lots of countries celebrate their independence from IT!), sudden volte face about taking the real legal step to start the process of leaving EU on both sides of the divide, the abnadoned promises as soon as the vote count is over and all the accompanying political fatricide, we have now seen it all.  But, apart from all the fast-developing stories

9/100: Digital Economy and The New Imperatives for Learning

It may seem I am making contradictory statements when I say that learning has to change and that humanities must be back in agenda. This is my attempt at a clarification. Humanities is not the rusty old subjects without practical significance. We have made it so, and built a modern education system overtly with a technical - technology, business, accounting etc - focus. This served us well in the past thirty years, but as things change at the workplace, this needs to change. Now, this is not a defence of Liberal Education, now fashionable among American writers. Following Eric Hobsbawm, I tend to believe that Anglo-Saxon education systems of the past, based on a narrow classics curriculum, made culture a luxury product, for a few, of the few, a sign of class privilege rather than opportunity. Against this, technical education opened the gates of opportunity, and was rightly embraced. But, we may have overdone this and now is the time to re-imagine again. We are staring at

8/100: Creating An International Education 'Pathway'

In 2012, I set up a small company with a few other people. The essential idea behind this venture was to create an International Education proposition, a 'pathway' programme that could be delivered in-country and which allow the learners to earn credits that could be used to get an UK university degree with a shorter duration. We chose to deliver Pearson Business Qualifications, which meant the students completing these qualifications in their own country could come to UK and complete an Undergraduate degree with only one additional year of study.  This business did not work as we intended. There were several business reasons. We did not raise enough money, or, to put it the other way, our ambitions were not aligned with the kind of money we had in hand. This was the big reason, but there were other reasons too.  For example, our business plan rested upon another assumption: That countries like India have created a lot of educational infrastructure in the recent years

A Very British Revolution

So, it is out now: The Little England has spoken, decisively, clearly, xenophobicly. This morning is when the penny drops, the Islamophobia triumphs in undoing the post-war understanding that the so-called 'Western World' was made on. With the all-night commentary, political drama, uncertainties and expectations, this is indeed like a General Election, except that, it wasn't: It was a revolution that one lives through, hopefully, once in a lifetime. I am not trying to be analytical - the broader tensions between globalisation and nation state is explanation enough - or to try to envision the future, because it is too uncertain. Right now, in a hangover after a sleepless night, my world is being turned upside down. This is not because of the volatile markets - I am sure these risks were factored in and it will settle in a short time -  but because, I think, this event changes the way I think of politics. For example, I can not believe that I am already missing Davi

India's New Education Policy: What Should We Expect?

Indian Government is in the process of drafting a New Education Policy, which is expected to bring about significant change in education at all levels.  This would be the third time the India has had a 'New Education Policy'.  The Three Education Policies of India The first, in 1968, was really a conscious acknowledgement that education is an important subject worth the attention of the Central government in Delhi. It recommended an uniform school system across the nation, universal non-discriminatory access, the 10+2+3 system that India follows today. The NEP 1968 put emphasis on instruction through mother tongue, which, in case of India, was many and varied, and set up the three language system - State language plus English and Hindi - that most Indian schools follow today. The Second, in 1986, was designed to update India's education for the Information Technology age, and there was a lot of emphasis on technical education at all levels. It did help that

Religion and Me: In 10 Fragmented Episodes

1. What religion are you, I was once asked at a dinner table. I am an atheist, I said. The conversation stopped. After the pause, someone asked me whether I am a militant and whether I go around challenging and changing other people's beliefs. I do not do this, and hence, he said, I should say I am agnostic, rather than an atheist. I have, ever since, pondered over the distinction. 2. It was very different even a few years ago. I was brought up a Hindu. I started the usual - caste conscious, full of superstition about auspicious days (I still sometimes feel good about starting things on Tuesdays), and believed that the goddess in the family temple can grant me a thing or two. I also believed in astrology, and had a detailed chart telling me what will happen in my life, as did everyone else I knew. 3.  I am not sure if there was a precise moment Scepticism caught up with me. But I remember some awkward moments. There was someone very elderly and

Making Sense of Britain's EU Referendum

People in Britain will vote tomorrow in a referendum on whether to exit the European Union. Whatever the outcome, it would be a historical decision: If Britain votes to leave, it would not only challenge the European Union, but will be one major political step in transforming the post-War global system; if it decides to stay, it would create a different dynamic in the EU and its future expansion, and in effect, transform the post-war system in a different way. However, though it is an event poised with meaning and significance, little substantiative debate on this has happened so far. Indeed, I am writing this the morning after BBC-hosted big debate, where the cases for Remain and Leave campaigns were laid out by some of the leading figures, and an event that was eagerly watched around the country. However, the debate remained, as it was so far, too centred around personalities and their ambitions and prospects, a celebrity thing! The Leave side focused on 'Taking Back Contro

History and Future

When Francis Fukuyama claimed History has ended, in the aftermath of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, he was wrong, because history came back with a vengeance on 09/11. However, the idea proved extraordinarily resilient. The optimism at the end of Cold War, which was itself a hangover of the great wars of the Twentieth Century, along with realisation of gains from the scientific and technological breakthroughs of hundreds of years for improvement of day-to-day life, made Fukuyama's vision resonate: We seemed to have discovered a straight-line to future. So even if history did not end, it certainly declined. Generally, the idea that our future will be different from our past. We came to accept that it is more important for us to develop ideas for the future and master the tools to deliver it than the efforts to understand the thoughts and trajectories of the past. Business and Management, along with Engineering, took the place of pride in the hierarchy of disciplines, as

On Being Able to Love

The rational human being exists somewhere inbetween the matrimonial advertisers flaunting their caste and income and property, and the pathetic spectacle of Brock Turner, a swimmer and a student of an elite university, caught raping an unconcious woman. Being human is thus defined by our capacity to love, to fall in love as well as being loved, and to love well: Completely, committedly and unequivocally, transcending both our animal urges and middle class meekness, outside both the socially mandated and instinctively compulsive. Being able to love is not about pleasure, but about creating happiness. It is not about possession, but about giving away. If you deeply love something, give it away - a wise man once said - and touche! being able to love is to able to give, to surrender oneself for the happiness of the other. I remember my first moment of feeling in love. It was indeed a moment, specific and memorable. To be sure, it was a dream, etched in memory, permanently and not

Memory, Learning and Experience: New Ways of Crafting Learning Experiences

There is a philosophical justification for learning from experience: That it connects us to real life with all its complexities and detours, and allow us to escape the 'one size fits all' assumptions of grand theory. Learning, at the messy swamp of practice, where human life is really acted out, is real - and therefore, useful.  However, now, we have further arguments for learning from experience based on new breakthroughs in cognitive sciences. As our understanding of human brain and memory improves, we are discarding deeply-held assumptions that lie beneath our institutions, approaches and even language. There are many things that we are learning anew, but one aspect in particular - how our memory works! Right now, the breakthroughs in cognitive sciences are altering our idea of the memory: Its ideal, as a retention device that accumulate useful bits of our life to carry forward, is seriously being doubted, and it is now being seen as an active construction device,

The Limits of Experiential Learning

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.

Varieties of Education Technology

The current conversation about Education Technology (or, Education Technologies, we should claim) is both poised with possibilities and depressingly limited.  Despite all the billions of dollars channeled into exciting new start-ups, the headline technology companies such as Google and Microsoft making Education as one of their main focus areas and mobile computing extending the reach of content and culture far beyond the obvious, the scope of Ed-Tech still remains superficial and focused on extending the norms of Scientific Management, the very same paradigm that we are expected to leave behind in the post-industrial age, to classrooms. The focus of educational technology enterprises were to adopt key 'corporate' technologies, databases, remote communication technologies, walled-garden networks (apps) and measurement systems, for educational use. The keywords of the Education Technology community, accordingly, have been information, content, predictive modelling, communi

Brexit: To Be Or Not To Be

Evocation of Hamlet is intended: The choice Britain faces on 23rd June needs deliberation of a solemn kind, involves an existential question and yet, not acting and letting evil carry the day will be a tragedy. Hence, despite my reluctance to add to what has been a nasty and misleading debate on both sides, I have to write this post. At the outset, perhaps it is best to show my hand and declare that I will be voting to remain. This is not because the calculations of the Remain side has convinced me: Rather, It is a matter of principle, as I see Britain as an open country engaged with the rest of the world, and not a xenophobic little island trying to hide behind the seas. This, for me, is a matter of British identity, and pride, that its strength came from engagement with the world and shaping, for good or worse, its affairs. At the core, Britain is also an European country, as it has always been, with all the Saxon enterprise and Norman heritage making the country what it is, always i

The Rhetoric of Student Debt

Higher Education as a business is an American idea, mostly! The American For-Profit Education companies are the largest in the world, and they are no longer American. They have assets - universities, publishing companies, online operations - all over the world. And, they are present in every conversation about Higher Ed in every country, lobbying for For-Profit participation (which many countries do not allow) and privileges (mostly access to public funding for students). How this should be viewed depends on one's point of view, and I did previously argue that some diversity is good for Higher Education sectors in different countries (though my views have evolved since, as I came across Hirschman's argument why private sector education, instead of improving the quality of public sector through competition, actually has the opposite effect). But, regardless of the broader argument, one thing fascinates me about this debate: That American For-Profits point to the student de

How To Change Careers? A Review of 'Working Identity' Idea

Of the books I read recently, Herminia Ibarra's Working Identity made a lasting impression. Despite my deep aversion to the simplistic and formulaic style of business books, and this book is no different, it resonated for two reasons. Professionally, I am exploring solutions to the difficulty of education-to-employment transition, and my experience at the fault-line tells me that this arises, in the first place, because of the divergence of realities of commercial work and that of the college; the students arrive at work without resolving who they are and what they would like to, and struggle to fit in increasingly unforgiving workplaces pursuing the illusive idea of perfect candidates. Further, personally it has been appropriate too, as I am at the very point of questioning whether it is worth living my life the way I am doing now. I may already be in my second career - moving from one country to another and transitioning into Higher Education I have already done - but I do not

The Point of Skills Training: Enabling Identities

I have done various things in my career, from selling to teaching, from developing products and campaigns to designing courses and raising money. But, then, all of it was really around one thing - helping people develop skills and get jobs! My exposure has been various - I have spent time in the world's largest independent IT skills training company as well as a big name English training provider, a company providing technology to Europe's largest e-learning project, an Irish recruitment company embarking on global expansion and now an American start-up looking to bridge the Education-to-Employment gap - but the point of my work was always the same.  This claim may seem odd to some, as we tend to box skills training into one skill or another, and indeed cut this adrift from Higher Education (which I have also indulged in, in a private Higher Ed institution in London) - there is nothing common between a business degree programme, IT training and English language for work,

7/100: Why I Have Signed Up to Study History

The big news on my side is that I have now enrolled to study History at Birkbeck College. Something I always wanted to do, but in the late 80s India when I was entering college, this was considered crazy and I was discouraged from doing it. All my peers appeared in the Engineering and Medical entrance examinations, which, despite my decent grades in school leaving examinations, I did not like to do, becoming an oddball in overtly vocationally oriented India. I took up to study Economics as some sort compromise. But this is one regret that stayed with me, and in order not to leave any regrets, I have now decided to go back to school and study it formally. It should still be considered crazy. I have no professional need for it, and the degree would not help me to earn more. All I am trying to do is to be good at something which I have a genuine interest in, and something, so I consider, I can remain consistently interested in, long enough to complete a Ph D eventually. My other Pos

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