Showing posts from August, 2016

Beyond Project-Based Learning: Towards An Open System

The problem of connecting educators and employers is not a new one. There are many organisations and institutions working at creating this interface, some more successfully than others. The field is full of well-meaning individuals and fascinating ideas, some more workable than others. However, one key lesson, a common one, has perhaps been ignored by most of the people: That no closed, proprietary solution may actually work. This should have been obvious in a field where the key problem arise because of the closed, proprietary approaches. The Educators mostly believe they are doing a great job - at least, the best possible one - and the degrees and grades they give out, under the full authority of the state and with the gravitas of their quality assurance, should be accepted at the face value by the employers. The employers, in turn, believe that the people they require should appear, with right skills and attitude, a perfect understanding of their cultures and customers, an

Beyond Project-Based Learning

I have been working on Projects-Based Learning, and recorded my experiences and reflections on this blog as I went along. Through this engagement, I have learnt the following things: 1. Content is over-rated. Because it costs money and effort to create, content owners believe Content equals Learning. Yes, the learners use content to learn, but they do not learn from content. It is the baseline, not an end in itself. 2. Teachers make a lot of difference, but not through 'teaching'. The relationships that underpin teaching, rather than the process of teaching, as in delivering lectures, is fundamental to learning. A good teacher knows the learners - not just their 'strengths and weakness', but their fears, aspirations, what inspires and intimidates them, what they love and loath. The act of 'teaching' is more about inspiring, empowering and connecting, than delivering, disciplining and evaluating. 3. Because the way we have come to see learning, a

A Conversation About Kolkata in the 21st Century

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

Secular Imagination and Indian Politics

That India has a secular constitution, seems to be a great progressive leap for many people. India was, and is, the world's largest Hindu country, with a long history and heritage. Hinduism, and its 'sacred geography', seemed to have provided Indians their common identity, despite being divided by language, castes, customs and preferences! And, Hindu (and Budhdhist, the other major religion that originated in India) icons are everywhere in the imagination of Independent India, from the invocation of the 'Mother India' to its national flag and anthem. It seems the secularism of India is a deliberate, progressive turn, a statement of aspiration to build a modern nation by leaving its religions and superstitions behind. And, indeed, it was. The leaders of Modern India, particularly Nehru, was intent on building a nation based on economic independence (from the West) and technological progress. With the horrors of racialism in context and battling the 'two n

Imagination of Conflict in History

One can, and often does, read history as a narrative of conflicts. The school-book history is designed as a sequence of wars and winners, its causes and aftermaths. Even when one wants to get away from the history of celebrities, which our stories of Kings, Queens and great men (and some women) usually are, our thematic narratives of Colonialism, Class Struggle, Revolutions and even Scientific Progress are usually built around conflicts - of powers, institutions and ideas - progressing and regressing in some sort of eternal motion.  One may claim that all history, therefore, is history of conflicts. However, it is equally possible to see that our ideas shape conflicts. I have three favourites - the Iron Curtain, the Clash of Civilisations and the Thucydides Trap - ideas that defined our past, the present and possibly the future conflicts. So, when Churchill was speaking at Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946, he conjured up the Iron Curtain , a dividing line from the 'Fre

Democracy As Privilege and Responsibility

To me, democracy, of late, has been a disappointment. Or, to be precise, I have been on losing side of the argument all too often in the last couple of years. For example, the Indian electorate in 2014 voted overwhelming to bring in a Hindu Nationalist government: This was due to a combination of voter fatigue with the previous administration, which proved to be inept and corrupt at the same time, but I did not want a Fascist leader, which Mr Modi most certainly is, to be India's Prime Minister. Also, I was on the losing side of Britain's EU referendum, where the British electorate apparently voted for a closed economy and inward-looking society. And, indeed, like everyone else, I am now bracing for Trump victory in US Presidential election; whether or not that eventually happens, I wouldn't, like many US voters who will vote against Trump, feel elated about a Hillary Clinton presidency either, as she is only the lesser of the two hard-to-like candidates. Despite thes

Creating A Platform for Global Higher Education

How to create a model of global Higher Education fit for post-recession world? This is not about private equity initiatives spanning the world, the kinds that the American majors such as Apollo and Laureate do: That is about global finance capital buying out assets in different geographies. Nor this should be about what the Academic community dubs as TNE, Trans-National Education, which is essentially about exporting degrees from metropolitan centres to the hungry nations in the periphery.  Indeed, global is, in common use, all about finance capital buying out assets in poorer countries, and extending the cultural influences of the metropolitan centres. But that model is coming under pressure lately: The 'Global' steamroller has perhaps gone too far. The richer nations are increasingly wary of the immigrants, and the poorer nations are facing existential crisis as its 'comprador bougeois', the ones that collaborate and benefit from global finance capital, has

Towards A 'Natural' Strategy

Martin Reeves' TED talk, below, makes an important point: That there are other ways of thinking about strategy, business strategy, than the usual, mechanical, pursuit of efficiency. Whether or not you agree with Mr Reeves' point about building a business around the principles of the human immune system, you would perhaps agree that there is not much point in a strategy that crash and burn all too quickly. As for me, I would want to see this conversation, though this is NOT the point of the talk, as a part of a broader conversation about making businesses 'More Human', the title of a book by Steve Hilton (his arguments summarised in the video below). This is not what Martin Reeves is talking about - he is indeed arguing about a cleverer way of making strategy and rightly pointing out that the current methods of optimising is getting us nowhere - but one should remember that Corporate Strategy is built and executed within an environment of ideas, which is mechanica

The Paradoxes I Live with

Here is a paradox that I see: There are too many powerful, smart, successful people who declare their love for the Capitalist, Free Market system, and yet, tries to rig its rules to their own advantage every moment.  Now, a committed socialist may think that this Free Market talk is all rhetoric and no one really likes Free Markets. But, I have not yet reached that level of cynicism. In fact, more confusingly as it may be, those rig the rules think that it is okay to rig the rules as they are only protecting their self-interest. The Invisible Hand would make it alright because all other people are trying to rig the rules as well. There is indeed a difference between protecting one's self interests within the marketplace and trying to rig the rules. The latter is to abuse the trust without which the invisible hand can not operate.  Now, I hear that this is why democracy is important, institutions are important. They ensure that the rules are fair. The democratic system

Innovation in Higher Education: Public-Private Divide and The T-Skills Question

I have followed the conversation about T-Skills, that a modern professional needs at least one 'deep' skill and several other interests and abilities to complement this - for several years (see my earlier post here ). Over the last several years, the idea has gained considerable traction and now has its own 'Summit' (check the last year's videos and details here ), as well as gained academic acceptance and popular support. Whether one uses the T metaphor or not, many people are advocating a similar approach. For example, Professor Howard Gardner, in his Five Minds For The Future , argue that the professionals of the future will require a 'Discipline', a native way of thinking and making sense of the world (the deep end of the T), as well as Synthesis, the ability to assimilate information and ideas from various branches of knowledge (the top of the T) - along with Creativity, Diversity and Ethics. There are several reasons why we are having this conver

Educating The 21st Century Accountant

Accounting, as a profession, is as iconic of the middle class as it could be. Its making had all the classical elements of emergence of a profession: Granting of a monopoly of a practise to a set of people competent in a standard of practise who forswore to adhere to a code of conduct. Becoming an Accountant was a task that demanded commitment and competence, and being one meant a prospect of lifelong employment, respectable income and a middling rank in the society. Alongside Medicine, Teaching, and Engineering, Accounting has been one of the pillars that held the Middle Class economy. However, its very strengths may be turning into disadvantages at this point of time in the 21st century. The high stakes assessment that qualified the Accountants, like all high stakes assessments, focused minds and skills on mastering the system, rather than serving the wider world. The standards of practise evolved into rules, something that a programmed machine could do, at least for the most p

In Praise of Practice

Whether one is a technology utopian or a skeptic, everyone seems to agree that we are seeing some revolutionary technological breakthroughs and that these would change our lives inalterably (the disagreements, mostly, are about whether this would be good or bad). The focus of my work is to think what these changes mean for work and for education, and how educational innovations would be fit for this 'second machine age'.  Fundamentally, I believe that we are entering a THIRD age of what we have come to call 'Higher Education'. And, by this, I mean the social functions related to creation and dissemination of knowledge necessary to define the relationship between the nature and us, and indeed, inbetween ourselves. I use the broad definition to stay outside various policy terms - college, universities, research and teaching institutions etc - and focus on the fundamental idea, that our relationships with nature and between ourselves is a knowledge process that requi

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