It is fashionable to do so, and my own little project has nothing to do with the geopolitical shift of the Obama administration (though it was handy to borrow the term). It is also interesting. Only back in 2012, when I was starting my business and when the potential investors asked me endlessly which countries I should target, I was not sure. At best, there was this hyphenated pair of India-China, as two big Higher Education markets, and I spent the good part of the last four years focusing on India.
But, as it would happen, my work shifted, somewhat on its own momentum, to China. Despite spending more time on India, the business got more students in China. And, more generally, when we explored new ways of doing education, we realised the difference between India and China: We got polite nods in China, though the Chinese partners mostly accepted the ideas for their own use; in India, we were told new ideas would not work there. And, finally, as I explored opportunities in the UK, and it seemed that even in the UK, education is primarily a China play.
As I find out, my excitement about China is hard to explain, particularly to those who had been old 'China Hands' at the UK Universities. For them, China is a long term game which never really matures. For them, China is as bewildering as India, only more unfathomable. So, as I try to build an UK education business this time keeping the Chinese students in mind - and experience has indeed made me very very focused on China - I am forever explaining that China has changed. And, perhaps, we are at a tipping point of change when decades worth of quantitative change - the age of 'more' - is transforming into qualitative change, a change for better.
Indeed, there are those who say that China is bound to fall apart. They point to unsustainable levels of debt and expect everything to stall like Japan, and they point to the 'totalitarian system' and expect all this to go the Russia way. But, one way to look at it is that the supposed 'totalitarian system' has more economic manoeuvrability than the democratic ones, and the strength of the Chinese economy makes a Russia-like meltdown unlikely. And, besides, there are a number of things that all but the astute China watchers miss: For example, the One-Party system in China maintains a level of meritocracy, whereas multi-party system of other democracies (such as India) often run on cronyism and corruption.
On the economic front, China is making a very effective transformation from investment-led growth to consumption-led growth, dealing with its environmental issues as it goes along. Its continued prosperity has created an English-speaking, aspirational, young people, more open and world-ready, just as big democracies, such as India and the United States, turn inwards. It has almost willed - over the last decade or so - a world-class education system. It has acknowledged its mistakes in experimenting with the Healthcare system, and restored universal healthcare. It is an amazing transformation, never before attempted in history in its scale, scope and intentionality, and our mental models - whether we ask if China will overtake the United States or if India can compete with China - fall short to fully comprehend such changes from the outside.
I should perhaps illustrate this point with examples from within my own context. When in 2012, investors were asking me which country I should be focusing upon, China and India had roughly comparable number of students in Higher Education. In the five years from 2011 to 2016, while both countries expanded Higher Education capacity at breakneck speed, the enrolments have only risen marginally in India, China's numbers have nearly doubled and reached the 40% Gross Enrolment Ratio mark (while India's remained at around 20%). This is reflected in China's impact on Higher Education systems in other countries as well. In 2011, roughly the same number of students arrived in the UK from China and India, about 38,000. After this, as UK tightened the visa requirements and crucially abolished the provision of Post-Study visa, making it impossible for students to stay on after their study, the arrivals from India collapsed, to only about 17,000 in the latest count, whereas the numbers from China continued to rise, simply due to sheer demand, and in 2016, this is going to be about 80,000. For the year we have data available, 459,800 students have left China to study abroad, representing a growth of 11% year on year. And, this is not just about quantity but quality too: A number of Chinese universities have broken into the top 50 of global rankings, for whatever they are worth, and it had 380,000 International students at Chinese universities coming from 200 countries.
I cite these numbers for two reasons. One, the obvious, is to make the case for China in the context of Higher Education, the sector I am engaged in, and understand its trajectory. Two, it is important to see China beyond the geopolitical prism - Communist and all that - and appreciate fully the massive transformation now underway. Whether or not the Chinese experiment succeeds, and we know that speculating about history is a perilous game, such rise of a nation invariably creates its own opportunities. And, in this case, we do not have to necessarily see conflict - with United States or anyone - as an inevitable outcome, because China, at least so far, has refrained from building systems of alliances, did not indulge in Colonial conquests and while it competed with United States in building scientific and technological capability and healthier and a more educated workforce, it has not done anything comparable to the madness of the arms race that undid the Soviet Union. We have to remember that it is America pivoting to China (though, arguably, many of its 'friends' in South-East Asia may be building bridges with China) rather than the other way around.
For me, with my heritage and natural connections with India, it is a difficult act of priority setting. India remains important and growing Higher Education market, and it took me time to focus my efforts on China over India. While China and India gets hyphenated for good reason - for their large population and relatively recent development - the difference between the two. The two countries are completely at two different stages of development, and the middle class person in China earns around 5 times more than her counterpart in India. While India is planning to improve its infrastructure. China has become a world-leader in Infrastructure development and is now exporting its expertise. The Chinese millennial population is bigger than the whole population of the United States, and many of them speak English (not so in India) and given China's vast export sector, it makes sense for them to have foreign education and exposure, a business that I am in. And, finally, and importantly, it is important for the Modern Chinese to learn from the world - Deng famously asked the Chinese to learn from the successful Chinese diaspora - whereas India is an 'open society with a closed mind', as Kishore Mahbubani said.
Hence, my China pivot: I am building a high quality global education solution primarily aimed at Chinese students, which involves collaborating globally and also coming over to UK and do a part of the programme face to face at Cambridge and London. This means doing things differently - I am building networks among Chinese diaspora in the UK, making efforts to learn Chinese customs and practises, and building the brand with overt sensitivity to this market - and this is an exciting experience.
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.
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
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,
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
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
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
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.