There are things we know: That as technologies change rapidly, there is a hollowing out of the Middle Class jobs. Some jobs, like the Telephone Operator, have become extinct; some others, like Secretaries and Receptionists, have become less ubiquitous; and yet others, like the Book-keepers, are being driven into obsolesce. Just like automation of an earlier kind marginalised the factory worker (Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, remember), the automation is now coming for the middle class lives and suburban lifestyles. Even those jobs created by technologies - the Call Centre worker and others - are now facing competition from newer generations of technologies, such as Voice Recognition. And, the indication is that this will intensify further, and transform the domains that were hitherto deemed safe: Jobs such as Accountants, Taxi Drivers, Legal Clerks and even Waiters and Cooks. The economies that benefited greatly from the globalisation's last wave - India comes to mind - will be greatly disrupted from its latest turn.
Then, there are things that we don't. The big question, of course, is then, what happens to all the people. Are we looking at a world full of unemployed, a new global underclass? The answer that the apologists of technological progress give in response is also based on a big do-not-know: Technological progress creates its own jobs, as it did for last several decades. We do not know what these jobs would be yet - who would have known about a Search Engine Specialist even only a few years ago - but we know there will be these jobs. And, whether or not we are optimistic, or fatalistic (we have always found a way, didn't we?) or doomsayers, we still do not know how the politics of the labour market will shape out: Would we continue to tax incomes of labour while we look at dividends, incomes of capital, more leniently, even when such capital is deployed to replace Labour and not create jobs (which is the reason for the tax incentives)?
However, this post is not about the technologies and politics of the job market, but rather how an educator (or an institution) should approach this issue. What jobs would really matter? As there are so many what-ifs and no clear answers, it is tempting not to try an answer at all. But an answer is needed and demanded, by no one else but the students, who are increasingly conscious of the high costs of education and seeking an assurance of some kind. While the educators would often say that the only certainty is uncertainty, they are essentially hiding the other side of the certainty - student debt! And, while some courageous educators are making the case for an education for character, claiming that character can help people live through changing circumstances, this fails to answer sufficiently why someone will need to go to an university and incur costs to build character, because the world is not short of trying circumstances itself.
My point is that attempting to answer the question - what jobs would matter in the future - is an important one for the educators. While there are uncertainties about what precisely those job titles would be, one must start with an understanding of the future labour market in an educational enterprise. This is because education is a future-oriented activity, and someone needs to make the attempt to unscramble the convergent forces of politics, technology and ideas to create 'models' of what the job market would look like.
So, to attempt again, there are things we know and things we do not. For example, we do not know precisely which technologies will emerge and how soon or lately they will affect jobs and careers. However, the project for the educator does not have to look out several years in the future. In fact, one thing we should know is to shorten our horizon and work with a few years at a time, three to five years at the most. And, with three to five year horizons, we can know enough about the technologies in development and from our past experience, the process of technology diffusion. And, with this, we can indeed build a workable model for this prediction.
With this in mind, we should know better than saying technologies would create new jobs which we do not know about. And, yet, such a stance is popular, popping up on Powerpoint in conference circuits all the time. The reason for this is a kind of technology fetishism that define our popular discourse: Talking about technological progress in this mystical way is actually glamorous. And, the hard truth really is that cutting edge technology, even with all those data visionaries and nanotech biggies, will have very little impact on jobs, in the immediate term or even the long term. They may be excellent jobs, but they are not the ones we educate for. In the end, those jobs do not really matter.
The jobs that will matter in the next three to five year horizon are those jobs focused, not on the creation of technology, but those that are aimed at diffusion of existing or emerging technologies. There are vast sectors of our lives that will embrace more and more technology, and use it better and more efficiently. We could have predicted the coming of the Search Engine Specialist jobs five, even ten, years before it became a reality: We could have looked out at our Yahoo! or Alta Vista and spoke about these transforming marketing in 1998 (and we actually did). The jobs that will make tech an everyday affair is unglamourous - does anyone want to be BT Technician who is usually only seen hunched at a Cable Box - but these are the jobs that matter.
The answer, therefore, is we know which jobs will matter, but we do not want to say. This is because, even in all its uncertain glory, the attraction of the unknowable technology creation jobs make better advertising copy than the very predictable jobs of technology diffusion. But just as the beautiful model in the advertisement makes the average housewife's life a little more miserable (even if she, in the process, buys more soap), the mystery of technology nirvana actually makes the poor students' frustrations worse. An educator, therefore, is duty-bound to demystify the Labour Market and talk about what jobs do really matter.
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
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
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.
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. Reli
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
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
As India's democracy reaches a critical juncture, with a very real danger of a authoritarian take-over, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary is a perfect occasion to revisit the founding idea of India once again. There are many things in his politics that we may need to dust up and reconsider: Tagore's political ideas, because of his inherent aversion of popular nationalism and enthusiasm about Pan-Asianism and universalism, were outside the mainstream of the Indian National Movement, seen as impractical and effectively shunned. He was seen mostly as the Poet and the mystic, someone whose politics remains in the domain of the ideas rather than action. Tagore himself, after a brief passionate involvement in politics during the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, withdrew from political action: He never belonged to the political class, despite his iconic status and itinerant interventions, such as returning the Knighthood after the massacre of Amritsar in 1919.
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.