Showing posts from March, 2018

An 'Indian' Education

What would an Indian Education system look like? There are many interesting conversations about this in India. The primary reason for this is indeed the ascendancy of BJP, a Hindu Nationalist party, which now controls the Union and most State governments in India. In order to secure its rule, the BJP leaders know that they have to transform the education system. And, they are at it, with a clear agenda and intent - curbing the Western influence where they see it. Most of it has come in the form of petty settling of scores - removing people favoured by earlier administrations - and mindless government meddling in curriculum and governance. However, this has put 'Indianness of Education' as an issue to reckon with. This arises primarily as much of the current Indian Education system was shaped by the British Imperial administration. The British imperial rule did not just set up an Education system in India: It, at the same time, destroyed what was there, pushing S

A Liberal Education For The 21st Century: A Practical Education?

In earlier posts, I wrote about my current exploration of possibilities of a Liberal Education for the 21st Century (See A Liberal Education For The 21st Century and A Liberal Education for India ). For last several years, I have been looking closely at the Education-to-Employment (as well as Education-to-Enterprise) transitions, a territory far removed from Liberal Education ethos and conversations, but the main lesson I took away from this work is that what we offer now is too narrow an education, and the solution of the talent problem - the challenge employers are facing in finding the right talent as technologies disrupt industrial business models - lies in broadening the scope of education. The other part of my life, study of the history of the education systems, emphasised the point further: A narrow education at a time of great technological change can turn a 'demographic dividend' into an unmitigated disaster (See An Education for Decline ). This is the background

What's there to learn from Business Failure?

This is a question I asked my Trainer friends often, without ever receiving a satisfactory answer: Why isn't there a course on understanding failures? Business failures are more common than business successes. Failures teach more - 'double loop learning' is what the learning theorists would say - and understanding what not to do is indeed the bedrock of a sound strategy. Yet, while various trainers sweat out in the endless quest of differentiating themselves, they all offer different formula of success - this method or that, always fool-proof, always the only route to success - no one wants to talk about failure. Why? Apart from the explanation that talking about failure would be bad omen, there are hardly any good explanations for this rather inexplicable omission. That Business Executives don't want to talk about failure is wrong: Read any business book, and the narrative is often structured as a struggle, that things got worse before it got better! It i

A Liberal Education for the 21st Century

In the conference circuit, the most common complaint against Higher Education institutions is that they do not understand employer requirements. Thereafter comes the slide that cites either the World Bank or the World Economic Forum, or some neoliberal think-tank, and maintains that employers are, most crucially, looking for 'soft skills': Ability to communicate, collaborate, think critically and empathise with others.  Languages hide as much as they reveal. In another day and age, one would call those very attributes human skills and recognised the problem as one of narrow education. And, this alternative perspective is exactly what we need: The problem is not that the education is not specific enough, but it is too specific. The Higher Education institutions, since everyone, students, their parents, regulators and governments have become outcome obsessed, are endlessly chasing 'employer requirements', in a world where the recruiters are always focu

Goals and Serendipities

Henry Moore's idea - that one should work all life towards a slightly unattainable goal - appeals to me: That way, I can have meaning at work and yet never be satisfied. I am sure I have written about it and yet I write about it again. This is because at moments like this, when that goal seems remote, I get a peculiar sense about goals in general. It is not the conventional wisdom about setting goals and linearly progressing towards it bit by bit. That can only be possible with goals which can be clearly defined, which, by definition, are not unique, mediocre. But for the goals that ought to be created, which are new, which remain just slightly outside the possibility of ever being attained without ever appearing absurd, there isn't a straight path. Rather, they are ones which, with their fuzzy yet constant existence, allow us to follow an orbital path, balancing just right the sense of purpose and the daily business of living, with us inching towards it wit

Game Over for Facebook?

Is the game over for Facebook? Would this outrage of knowing that the network is controlling us - reading out our most guarded desires and obsessions and feeding and fuelling the same through the mechanics of mind control - drive many to really delete themselves from Facebook? Is that even possible, to let a digital me die unmourned? Someone I nurtured so diligently, someone who anchors me into a different world of digital connections and relationships, affords meaning beyond the day-to-day affectations - can I let the person pass away without an effort?  And, yet, can I allow that person to control my life, my ideas and my engagements with the world? Can I let this digital demon, simply because I can't let go, manipulate the world on my behalf, subverting my most cherished ideals and making me a patsy for secretive billionaires and manipulators? Wouldn't that be an act of incorrigible narcissism, an act of submission to an evil empire, cowardice not unlike thos

Searching for A Method in Madness: The World-View of Donald Trump

Is Donald Trump mad? That's the question that popped out in my mind as I engaged with the very unlikely New York Times piece When The Leader of the Free World is an Ugly American ,which argues that Trump's Foreign Policy approach is consistent - contrary to the claims made by the Foreign Policy establishment in America and elsewhere - with the longstanding American approach that put the American national interest above everything else. It is powerfully argued, and maintains that the Liberal commentators may be getting fooled by their own rhetoric of globalism. Can this indeed be right that there is method in Trump's madness, or what is portrayed as madness? Indeed, it is rather easy to convince myself that Trump is mad if I look at Facebook. A number of Facebook posts confirm a number of psychologists said so. Indeed, we are at a time of implosion of Facebook itself, proving that it may be just showing you what you already believe. So, more you click on posts t

'An Education for Decline': The Lure of Technical Education and Limits of Progress

For those who want to change the world through Powerpoint, there are some fundamental beliefs about Education. Like, education is about 'human capital', making the individuals receiving education economically productive.  And, that, education is important for national competitiveness, the better educated its people are, the more competitive a nation will be.  That education is really about skills - being able to do things - rather than learning: Knowledge can be acquired on-demand and at leisure.  That educators should build close connections with employers and look to align themselves with their future talent needs. These are ideas everyone - at least everyone who count - agree on. And, such agreement means that all the attention, along with all the money, gets diverted to certain specific things. And, with money and attention, a certain kind of education - a specific idea of education - becomes pre-eminent. It crowds out other ideas, drives out all the a

Book Review: The Wilsonian Moment

I read Erez Manela's The Wilsonian Moment: Self-determination and the Intellectual Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism over the weekend.  As far as Intellectual Histories go, this is quite a gripping read. Focused on a short span of time, primarily between January 1918 when Wilson laid out his fourteen points and June 1919 when the treaty of Versailles was signed, the narrative brings together an extraordinary cast of characters, pettiness and foresight, idealism and intrigue, optimism and disappointment in good measure. Interspersing the biographical narratives of many leading figures of anticolonial nationalism, Saad Zaghloul, Syngman Rhee, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Wellington Koo among them, this is an attempt to present the radicalisation of anticolonial nationalism in four nations - Egypt, India, China and Korea - around the 'Wilsonian Moment', the hopes generated by Wilson's proclamation of Fourteen points and particularly the promise of 's

The Twilight of the Business Schools

Business Schools are a great success story in Higher Education. What may have started as a Correspondence training was transformed by the establishment of University department in Pennsylvania with Joseph Wharton's money, to train the captains of American industry, in 1881. A generation later, with the founding of Harvard Business School in 1908, the whole global phenomenon has got started, though it took until 1954 for Cambridge University to start Management studies (which became a separate business school in 1995, while Oxford started its Business School in 1996). By the turn of the millennium, Business has become the most popular undergraduate subject, and increasingly Engineers and other technically trained professionals were coming to Business Schools to get credentialed. By this time, Business Schools became the most successful sector in Higher Education, with unparallelled prestige, and had developed an entire ecosystem of ranking, funding and accreditation of their own

A 'Liberal Education' for India

In an ironic twist, many large employers in India complain that the education Indian graduates receive are too narrow.  Surely, the same employers, riding high on growth of IT services, helped model a tertiary education system - second largest in the world in terms of student numbers - as one narrowly, vocationally, defined. The glamour of the IT services industry, with an urban cosmopolitan life and the chance of lottery-draw for offshore opportunities, completely transformed Indian middle class life over the last two decades: That the whole ecosystem of Middle Class education, from Senior School to Business School, aligned itself to these new opportunities, is no surprise at all.  But this expansion has now stalled, offshore is becoming off limits, and the industry is transforming rapidly.  Rather than each corporation trying to develop their various enterprise-wide systems from scratch, and thereby, handing out huge multi-year development contracts to be executed by an

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