Showing posts from April, 2018

The Problem of Measuring 'Education'

One of the foundational industrial age belief is 'what gets measured, gets done'. This is indeed at the heart of scientific management and all the business models that we so love. The progresses in Information Technology came out of, primarily, our quest for measurements, so much so that we got used to the shorthand - 'Information Age' - when measuring and decision-making based on such measurements are the key organising principle of the whole society. Therefore, it is not surprising that the conversations in Education also revolves around measurement. Much of educational research is about what can be measured and how, driven primarily, but not exclusively, by the politics of public funding, to establish the 'worth' of one thing or another to be eligible for taxpayers' money. The private sector engagement in Education, either through large scale philanthropic engagements by people like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, or in the commercial ventures back

Would Technology Transform Higher Education?

I. Why Doesn't Technology Change Higher Education? I lived through the Dotcom years - all that frenzy about valuation of Start-ups, reading Red Herring (the aptly named Magazine of the time that is no more), the excited talk about a changing world - and I have heard this before, that Technology would utterly, completely, irreversibly change College.  It sure did. So, textbooks were replaced by e-textbooks, lectures were recorded and made available as videos, journals became searchable e-journals and submissions became online (though, tediously, many schools still asked for paper copies). But it was a damp squib! There was no disruption like the Music industry, which stopped becoming an industry, almost; nothing like the Netflix-size challenge that shook the big studios; and not even like steady, creeping territory grabbing like Amazon, that redefined how we buy stuff.  A lot of businesses, and people who built them (which includes me), tried and failed to transfo

International Universities, Made in China

China is redefining its universities, and, as a result, changing the landscape of International Higher Ed.  Indeed, this is early days, and most Chinese universities are still very traditional. But the game is changing, and it's time to pay heed. There was a time when British Universities loved China. It meant exotic foreign tours for staff and faculty, eager partners lining up elaborate welcome ceremonies, relatively easily winnable contracts and student numbers, which made nice little case studies. And, it didn't matter how good or bad the university was: Anything British would have done the job (one needed ranking, sure, but it did not matter which ranking: As a Chinese academic once told me, as long as you are the second best university on your street, it would do!) This seemingly unquenchable desire for foreign education came handy when the student numbers in the UK shrunk at the wake of immigration regime change under Theresa May's stewardship in

When The Students Go Home: Why Freedom May Not Travel

I just heard Michael Ignatieff hope that when some of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students studying in the United States choose to go home, and confront the authoritarian society at home, a democratic change will come. His source of hope was the Russian experience, and the belief that the Russians educated abroad challenged the Soviet regime and brought about the change: The same may happen to China. But will it?  All the answers to this would be speculative. But this assertion has an implicit claim about Western Higher Education that I would like to contest. Indeed, the big idea here is the idea of Liberty - the magic wand that transforms people and makes them the agents of change - but the usage of word has so changed over time that it needs to be interrogated again. Liberty in the current Western sense is the liberty to consume, to live a life of unrestrained economic possibility. This makes a difference: The Chinese government doesn't restrict economic pos

Education and The Global Division of Labour

At the heart of the modern education system, there are assumptions about a global division of labour. The education system that we have today, came about in the nineteenth century, arising from Liberalism, Industrialism and Empire. The modern Education system was a great Liberal project, above all. Its ideals were different from that of the Eighteenth century: Productivity, rather than Civility, was its stated purpose; Consumption, rather than self-restraint, was its point; and at a time when the aristocratic privileges could no longer be taken for granted, it promoted the Jeffersonian 'natural aristocracy of men'. Not all Eighteenth Century ideas were dead and gone, however. One distinction, between Liberal and Servile education, very much shaped the educational imagination in the Nineteenth. The idea of distinct education systems for intellectual and practical pursuits were now formalised: The great century of invention extended the chasm between intellectual and man

Rethinking Education-to-Employment Transition

Since October, as I walked out of my job, I have been looking to fine-tune my ideas about Education-to-Employment transition.  The first step of this was to look at the experiences of last six years, which I spent developing, first,  an online competency-based education programme and then on building employer-engaged online project-based education. These were all good ideas, and the reason that I am not doing these any more are partially operational: The first business was underfunded, and the second one was poorly conceived and implemented. But those are discussions for a different day. I am focusing currently on understanding the key conceptual elements - what works and what doesn't work - of a successful education-to-employment transition. Indeed, the claim that we can make a student employable with a few months of training is apparently pretentious. The years of schooling, family background and the students' dispensation, and luck, plays a much bigger role than

The Limits of The Indian Education System

I wrote about the origin story of the Indian Education system (See An 'Indian' Education ) to argue that 'Indianness' of Education does not necessarily have to be regressive, ritualistic or religious. The current tendency of relegating any discussion about an Indian Education to obscurantism cedes the space to Hindu Fundamentalists, who are left free to promote their particular, limited and historically inaccurate ideas. However, a culturally congruent education is much needed at a time when Indian society is at a crossroad, the pains of globalisation is hurting and the crisis of identity is real and urgent. This post is a rejoinder to the earlier one. Here, I intend to expand my argument that the Indian system of education did not break out from its earlier, imperial, mode. This is a familiar argument that the cultural nationalists make all the time, but, since I didn't think that British imperial education was necessarily English-only (rather, it promoted

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