Employability is now serious business. Governments ask about employability outcomes and rankings depend upon it. 'Disruptive' start-ups raise millions of dollars to fix student employability. The assumption is because employability should be measurable, measuring it is the best way to understand if education has been effective.
That assumption is wrong. This is simply because there are many dimensions of employability outside the educators' control. The assumption of a flat-world job market, with skills and wages working as a pricing mechanism, is wrong. Wages are almost always inflexible, even in a non-unionised workplace; there is always minimum wage, but more importantly, organisational structures limit the level of flexibility. Employability is also shaped by implicit bias, of the employer or the society at large, which sets expectations based on race, gender, age, sexuality, physical appearance or accent. Students are also not completely mobile: They may prefer lower waged jobs locally than travel elsewhere to find jobs based on their skills. In summary, all those various structural factors that come in the way of the perfect economics of 'full employment' play a role in employability. Indeed, the reverse is also true: Students who are in the right place at the right time, with the right ethnicity and accent, may fare better regardless of educational effectiveness. Therefore, though employability may be measurable, it may not adequately reflect the impact - or the lack - of education.
But I also wish to talk about something more - about shifting student expectations. We may assume that the employability statistic is a big thing and therefore, highlight it everywhere, but do the students really care? Some of the surveys that look at student priorities highlight that other things, such as 'quality of student life', often come at the top of the students' priorities, with employability down below at No. 6 or 7. One may assume that employability should count higher for the students' parents, but there too, quality and type of employment, rather than percentages of students finding jobs, are deemed to be more important: After all, for parents, its the type of job his or her progeny will get matters most. True, jobs become more important to students as they mature and many students, who have not had the right career advice early or did not have a professionally successful relative to look up to, think about jobs and careers only in the final year (when it's too late to find the right internship), but even at that stage, it's not employability that floats their boat.
I have spent a lot of time at the frontline of education-to-work transition and my views are informed by the conversations with students I have had along the way. I have come to recognise that every student is different - why they have pursued the particular education they have pursued and what they wanted at the end depend on their unique personalities and life experiences. All of that is hard to encapsulate within a single metric, let alone in a pointless percentage figure of students in jobs or an average starting salary. But if something must be measured to benchmark success and get a sense of educational value-add, there is something which can act as a proxy, applicable to most students that I have met.
At the end of studentship, as the time of transition draws nearer, all students are anxious. The type of anxiety is different: Some will worry about returning home (with UK Home Office breathing down their neck), some will think of getting the right employment, some are thinking of moving in with boyfriends or girlfriends or about getting married. What success looks like, from this vantage point, is about greater control over their lives. Employability, and the financial independence that brings, is a part of that equation, but that's not the whole story. Also, employability, where life will mean abject servitude in a hostile workplace (which is the reality for many students across the developing world) is hardly conducive to this sense of being in control; rather, this is its opposite. It is this measure - do you feel being in control of your life - that indicates student success more correctly than aggregate figures such as employability.
This is indeed a pretty obvious point, but no one wants to measure it. This is a qualitative measurement, but we measure far more complex stuff all the time these days. Besides, educational institutions have a unique privilege of having access to all the data one may need to construct such measurements. Also, the educator has far greater control over the students' levels of confidence in self-control than their employability outcomes, as they are responsible for creating most of it. Employability is a dumbed-down proxy that misses most of the details such a measurement of student success will contain. And, indeed, this would go a long way improving the educational experience, even if such measurements are not shared in the public domain.
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
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
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.
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,
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
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
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
Italy recently apologised to Libya for its occupation of the country between 1911 and the Second Word War and offered an investment deal of $5 Billion over next 25 years towards reparation. This is largely symbolic, and investment deals could have been done without adding this moral halo . But the apology itself is an important step. The key question is one of principle, indeed. It is about whether the occupying countries do accept that their colonial exploits did enormous harm to the occupied, and whether they are ready to accept the responsibility. As the world becomes more sensitive towards the wrongness of occupation [even George Bush was heard saying that occupation of Georgia by Russia is unthinkable in the 21st century!!], and the world justice system gears up to try the leaders causing genocide and violence, paying for past crimes - including occupation - becomes ever more relevant and important. There are several issues which are still hotly debated - slavery, for example,
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.