Showing posts from July, 2020

Education for success: Considerations for a Liberal Education

For the students in India, 2020 changes everything. It's been a while that the usual formula - entrance examinations, engineering degrees and IT jobs - was looking shaky. But, now, with the economy in a full crisis mode, a new imagination is needed. With the old ways of doing things falling apart, the only safety now is in finding one's own way by being really really good at something.   But how does one know what she can be really good at? A broad education, which allows intellectual freedom of exploration and synthesis, is hardly offered in India. A society obsessed with safe careers, students specialise early: Most peoples' lives are spoken for when they reached secondary school and they start taking special coaching classes with an eye on the profession. The community, the family and the parents decide what the student would do in life: There is very little choice, very little experimentation, to be allowed in a decision that one has to live with all her life. However,

The liberal education turn

Among the many victims of the pandemic, it will be easy to forget the students who graduated this year. While we focus on the elderly and the vulnerable and try to support those who have lost their jobs or businesses, the graduates - young and relatively less at risk - may appear less worthy of our sympathy. And, yet, the pandemic and the resulting destruction in its wake would mean all carefully laid plans, all the years of toil and dreaming, may fall apart, consigning many to shaky starts and entire lifespans of underachievement. But a further tragedy is also unfolding in slow motion: Those who will come after, next year and further out still. Corona virus may be tamed with a vaccine, but the pandemic has exposed the inherent weakness of the world we were building: Connected economies with disconnected polities, interdependent lives lived by atomistic individuals, a world faced with long term changes where rewards are all here-and-now. The euphoria of the 1990s, after the fall of Ber

What's wrong with Indian education? Responses to a misdiagnosis

The most creative university in India today is what folks refer to as 'WhatsApp university'. In a country of young people hungry for knowledge, the spontaneous beast of social media has truly been tamed into organised dissemination of knowledge. It's mostly propaganda, but it will be a mistake to consider it trivial: Neatly produced and widely distributed, its messages - often videos - are closely read and widely watched. They are folksy but often take on weighty subjects - and impact how millions of people think. However, like most Babus, I tend to ignore its incessant intrusion - all those forwarded messages, videos, raging debates on local groups - and treat them as spam or worse. Until, of course, I reached that inescapable moment when misinformation came knocking at my own door, upending the work I do and claiming the attention of people I care about. Hence, this post. What ails Indian Education? These are my responses to a recent well-produced WhatsApp video that lay

Does China need India?

China and India stepped back from the brink, at least for the moment. But the flare-up in June - and indeed the ongoing tensions - has strained relationships and nudged India closer to the United States. But, not many people in India would readily buy the argument that India should become a member of the Quad (a grouping of United States, Japan, India and Australia for the control of Indo-Pacific) to face-off China. For them, it really means Indian lives and India's prosperity are put in the line for containing China. Despite all the public outrage at China's misbehaviour and even with all the forthcoming bollywood fare trashing China, that would be a hard sell in India. Indian leaders, despite their almost pagan love for spectacles, are realists. Even though they sell to the public India's impending great power status, they are well aware of the constraints that India's divided polity, widespread poverty and lack of productive manpower impose. For all the transformativ

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