Showing posts from May, 2021

Beyond vocationalism: reflections on general education and technology

As we learn to live through the pandemic, during which work and professions have been transformed through the use of information technology, the question of what effect technology will have on post-pandemic jobs has been raised again and again. Books that explore AI and humanity have come thick and fast; how we educate a new generation of workers has received a lot of attention too. There is much speculation whether this time, it will be different - and if there is anything to be found in our past experience with technological change.  I work in the faultline of this change and the object of my work has been to enable workers take advantage of technology. In a way, this is the less attractive end of education: This is not about groundbreaking research or completely novel ideas, but rather equipping the middling workers with skills to take advantage of technologies. I shall claim that this no less crucial in economic growth and progress - as without the skilled workers, the benefits of

Case for a fresh start in Indian Education

In 1921, just after the Influenza pandemic, H G Wells was writing "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." As we strive to look beyond the pandemic, it's a useful place to start. Of course, we are still counting the bodies and the public health challenge must be met first. But it will be a mistake not to think about what comes after, as otherwise, the after-effects will linger on and may eventually break the society as we know it. In the influenza pandemic, India lost approximately 5% of its population. This time around, even with the near-collapse of the healthcare system in some cities, the toll is likely to be lower. But the economic and social impact of the Pandemic would be far more severe, with the global supply chain reaching a breaking point and the dislocation of the health and education systems due to the pandemic.  However, my objective here is to try to look beyond the pandemic and what needs to happen to contain the afte

Human+Tech in Education: Meeting Bloom's challenge

  For this post, I owe a debt of gratitude to a fellow-traveller who connected through this blog and introduced me to Bloom's 2-Sigma problem . Serendipitous as it was, the conversation led me to think of my own quest in a new light and, to reframe the Human+Tech network proposition with a new sense of purpose. It was no longer a solution searching for a problem; instead, there was a clear goal and even a metric against which we can measure the efficacy of our intervention. For me, this is also a great way to move beyond the false binary (as described in an earlier post - Human+Tech in Education ) of human vs tech in education. While I celebrated the possibilities of technology - my entire career was about deploying new technologies - I always resisted the logic of automation: I do not think that the technologies can replace the human in education. Instead, I see Edtech's big - and sole - role as one of augmentation, one like the mobile phone that can carry human voice across t

Human+Tech in Education

  I wrote in an earlier post, that it is time to move beyond the false binary of online vs offline in education. After the pandemic, it's going to be both. But, as I explained, this is not going to be 'blended' learning of the vanilla variety. That is because the word 'blended' presupposes content as the driver of education. The post-pandemic priorities will demand moving away from the publishing paradigm. We already know that it's context, rather than content, that drives meaningful educational outcomes. We have to do much more than blending the content now. As we look to do this, we should also demolish another, equally false, binary: That of human vs the tech. We often mix up humans with face-to-face and tech with the online side of the argument. But that is a mistake, at least now, when tech is getting smarter and laying claims on human functions. The publishing paradigm in education, based on the view that serving content is what the teachers do, exacerbate

What happened in West Bengal

Finally, the poll results are out in West Bengal. While Bengalis like me are not surprised - the feeling is more like a collective sigh of relief - many friends from outside are very surprised: Over the last few years, they have got used to big-man politics and never saw this coming. Here is my I-told-you-so moment, but I think I owe them some explanation why these results were predictable. But, first, what I think it is not. To start with, it is not a win for vote-bank politics. This is how the BJP would want to portray it - that Mamta Banerjee has won this election by pandering the muslims! But BJP pandered the Hindus in equal measure, and during the campaign, Ms Banerjee tried to be as even-handed as she could be. If anything, this result is a rejection of BJP's strategy to turn this into vote-bank election. But, equally, this is not a triumph of secular politics. If that would be so, then the Left and the Congress would have something to show for their efforts. That the two par

Higher Education after the Pandemic: Shaping the expectations

While we all are weighed down by sadness of the human tragedy of the pandemic, it is clear that we know how to end the pandemic. Vaccines are working, testing has become more accessible and there is a treatment around the corner. From now, it is a question of political will and logistics, and not an intractable battle with nature (as is the case with AIDS, for example). It is time to be thinking the post-Pandemic world. If history is any guide - and it usually is a reliable guide - this worldwide disruption should set off a new 'golden age'. Pessimism, at the end of such disasters, usually turn to optimism. Who would have imagined that the daily commute to office can ever be something to look forward to? Therefore, getting back to normal with a vengence is indeed a distinct possibility. Such a scenario has already been factored into the expectations, in stock markets, house prices, in all those loans given out to keep the companies afloat.  However, there is another school of t

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