Showing posts from 2022

Day 2: Confusion

Journey is an over-used metaphor. It presents a particular relationship between space and time. But the inherent assumption in a journey is that one moves forward. At a time when someone feels going in circles, journey is not a good metaphor to cling to. Such is my situation. After a long time, perhaps the first time in my career, I have lost the enthusiasm for my work. I have always traded financial reward and security for interesting work, so such enthusiasm was never in short supply. But as Christmas holidays draw to a close and I look out to New Year, I am so not excited!  May be I am getting old. It seems finally my attitude towards work is becoming like a normal person's, which I have always failed to understand. I hated the moaners and those who complained, and i changed jobs before I got to that point. This is possibly the first time I feel unenthusiastic but also stuck! I have made some big commitments lately, trying to assemble a team around me with whom I can work long t

Day 1: Wandering

I am still wandering. But I have one dilemma to add to my list of dilemmas. This is about my political belief. I am one of those liberals who feel increasingly homeless. At a time when everyone is choosing sides and all conversations are increasingly ideological, my attempts feel increasingly futile. My biggest trouble is that I don't know what's right or wrong anymore. All 'experts' seem compromised, driven by agendas of their own. After the demise of subscriber-sponsored media, ad-supported news have very little credibility. Some high-value media brands, perhaps they can afford to attract subscribers paying for it (such as The Economist, which I continue to read), are perhaps exempt, but they struggle to escape the Anglo-American neo-imperialism which offends the Indian in me.  Further, I do get questioned whether I am right-wing or left-wing. In the past year, I have been classed as Fascist at least once (though not through an action of my own, but as a matter of col

Returning the blog to blogging

I am officially ending 2022 in my life. It was one of those years which one would wish to forget, but can't. My father's illness and death dominted the year, but also my work project which took shape. But even on that front, it was a series of misjudgements that I would remember, rather than anything that I achieved. As I approach 2023, I seek to correct, recover and rebuild. One of the key things that I wish to change is how I blogged. This blog is an important part of my life and yet, I neglected it through the year. Part of the reason was extensive travelling, but also that I was all over the place. Emotionally I was at my lowest: I became dissatisfied with where my life was going, saw no point in my work and mis-prioritised. I was over-optimistic and aimed for implausible things. And, as I learnt my lessons along the way, my intellectual project dissipatated: I had almost nothing to write about. This is what I seek to correct and return this blog to being a blog. A log of t

'23: Setting the agenda

I got into private higher education by mistake. Like any outsider, I looked at the prospect of setting up a college and got excited. It was only when I got inside and started understanding how private higher ed worked, I realised that it was a mistake. I sometimes think I was courageous to carry on and try to change things from inside; other times, I recognise the sheer futility of the enterprise and wish I chose another career instead. But there are now few routes of escape available to me. I have done several things in life, but all of them are always around education. More specifically, the common theme across all my various careers spanning thirty years has been workforce education. Some of the times, I dealt with students before they start working, and other times, I have been on the other side, dealing with people who have started working already. I have done technology roles, written courses, taught and ran business units, but all of them were always around this one thing: Prepa

Reset for 2023

I may be wrapping up 2022 a month in advance. This has been the most terrible year in my life, and I would like to make this a short one. Particularly as I embark on a new start, possibly in a few weeks, I would rather get into 2023 mode. My 2022 is, on balance, a failure. Beginning of the year, I was working towards two projects: Setting up a new institution in London and transforming an existing one elsewhere. The first one failed even before we started, as the potential partners, after months of negotiation, backed off, due to problems at their end. The second project also ended in failure: Innovation within a diploma mill mindset is never easy! I should have known: I have tried similar things before and failed. However, this time, the failure was a bit of a relief, as my optimism was tempered and freed my hand to focus completely on education innovation. However, it's my personal life which made 2022 even a bigger failure. Ever since I had to fly back from Melbourne as an emerg

Indian Higher Ed: Indian or Global?

My work is in international education. So my mantra is that education must be global! If we are not preparing our students for the global workplace, we are doing them a disservice, I say!  However, an interesting conversation with an young colleague made me pause and think. Her point, on reading India's new National Education Policy, was that the policy talks a lot about being Indian while promising to prepare Indian graduates for the global workplace. She saw this as an anomaly and hoped I would agree!  But here is my own confusion perhaps. I do think Indian education should be more Indian. I actually find the educated Indians disdain for their own countrymen disconcerting and believe that this is a crucial weakness of the Indian society. It weakens India as the Indian middle classes are increasingly disconnected from the real problems of their own country and try out various Made-in-America solutions rather than thinking on their own. And, I believe education, and particularly Hi

How to prepare for the apocalypse

A lot of my work is about preparing our students for the future. Under the general banner of employability, I have a fairly boxed-in view about the future. We deal with college students and prepare them for jobs. Slightly ambitiously, we try to prepare them so that they can be masters, rather than slaves, within the context: You should be able to choose what you will do, and once you get the job, you should be able to keep it and grow in it, we say! Of course, more than anyone else, my colleagues and I know how hard a thing this is to achieve. The number of students in higher education and the number of middle class jobs (the type you keep and can grow in) are completely out of sync: A vast majority of university graduates, regardless of their degrees, will not find a proper job that can build their lives. Most will go from job to job, mostly staying at the same level all their life (job progression, the base that all middle class dreams are based on, usually only happen to 5% of the O

Conceiving a writing project

I am working on an idea of a book I want to write. This was in my mind for a while, though I conceived this differently. Initially this was meant to be a joint project, more as a self-development book for aspiring students. After the momentum for the same fizzled out, I had to re-concieve, not for the original commercial purpose but more as a personal meditation on what kind of professionals we need in the future. In essence, therefore, this is a new project. I don't want to write about 'employability' any more: It's not about advising students how to metamorphose into what employers might want. I have flipped the perspective in my mind: It is more about what kind of professionals we need to shape our future. In a way, I want to write a critique of the professions in their twilight, as the combined assault on the idea of expertise and dissipation of employer-employee social contract are undermining what it meant to be a professional. I did some work when I was still int

Not another course, please!

Courses are convenient. For any school, college or university, they are a good way to allocate time and resources. They can be fit into calendars, planned for and measured against set criteria. Therefore, the educational institutions really are the houses of courses! This was the framework I operate within, and if truth be told, resent. I see this as a case of inverted priorities: moving away from what the learners need or want, but rather what is the most economical, the mode of engagement being the same, and the most convenient. One could also argue that there is no real alternative: education in the formal sense must start and stop at some defined points and 'courses' are the most acceptable organising principle for these. There are no viable alternatives, the argument runs.  I disagree. As we have started delinking formal education from sitting in the classrooms, the rationale for 'courses' has grown weaker. The resource framework was hanging together by its fingert

On making a reading list

It is a rather strange time for me to work on my reading lists, but reading list is a strange thing for me to work on. If anything, in a time like this when my priorities are changing, a reading list is a great place to start. I consider it my strength that I have many interests. My mind seeks patterns, across topics and contexts, and my flow moments are those when I stumble upon similarities across contexts. This makes me a bad conversationalist and my skipping from one thing to another often exasperate others who are more disciplined and discipline-bound. But my big professional successes so far came from the ideas that seeped through boundaries of practice.  However, this is the reason I am always reading multiple different types of books together. It is not unusual for me to read a novel in the morning, some philosophy in the afternoon, be knee-deep in business early evening while taking history to bed, and equally enjoy all of them. I don't use bookmarks often (or I have less

Ready player one

I am living through this profound sense of ending - of my identity, my project and partnerships - and now, as a coping strategy, looking to shift my vision to the future. Enough of thinking about and analysing the mistakes that got me here; I am now thinking how to get out and what to do next. I know there is no easy escape. There are so many interconnected things I can't just walk away from. But at least, I have set things in motion. I have finally emotionally detached myself from a project which I considered to be my mission only a few months ago. I have also started putting my relationships away from personal commitments and friendships, as I was doing until now. The risk with my approach was that the whole edifice could have come down with a single mistake, as it duly did: I lost trust and before I knew it, my project was over. However, I have learnt that trying to pull away, making drastic changes, is too painful, particularly when other people are involved. So I am dismantlin

A note to myself

I write this on a sad afternoon when I feel the weight of the world. I grew up being told never to be weak. I accepted hardships would come. One would be tempted and led ashtray. The character, which was supposed to be key, was all about standing up to all these difficulties, denying the temptations and be steadfast about one's own purpose. This is how I lived so far. But I lost my way. I think it's the pandemic which did it. Partly it was me - a rush to reinvent myself! Partly it was my wrong estimation about people - who to trust and how much. And, of course, it was the circumstances, as my carefully constructed world collapsed in a perfect domino action. So I sit, this afternoon, desolate. It feels that there is no escape. On top of my mind is the slow decline of my father. Someone whose incandescent presence illuminated all my life seems to be fading out by a little bit everyday, but irreversibly. The sense of hopelessness is corrosive - it is exposing the meaningless way I

Education for internet economy

I have somehow defaulted into the education-to-employment transition business.  My interests are sincere. I have spent too much time in private higher education to understand the downsides of diploma mills, when the education becomes only about getting the diploma, and in the international context, about getting a visa through that diploma. The governments promote diplomas, as a way of social legitimacy or a way of getting immigration status, and the private higher education tends to follow the government policy. However, watching this business from close proximity, first in India, then in the UK and other international education destinations, I have grown weary of the limited aspirations of the diploma business. Therefore, this commitment to education-to-employment transition, which I have pursued with utmost sincerity for almost a decade now. But despite my evident engagement into this, can it count as my mission? Frankly, I don't believe in narrowly limiting the aim of education

The perfect reset

My carefully constructed plans are all coming to an end. Simultaneously, like a perfect domino.  A season for new beginnings is here. The pandemic got me into a mindset. Of waiting. Of believing things would sort themselves out with the passage of time. It's that quarantine mentality. And, while I never stopped, the way I imagined life and work was defined by this, a sort of trench mentality, survive to see through. However, I had no lack of ambition. At work, gradually, I arrived at a plan to transform global higher ed, yet again. It started modestly, just a specialist college in London; but soon, I was into products that could be plugged into all college curriculum and a network-based delivery method to scale it. It was an imperfect plan - I knew there was lot to be done - but I didn't hold back on dreaming.  Things changed in 2022 for me. I think it's the post-pandemic bounce that people talk about. I, boosted by vaccines, stopped fearing the pandemic. I started travelli

Student employability: Treating students as partners

I have recently been involved in developing and testing a student 'employability' programme. Like any other journey, this one evolved as we progressed. Because we took a design approach to building this, goalposts have shifted several times. We started building this with a very specific institutional context in mind and then looked to generalise it, making it available for other institutions in dramatically different contexts. The whole exercise has been one of exploration, conversations and iterations, just as we expected this to be. We engaged with a range of people, inside the institutions as well as outside, including a lot of business leaders, recruiters and learning professionals. And, of course, with a number of students, who joined the courses we delivered. We faced the usual challenges - of fitting things around the calendar, resourcing and compliance roadblocks, the usual bureaucratic powerplays etc. - and those highlighted, as expected, the issues of institutional cu

In search of harmony

Is there anything I believe in? This is one of those profile questions that pop up in diversity and inclusion forms. I prefer not to tick 'prefer not to say' as it seems disingenuous. I believe in something  though it is hard to categorise within those neat boxes. I was born a Hindu and believed in something. It was not just the festivals and holy days, not just the prayers and wishing for a blessing - those were all part of my childhood! But it was more than that: I thought like a Hindu and still do. I feel a part of the universe in me; I feel the debt I incurred to the universe, and to my ancestors, at my birth, and live everyday to pay it off; I know the I came from the universe and to it, I shall return.  But few beliefs I grew up with fell away with time. The caste hierarchy, in a sublime way, was part of my social sense. I was conscious that marriage to a non-brahmin would be unacceptable. It took time, travel and engagement with more enlightened people for me to move bey

On mediocrity

My greatest fear is that of mediocrity, of ordinariness. This ranks even higher than that of diabetes, which, given my family history, has the best chance of eventually killing me.  But I would rather be killed trying to stretch myself than live as deadwood. This is why I am usually so weary of all the well-meaning advice about work-life balance. My friends complain that I am too old school and don't care about physical or mental health. Apart from the key fact that I only work for myself and choose to do what I do (a privilege many people around me doesn't have), the whole work-life balance, for me, is a bourgeois consumerist trope to keep people looking elsewhere for meaning. My heroes - people who moved civilisation forward, Tagore, Gandhi, Einstein, Leonardo - wouldn't have time for such luxury. At the other end of the scale, 90% of the humanity wouldn't have any choice either, living hand-to-mouth or (for women in particular) work being the daily life itself. But,

Ideas for India: Three essential debates

  I spent the last week at the Ideas for India conference in London. This conference had different strands, and brought the diaspora Indians, India watchers and a number of delegates from India together.  Because Rahul Gandhi chose to attend - a rather last minute thing which changed the published agenda somewhat - the media narrative revolved around his 40-odd minutes of talk. And, of course, a sense of discomfort hung over the whole conference: A wholly new thing for me and it shows how much India has changed. Somehow, the people in India seemed to think that no conversation about India should happen anywhere else in the world, a strange thing for a country which is anxious to assert its global importance. Additionally, anything outside the official channel is seen as conspiracy. Gone are those days when the presumptive opposition candidate, the current Prime Minister, could freely interact with the diaspora Indians and slam Dr Manmohan Singh's lack of initiative; today, this wou

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