Showing posts from March, 2022

Should India 'nationalise' Higher Education?

As it rolls out its National Education Policy (NEP), India is faced with the dilemma that every other post-colonial nation has to answer: Whether to 'nationalise' higher education, by privileging traditional languages and 'Indian' knowledge over liberal humanities and cosmopolitan outlook? This is not the first time India is dealing with this question. The first time, just after the Independence, the answer was a resounding endorsement of cosmopolitan science, based on a modernist view of nation-building. Nehru wanted an India that looked forward, not backwards. The second time, in the 80s, shorn of the optimism and adrift in the neoliberal world, the answer was low on nation-building aspiration and overtly focused on technological cold-start.  This road now leads us to where we are - a deja vu all over again! The country has been a major beneficiary of globalisation, but its blessings were mixed. A lot of people has been left behind, communities have been replaced by a

In the Jugaad-land

I am in India. I have forced myself into a 'discovery' trip - sitting across the table with potential customers and partners to understand if our ideas have any validity. This has been enormously valuable, as it should be. I have now lived through the rituals of being challenged, rejected, questioned and occasionally supported - the usual rite of passage of product creation! I am exhausted but full of ideas, and I think I know what to do next. As it was necessary, I came with an open mind. Like a start-up, I came not to 'sell' but to 'learn' [I have always taken Steve Blank's point seriously: Start-ups are learning organisations] I was not pitching, I was connecting. Coming to India after a gap of two years, I wanted to know everything that is happening, that is important. Even when people were telling me that there was no market for my idea, I was eager to know what other ideas were there. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone to step into the other perso

In search of change in higher ed

I often ask myself this question: Why is it that when the world's best corporations are trying to set up 'campuses', many universities and colleges are so intent on running 'factories'? I know the obvious answer that the creativity and freedom are supposed to be for the gifted. Most of humanity are not creative, not aspirational and they crave for structure and command. I also know that this answer is wrong. Of course, we have met 'uncreative' people; many of them, possibly. People who would just follow, rather than finding a path. But should we stop to think that it is in their genes to not to be creative, an assumption we implicitly seem to be making, and allow the thought that they might have been encouraged not to think?  Is it that we are mixing up the cause and the effect - our education 'factories' are making people stupid, rather than the other way around? Of course, this is not about social classes, as the toffs would say: "Too many peo

Move over, rankings! Let's have a good education index

University rankings are useless. They reflect irrelevant parameters (like how the ranked universities rank each other), elitist assumptions (how many students they reject) and encourage status quo (how much money they have). Besides, these rankings aggregate all these based on completely random distribution of weightage, which means nothing even if one was interested in some parameters that these include.  We are stupidly addicted to them. We make our children follow ranking, despite the huge financial burdens and emotional costs. Perfectly normal people indulge in corruption. Instead of learning and experience, we chase vanity, flaunting which college our children go to even at the cost of their well-being. We let self-appointed experts, mainly from media, soothe and deceive us with a single round number, pandering our innate silliness that all numbers must mean something. The status quo society that we lived in - ever since the end of history in the 90s - this mattered less than how

The feeling of falling in love

The ability to fall in love makes us human. It is a complex feeling, the interplay of hormones and the perfect poise of rationality and the irrational, sitting just beyond our understanding - only just! And, therefore, it's hard to explain. We try poor explanations too often: Something to be, something to possess. And, yet, at the core, this is to give, give away, care for something, or someone, other than ourselves - making us greater than we really are. This feeling sustains our most intimate bonds, nations, humanity, but we neither understand nor control it. And that's perhaps for the better: If we knew where the kill switch was, we would have killed it a long time ago. Contra Darwin, falling in love perhaps serves no evolutionary purpose. At its core, it is about giving away, working against the selfish gene, just enough to keep it in check. However, this gives us poetry, art and all what is beautiful and non-essential in our language. The creative impulse wouldn't exis

A ministry for loneliness

On a rather gloomy day in Melbourne - a sad one when the city has lost its greatest cricketing son ever - I came across the latest idea of government innovation: A minister for loneliness!  Election season, so Victorian politicians are confronted with many catchy manifesto ideas. Emerging from one of the most stringent and longest lockdowns anywhere in the world, mental health is indeed at the top of the agenda here. Therefore, the ministry to tackle loneliness sounds right - and timely! I am not a huge fan of governments looking to address social issues. A friend helpfully pointed to me to the Ministry of Silly Walks, which is indeed as innovative and perhaps as needed for our dour times. The effects of the lockdown were devastating, but a minister to solve the problem? I almost misread the proposed title as a minister OF loneliness! To my surprise, though, it turned out not to be a new idea at all. That I did not know that the UK was the first to have such a minister in 2018 was perh

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