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 into getting a job. Career preparation, which is a broader goal, is perhaps worthy of more attention, but this doesn't get me off my bed every morning. And while I have been quite deeply engaged in a project to create something meaningful in this space, it was more the creative aspect of the work rather than the actual content of it kept me engaged. In other words, I was as passionately engaged when I was creating the frameworks for mechanical integrity training in hazardous industrial sites and thought of the impact of my work as highly, but it will be wrong to count either as the mission of my life.
As I wrote earlier, I am at a point of reset and discarding my old assumptions and ideas quickly. I am interrogating all aspects of my life and work and looking to make a fresh start over the next few weeks and months. This is indeed a good time to ask myself how much commitment I really have to become a committed professional in the education-to-employment space.
And I know the answer: That's the wrong space for me. I neither believe that education institutions should narrow-mindedly pursue job preparation nor I believe that making our students believe a job is a destiny is good for them. Like any other educator, my commitment is towards human flourishing, creating the space so that the students can be themselves and find their own way through life. Employment is just one possible path, and in this era of dwindling job security and breakdown of employer-employee social contract, perhaps the worst route to flourishing. Therefore, while my current work remains important within my current context, the job I want to do is to change the context - the role of education as a whole!
It's a hard thing to do not because the private capital that I am employed by is too powerful and wouldn't allow any changes. In fact, if anything, private higher ed isn't that strong. In most cases, they function as oligarchic appendage to the state monopoly on education, which is increasingly challenged. It is that education itself has become the feudal state's last resort, the tool of control of privileges. In fact, from that perspective, privatisation of education is a sign of weakness rather than strength - the old battle of church and state reappearing in a new form! The failures of private higher ed continues to undermine the state monopoly. The student loan non-payment, in US and now in the UK, is largely created by the private For-profit sector. The whole conversation about education-to-employment started because of mass higher education powered by private sector failed to deliver the goods. The 'useless degrees' conversation, which seems to be a significant part of the debate between UK Prime Ministerial hopefuls, is about the failure of private education and vocationalised degrees than about the pointless of the humanities (though it is presented as the opposite).
If I have to choose a mission, therefore, it won't be about something which is structurally broken, but where the opportunity to create new structures are. To this end, the temptation of creating a new education for Internet economy looks much more attractive than fixing education-to-employment transition. I have been studying technology's impact on work, lives and societies for a long time, starting as an evangelist of early Internet and gradually finding my way through disillusionment and finally a more balanced view of opportunities and dangers. Hidden among all my work, even the current education-to-employment one, are my concerns about how our students live in the Internet economy. This is what gets me off the bed, this is what I read and talk about and this is what I wish to live my life doing.
That, then, is my plan for the pivot: Creating a model of education for the Internet economy. I am going to collect a new team of co-travellers and work on various aspects of technology and society. Technology, business, law, humanities - nothing should be exempt. This is more about creating a model of general education for the Internet age - my quest for a digital commonwealth!