Tale of Two Songs

Or not … well, this isn’t exactly about two different songs, though one might almost think that. This is about a song sung by different generations, for different generations.

Heres what the black and white era brought, with the legendary Noor Jehan singing the song, in a sing which is very reminiscent of the era of movies immortalised by the likes of Shammi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, or Saira Banu. A song which definitely young men a generation (or maybe two) old would have swayed to.

For those who can’t follow the lyrics, here they are.

And heres the same song, perhaps 6 decades apart from the original, sung by the gorgeous Meesha Shafi, for an audience from an altogether different generation.

This is the reason I feel Coke Studio (and Nescafe Basement) are very good ideas … they present tradition in a package appealing to youngsters (even to older people like me!), and so, keeping the tradition alive.

The Future of Credentials?

Following the post on the future of work, was thinking about what implications this would have for education, and the most obvious connection between work and education is about credentials. These are the signposts that tell (current or future) employers that a person has a certain set of characteristics. The most obvious example of credentials is the degree which your college/university has given you, telling the world that you meet a certain set of criteria. Often, this criteria is somewhat obscure, and may mean all things to all people, as we can see from the fact that the same credential from different universities mean different things, as seen from the value that people assign to them.

Today, a college degree has immense value for an employer, because the college degree tells the employer that the student has gone through a certain set of courses, and therefore is the right person to meet the requirements of the employers. From the employer’s perspective, the degree tells them that the prospective employee has the skills to be able to build a career. What employers look for is the assurance that the prospective employee has what it takes to fit into the grand scheme of things, to become a part of the larger picture that their organisation represents.

However, as the nature of work changes, as I said before, would such a credential of an ability to learn all things be as important? I believe that in such a scenario, where an individual would be contributing their specific quantum of work in a larger value chain as a ‘freelancer’ the skills of the individual in that particular space would become much more important than their generic ability. This means that organisations would naturally be more interesting in evidence of achievement in that specific area.

Such a shift in focus from organisations would necessarily mean that the ability to demonstrate ability in a particular area would become more valuable than the ability to demonstrate overall/generic ability. Hence, I feel, artefacts generated by individuals in the course of their learning, whether in the form of project reports, or papers authored, or creative work, would probably have a far greater impact than the degree. So, for instance, a paper written by a student on a particular topic, related to the work sphere of the student would likely have far more interest for employers than the degree or the grade would.

In other words, the evidence of achievement, in the form of artefacts, or in the form of eminence would become a far more valuable resource by which to evaluate prospective employees than simply the degree.

The Future Work Economy

A topic I have been thinking about for a while now is what is the future of work, and of employment. There are a number of questions which come up, to which I must say I don’t have any answers.

One question I think about is the expected mismatch between the demand and availability of work in the future. Another is about the possible mismatch between skills requirement and availability.

Coming to the question of expected mismatch between work demand and availability, one dimension we need to consider, when building future scenarios is overall population. We are told repeatedly that technology is meant to make our lives easier, so we can spend more time with our loved ones. While thats a nice idea, what that means is that in the future, we are likely going to see much more work being automated at a global level, with people having to work less and less. This means lower demand for human resources, which could lead to a future this op-ed from Washington Post describes.

That said, however, there is another aspect which we need to consider. This is the fact that while a number of traditional occupations might not be around a few decades from now, there are likely going to be a number of new occupations, or even industries which could be generated over a period of time, as this piece from University of Kent tells us. While video games have been around for a while, no one could have anticipated the level of growth the gaming industry would see, for instance. New occupations and industries, of course, would require different skills, something we need to prepare our children for.

The other dimension is the mismatch between skills demand and availability. With Europe growing older, for instance, Europe will likely need to import workers, and with Africa growing younger, its quite simple to see where the additional workers required would come from.

This is an illustration of possible imbalances we could see in the future. The larger point here is this … the regions of the world which are well-off are likely to have fewer people in working age-groups in the future, while the regions which would have larger working-age populations would likely be unable to give access to the kind of education required to meet the needs of the job market.

Does this mean that it might be important for certain regions of the world to subsidise education and skill-building in other parts of the world? Should Japan, for instance, invest in education/skill-building in India? In other words, are we headed toward a far more integrated world as the viable solution to the problems of tomorrow?

Youth is more than the theme of the day; it’s the theme of the decade

A number of reports are telling us that there is a fundamental mismatch between the skills required of young people, and the skills our education systems are imparting to them. A fundamental rethink of the system of delivery, especially in the developing world is imperative. There needs to be significant public investment this area, but there needs to be lots of innovation, given the tools which have become available to us over the last few years, in education delivery.

World Education Blog

On International Youth Day, this blog looks at the continued importance of keeping the spotlight on better skills development for young people.

2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work The 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report: “Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work”

In 2012, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report analysed the youth skills gap and reported that it had reached new highs in the wake of an extended global financial downturn. According to this specially themed  Report, Putting Education to Work, 200 million young people had not completed primary school and lacked skills for work. This International Youth Day we must revisit this theme; it’s as relevant today as it was two years ago.

As International Labour Office (ILO) phrased it in their recent report on youth employment, ‘it’s not easy to be young and in the labour market today’. Reaching record levels, as many as 73 million young people worldwide…

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Learning is not just for students

This is a very important aspect of the education system which needs much focusing upon. Given the highly important role of teachers in shaping the world, it is surprising that teaching isnt a profession which figures among the most sought-after profession. This obviously means there are a number of factors which play a role here. A few decades ago, probably around the 60s and 70s, maybe upto the 80s, the brightest students chose academics as their profession (I am talking here from the engineering perspective), but today, among my college friends, there are only a handful who chose to venture into academics. This is a trend which needs to be changed, if we want to see a better world for our children.

World Education Blog

Portrait/Headshot: Kristen Weatherby, Senior Analyst, EDU/ECS, OECD.By Kristen Weatherby, Senior Analyst at OECD

The latest results from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) were released last week in countries around the globe. TALIS 2013 surveyed 107,000 lower secondary teachers in 34 participating countries to represent teachers worldwide. The OECD survey sought to understand who teachers are and how they work. Areas from how teachers’ daily work is recognised, appraised and rewarded to their attitudes towards teaching and their own experiences as lifelong learners were also examined. The TALIS results show us that we all can learn from what these teachers have to say.

The good news is that teachers are very satisfied being teachers. On average across TALIS-participating countries, nine out of ten teachers said that they are satisfied with their jobs. And nearly eight in ten teachers reported that they would still choose the teaching profession if they were faced with the choice again…

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Women’s education helps avert child marriage

Simple principle … Educating girls is the key to empowering them, and this is very important to building a better tomorrow.

World Education Blog

This week, a Girl Summit is being held in London, aimed at rallying efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation. This blog looks at the vital role that education plays in helping reduce child marriages and the child pregnancies that often occur as a result.

Around 2.9 million girls are married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, equivalent to one in eight girls in each region, according to estimates in the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report. These shocking statistics mean millions of girls are robbed of their childhood and denied an education.

Our Report also showed, without a doubt, that ensuring that girls stay in school is one of the most effective ways to prevent child marriage.

marriage Click to enlarge

Education empowers women to overcome discrimination. Girls and young women who are educated have greater awareness of…

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Changing Education Delivery

In today’s world, where the competition for top faculty is increasing, there is a felt need for being able to enable these faculty to reach out to teach more and more students. At the same time, there is more investment from the faculty in research. This means that there needs to be a way to deliver education differently which enables these faculty members to reach out to more students, while at the same time give them more time to work on non-teaching projects.

We see senior professors teaching the same courses year after year to different sets of students. If you look at the anatomy of a course, it is made up of concepts, applications of these concepts, reinforcing of these concepts through discussions, class assignments, homework etc. This could change if we leverage technology that is available today, to deliver education more effectively.

To begin with, concepts which dont change much year after year need not be taught year after year by senior faculty members. These senior faculty members could record lecture sessions in a moduler way, and these video recordings could be used to introduce concepts to students, for example, these videos teach the concepts of relativity. As you can see, these videos have been uploaded a few years back, but their relevance is still as much as it was when they were uploaded. Unless it is cutting-edge work, it would be, and cutting-edge work isnt taught in quite the same scale as regular courses are.

These videos help us understand that senior professors can help build content which can then be used to teach students year after year, freeing up much time for senior professors to guide and undertake research, and to do a number of further activities like referee papers, and drive innovation in their subjects. Of course, videos by themselves arent enough to teach, which means that in addition to these videos, lecturers could use these videos to teach the application of these concepts, to drive classroom discussions, and to manage the learning process through collaboration, classroom assignments, and that word we all love a lot … homework.

In this way, repeatable activities can be brought online, and the activities which require student interaction could be handled as a separate component from the teaching of theoretical concepts, something i have written about earlier. This could change the way college education is delivered, while at the same time addressing the need for access to top-quality content for a wider range of students, at a much lower cost, at the same time, enabling teachers to focus on teaching, at the same time, on non-teaching related work as well.

Education or Learning …

The more i delve into the topic of education the more i am hearing of the same thing. Sugata Mitra talks about something similar to what Sir Ken Robinson talks about … that today’s education system, while being relevant to the economic order of the last few centuries, is not relevant to the global realities today.

In the realm of education, we need to make the distinction between teaching and learning. Teaching comes from outside, but learning is from within. This can be seen in the fact that in the same classroom, being taught by the same teacher, some students fare much better than others. Given that the teaching environment is presumably the same for all students, there must be some internal factor which makes the difference in the learning rates of different pupils.

What implications does this have for those of us in the training domain? The implication is this … the future of training is in the shift from training to learning. To achieve this future, learning professionals need to create the environment which is conducive to learning (from inside). This includes the content, the infrastructure, and more important, the frameworks which would create the motivation for unleashing the learning from within.

And what would be the role of the instructor in this scenario? The role of the instructor would be that of a facilitator who creates and manages the environment in which learners can interact with content (study), and interact with other learners (collaborate), to enable learners to explore and discover.

This is something i am seeing happening in some schools. The classroom structure when i was in school was that there were benches for the pupils, and there was separate space for the teacher, which was distinct from the space of the students. In my son’s school, i find that in the classroom, there is no separate space for the teachers, the teachers are to be found in the midst of the students, observing the discussions of the students, and guiding the exploration process.

To take an example, when introducing the Archimedes principle, the students got a homework to write a one-pager about why they think the Titanic sink. Not the right answer, mind you, but what they think is the right answer. From these essays emerged a number of stories, and eventually the students were guided to “discovery” of the Archimedes principle.

Coming back to the realm of training, the role of instructors, as i said, will be more and more that of a facilitator. If learning is from within, and of course, the trainer cannot feed learning to the learner, then it stands to reason that the only thing the trainer can do is to facilitate the process of learning, with the learner being at the centre of the learning process. These instructors can be virtual, given the spread of organizations, and the need to reach out to people across the world, and from different parts of an organization.

So what is the role of the organization in the learning process? This is simply to give the incentive, the reason for the learner to learn. Why should the learner be motivated to spend effort in the discovery process which leads to learning is the question that organizations need to answer. This means that learning, or training must be close to the centre of the organization strategy.

Involved with Life

A colleague gave me a very nice book to read … Bong on the Door, by H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. One of the things Sri Sri talks about is how we are involved in life. We are living life, and totally absorbed in it. He gives a very nice example, which i remembered, too. Some time back, there was a match, where Pakistan were playing Bangladesh (was it world cup? i dont remember). As it turned out, Bangladesh defeated Pakistan, and the next day, the newspapers were talking about some people who smashed their television sets, being upset by the outcome of the match.

Can we liken life to the match? Is it also that in life, we end up competing with other, for something or the other? Even at the basic level, we end up competing with others at the level of ideas, if not at any more physical level. And maybe, the most important level is this level. Why does the physical level matter so much? After all, everything comes from the world of ideas. Unless ideas are there, nothing can be created. Or modified. But, the question is more basic … to what extent are we involved with the play of the world? Shall we continue to be bewildered about the things which we are doing to ourselves? Ok, so no one is doing anything to himself or herself. But, as humanity, we are doing things to ourselves, arent we? And this is probably a far more important aspect to be aware of. If i am being nice to someone else, i am basically being nice to myself.

Each of us is thinking only about ourselves. Agreed, this is human nature, or so it seems. Because, if it really were human nature, we wouldnt have found Mother Teresa. We wouldnt have found so many wonderful people, who are making a difference to someone. One could say that people do this because it makes them feel nice. That is one level, but then there is another level, too. That is the level where we can identify with the other person, and hence, feel the need to stand by the other person. This is the next, more beautiful level. I understand this. But, can i reach there? This is where the trick is. Its not easy to reach the other level. Would i say i have reached there? No. Do i want to try? Yes. Because there is a level where we can get in touch the real self. Where i can get in touch with the real me. Is it easy? No. But, we must start walking, because it is at this level that we can really identify who we are, and so, identify the true relation we have with the world. Which is one of oneness.

What is oneness? We can see it in a number of things people do. I remember seeing an ad, i think, about football (dont remember what the ad was about, only that it was about football) which showed, in one scene after another, people cheering the football match. It started with China (somewhere far-east), went on to Central Asia, Middle East, Europe, Latin America … and there was one thing which was strikingly similar, no matter which part of the world you looked at. It was the look on the faces of the people as they cheered their team. It reflected something which seemed to be unversal … something which was the same no matter which part of the world you came from.

Another thing i think … the way a Mother or a Father think about their children, the way they feel for them, is the same no matter which part of the world you go to. Mothers around the world think that no girl is good enough for their boy, and Fathers around the world think that no boy is good enough for his little girl. And the boy or girl remain little, even when they have boys and girls of their own. This again is universal.

This tells us something simple … that human feelings are universal, and this universality is an indication of the kinship of man, no matter how we may try to divide man into any number of categories. For, these categories are man-made, and must dissolve over time, while those which are made by God are permanent … only, there are none.

Bear and Militants

They say help could come from places you didnt expect. For those who missed this, two militants didnt think much about bears, or encroaching on what the bear called home. Read this, and you will get the drift. Well, something for all to learn from … dont mess with them. They may look cute, but they are not, not if you encroach on their space. Now, the same could be said of the Indian Army. Ask the girls who used to go ga-ga over the young men from IMA, hanging out at Mussoorie, or Dehradun, and thats what you would get (no, probably not the way it was maybe 20 years back, but nevertheless …). They may look cute, but they arent so, if you mess with them, encroach on their space.

For this, i guess, the Army got some valuable help from the bear, who wasnt going to bear with any not-so-beary business from these militants, guns or no, he didnt even give them the time to poke those guns at him. Hmm … this is interesting. The fauna have decided that they arent quite happy with non-indigenous people trying to walk into their lair, and they are going to do something about it. And that too, messing with one of the fiercest ones around. Of course, militants still have the choice of trying to mess with the Gir Lion, or the Royal Bengals, or the Pariyar Elephants, but unlikely they would get any different reception from these members of royalty, so they probably shouldnt even try. Go, wildlife … get them!