Sunday, March 31, 2013

Middle-class jobs are becoming obsolete faster than ever

When Tony Wagner, the Harvard education specialist, describes his job today, he says he's "a translator between two hostile tribes" - the education world and the business world, the people who teach our kids and the people who give them jobs. Wagner's argument in his book "Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World" is that our K-12 and college tracks are not consistently "adding the value and teaching the skills that matter most in the marketplace."

This is dangerous at a time when there is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job - the thing that sustained the middle class in the past generation. Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job. Every middle-class job today is being pulled up, out or down faster than ever. That is, it either requires more skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being buried - made obsolete - faster than ever. Which is why the goal of education today, argues Wagner, should not be to make every child "college ready" but "innovation ready" - ready to add value to whatever they do.

That is a tall task. I tracked Wagner down and asked him to elaborate. "Today," he said via email, "because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate - the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life - and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, 'We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can't teach them how to think - to ask the right questions - and to take initiative."'

My generation had it easy. We got to "find" a job. But, more than ever, our kids will have to "invent" a job. (Fortunately, in today's world, that's easier and cheaper than ever before.) Sure, the lucky ones will find their first job, but, given the pace of change today, even they will have to reinvent, re-engineer and reimagine that job much more often than their parents if they want to advance in it. If that's true, I asked Wagner, what do young people need to know today?

"Every young person will continue to need basic knowledge, of course," he said. "But they will need skills and motivation even more. Of these three education goals, motivation is the most critical. Young people who are intrinsically motivated - curious, persistent and willing to take risks - will learn new knowledge and skills continuously. They will be able to find new opportunities or create their own - a disposition that will be increasingly important as many traditional careers disappear."

So what should be the focus of education reform today?

"We teach and test things most students have no interest in and will never need, and facts that they can Google and will forget as soon as the test is over," said Wagner. "Because of this, the longer kids are in school, the less motivated they become. Gallup's recent survey showed student engagement going from 80 per cent in fifth grade to 40 per cent in high school. More than a century ago, we 'reinvented' the one-room schoolhouse and created factory schools for the industrial economy. Reimagining schools for the 21st century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose."

What does that mean for teachers and principals?

"Teachers," he said, "need to coach students to performance excellence, and principals must be instructional leaders who create the culture of collaboration required to innovate. But what gets tested is what gets taught, and so we need 'Accountability 2.0.' All students should have digital portfolios to show evidence of mastery of skills like critical thinking and communication, which they build up right through K-12 and postsecondary. Selective use of high-quality tests, like the College and Work Readiness Assessment, is important. Finally, teachers should be judged on evidence of improvement in students' work through the year - instead of a score on a bubble test in May. We need lab schools where students earn a high school diploma by completing a series of skill-based 'merit badges' in things like entrepreneurship. And schools of education where all new teachers have 'residencies' with master teachers and performance standards - not content standards - must become the new normal throughout the system."

Who is doing it right?

"Finland is one of the most innovative economies in the world," he said, "and it is the only country where students leave high school 'innovation-ready." They learn concepts and creativity more than facts, and have a choice of many electives - all with a shorter school day, little homework and almost no testing. In the U.S., 500 K-12 schools affiliated with Hewlett Foundation's Deeper Learning Initiative and a consortium of 100 school districts called EdLeader21 are developing new approaches to teaching 21st-century skills. There are also a growing number of 'reinvented' colleges like the Olin College of Engineering, the MIT Media Lab and the 'D-school' at Stanford where students learn to innovate."

Source: The Economic Times, March 31, 2013

Smart classes: IIMs to share faculty online

In a first-of-its-kind attempt, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are planning to introduce ‘smart classes’, which could be shared among all centres of the institute online. The move, aimed at beating the faculty crunch, is expected to involve global universities, too. The proposal for these classes is going to be top on agenda when the directors of the 13 IIMs meet Human Resource Development Minister M M Pallam Raju in New Delhi next week.

The IIMs have currently been working with 30 per cent fewer faculty members than requirement. The meeting, to be chaired by Raju, will also discuss the draft Bill to convert IIMs into institutions of national importance through an Act of Parliament. Ajit Balakrishnan, chairman of the board of governors, IIM-Calcutta, says smart classes will be an innovative move and it help students get the best on a particular subject.

According to the plan, videos of lectures by a faculty member could be shared online or through video-conferencing. Besides, courses on various management subjects could be prepared in a way that students could access those online. “This will help the IIMs and its students in a big way. If a particular faculty member is good with derivatives, that (his lectures) can be shared through the e-route among all IIMs,” Balakrishnan adds.

Though IIM-Bangalore currently provides a similar facility on its portal, it is at a much smaller scale. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), too, have a similar project through the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL).

Balakrishnan confirms this endeavour will not be restricted within the country; plans are being evaluated to make it global.“We are looking at the possibility of taking it globally, where content can be shared with other leading international universities and management institutes,” he added.

In India, some existing open universities do provide their educational content online for students who cannot attend the classes, but the quality of these study materials has been suspect. Experts, however, believe the idea of smart classes, if implemented successfully, will be very fruitful for the premier IIMs.

Source: Business Standard, March 31, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

IIMs gear up to attract foreign students

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are gearing up to make a bigger mark in the global arena in order to attract more foreign graduates and make the country's top business schools operationally and financially more autonomous.

The IIMs plan to conduct road shows abroad to attract talent that will make the batch of students more diverse. Some foreign students are already studying at some IIMs but the government expects the number to rise after the proposed law empowers them to award MBA degrees instead of the diploma currently offered.

The majority of the IIM s agree that the power to grant degrees will make the institutes more attractive to foreign students. Currently, many foreign students come to IIMs in exchange programmes and a few of them also take regular courses.

To cater to international students, the IIMs plan to upgrade residential facilities and the standards of faculty and academics, particularly at the new IIMs. This would be financed either through a grant from the
UGC (University Grants Commission) or through interest-free loans. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is keen to set up a Rs. 300-crore (Rs. 3 billion) fund to attract world-class faculty to the newer IIMs, government officials said.

The IIMs are also focusing on steps to become financially more independent. While older IIMs do not depend on annual budgetary support from the government, the new ones get government grants. The IIMs will consider recommendations of the committee headed by Hari Bhartia, such as naming classrooms and buildings after major donors. The Bhartia Committee had been appointed by former HRD minister
Kapil Sibal to look into the aspect of fund raising as part of an effort to improve the autonomy of the IIMs. The IIMs have suggested that the MHRD should pilot a proposal to provide tax breaks for philanthropic contributions.

The IIMs have suggested that workshops be held for each of the institutes. International consultants such as
William J Conner and Julian Marland, who have years of experience in improving the fundraising potential of organisations, will conduct these workshops. IIM-Raipur has already conducted a workshop on fund raising. As part of its effort to stake its claim in the global arena, IIMs plan to bring out a management journal, IIM Business Review. This effort will be spearheaded by IIM Bangalore while IIM-Calcutta will take charge of a world management conference to be held during May 31-June 1.

The heads of all 13 IIMs are scheduled to discuss these issues at a meeting with HRD Minister MM Paalam Raju on Monday. The issues include external peer review from attracting foreign students to improving fund raising capability to improving the quality of faculty and teaching. As part of a roadmap to greater autonomy, IIMs had agreed to institute a system of periodic external peer review. In the next few months, with the approval of the board of governors of each IIM, modalities for conducting such a review will be worked out.

The meeting will consider setting up a system of accreditation for management institutes. Though initially opposed to the idea, the institutes will strive to put in place an annual work plan system and some standardisation of teaching hours to ensure maximum flexibility.

Source: The Economic Times, March 27, 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Will internet replace the universities?

Several millions of students will enter higher educational institutions in the next one decade. The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) wants to double the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education by 2020. The brick-and-mortar colleges in the country are not equipped to meet their needs. Many believe that with higher internet penetration, the demand for online education will grow radically in India. Some even believe that the traditional university system might not survive for long. Though the internet penetration in India is low, in numbers, the number of internet users in India (150 million) is second only to China (575 million) and the United States (275 million), and the numbers are growing radically.

The Indian government is trying to address these needs though the National Knowledge Network (NKN). In January, the National Innovation Council launched the National Knowledge Network (NKN) with a lecture series held at the Delhi University. This is the largest online education network in the country, with 955 institutions across India already connected to it to share their educational content online, using a high bandwidth network. It aims to connect nearly 1500 institutions in the future. The National Knowledge Network gives a bandwidth of 1,000 MB to every single university in India. It is up to the universities to decide whether they should put it to full use. Through the national knowledge network, the material in one university can be used by students in any other Indian university.

The Delhi University Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh said that in the future, whether the students might get credits for the online courses they take will depend on the university. “In Delhi University, this will be done on a case by case basis. If you come with a structured proposal, the Delhi University will definitely give credit though I cannot predict a time frame.” he said.

Open online courses are not new in India. In 2011, the Indian government had launched The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), which made the lectures at 7 IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and IISc (Indian Institute of Science) Bangalore available online. In future, the other IITs and NITs (National Institutes of Technology) too are expected to be part of NPTEL, India’s largest technical knowledge dissemination programme.

In India, there are now many private players too in the online education sector. Edukart, an online education portal, for instance, has bachelor and master courses with degrees awarded by Mahatma Gandhi University, Meghalaya, and certificate courses with degrees issued by various industry bodies. “Online education is a better option for many students who prefer to work while studying because it is more flexible and affordable. We have come across students from every strata of the society though most students are in the 17-35 age range.” Ishan Gupta, the CEO of Edukart said.

Substantive advance, however, are likely to come not from within the country, or from traditional universities and outlets because it is not just the traditional universities which make books and lectures available online. The Internet Archive, a non-profit internet library founded in 1996 makes a large number of texts, audios and images available to scholars and the general public in digital format. The Internet archive has more than 30,00,000 free e-books.

The Khan Academy, a donor-supported not-for-profit founded in 2008, for instance, has over 4,000 free videos for students on a wide variety of subjects ranging from computer science to Arts history for school students. The Khan academy is immensely popular. The YouTube channel of the Khan Academy has more than 5,30,000 subscribers. The donors of Khan Academy include Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy is of Indian and Bangladeshi origins, and has multiple degrees from MIT and Harvard. But, he thinks that most Harvard Graduates would refuse if they are offered their fee back, on the condition that they are supposed to never mention their credentials anywhere.

Michael Spence, an American economist who won the Nobel Prize in 2001 for his work on information asymmetry had argued that though the intrinsic value of formal education is little, students will profit from attending college because employers value college degrees. Employers value college degrees because a formal degree signals a student’s intelligence, conscientiousness and conformity. Many believe that students who learn online are likely to be lacking in these traits.

But, Tyler Cowen, an economist dubbed as “America’s Hottest Economist” by Bloomberg Businessweek, thinks that the students of Khan Academy and other online universities are far superior to typical students. “I do not see their low conformity as a problem. Those are conscientious learners who are not quite satisfied with more traditional approaches. Students in India might get transfer credits from online universities abroad.” Cowen said.

Tyler Cowen had recently founded a free massive online open course (MOOC) platform which has a series on India. Delhi and Bangalore were among the top ten cities from which Cowen’s Marginal Revolution University’s course on development economics drew registrations. The reason is perhaps that Indian students find theoretically rigorous online material on development economics more appealing. It is almost impossible to access them through traditional routes. Cowen thinks that employers are already valuing online education and that it will have more acceptability when there are credits attached to it. He thinks that in the future, a hybrid model of education is more likely than students completely relying on online material.

Apart from online universities and private portals, there are internet libraries which make even recent works accessible., an internet library has 1,232,446 books available for free download, as of now. The Online library of Liberty run by Liberty Fund, a private, educational foundation has 1367 classics on economics, history, law, literature, philosophy, political theory, religion, which at times, go back more than four thousand years. The Mises Institute, a US think-tank in has made more than 600 e-books, videos and thousands of papers and articles accessible to students and scholars. It is many such non-tradition and relatively small portals that made countless otherwise inaccessible books in humanities presently within the reach of Indian students.

However, some believe that it is difficult to separate out the good from bad over the internet. Anyone can create a website and put content online. There is too much misinformation. There are many fraudsters who sell worthless degrees online. But, the DU VC Dinesh Singh said that such apprehensions are baseless. “Many otherwise wise, respectable, and sane people have reservations about online education. They think that there are quality issues. True enough. But, there are quality issues everywhere. If I put material on the web today, I can improve tomorrow. This process of improvement can go indefinitely.” he said.

Another strong criticism against online education is that the internet can never replace face to face interaction between students and the teacher and among students themselves. Tom Palmer, the Director of the educational arm of Cato Institute, one of the most influential think-tanks in the world thinks that it is difficult to learn many subjects over the internet. “There are many mathematicians who are self-taught. But, it is an invalid inference to say that teachers are not important. You have to distinguish pure mathematicians from people who learn mathematics to be an engineer. The internet cannot replace face to face interaction. It is also very taxing on the professor to reply to students on the internet.” Dr. Palmer said.

But, Bryan Caplan, a professor at George Mason University says that some internet forums offer more meaningful interaction than even elite universities. When Bryan Caplan was studying at University of California, Berkeley, he had a really difficult time finding students interested in discussing ideas though it was one of the most reputed elite public universities in the world. Caplan felt that even his professors at Princeton were quite narrow in their outlook, despite their high IQ’s. Caplan is presently working on a book, “The Case against Education“.

Caplan however thinks that the online education is very unlikely to replace traditional universities. “The first students to try online education will be the ones who are low in conformity, and that will affect how employers perceive online education. I am far from sure that online education will thrive in countries like India. But, when there is no well-established education system and when there is a high share of qualified yet uncredentialed workers, the stigma attached to unconventional degrees will be much lower,” he said. Caplan thinks that because of the stigma attached to not attending a college, students who study online instead of going to a brick-and-mortar university are likely to be very eccentric. Employers are likely to shun them because they also might have authority issues when they join the workforce.

Dinesh Singh, however, thinks that the low conformity of such students is an asset, and not a liability. “There is nothing wrong with a person who studies online. If you have a prejudice, you will look at someone and think that he is strange. If you do not have a prejudice, he can do anything and you will not think that he is strange. Everyone has their own quirks, and we should mind that at all.” Dinesh Singh said.

Many point out that what we call “the college experience” is a reality today only for a rare minority of students. Dinesh Singh thinks that with the low level of interaction in Universities today, the internet would not diminish the returns to students much either. “I had some good teachers and some very bad teachers. People say that the professor on the internet will never be like my Guru. But, how many such Gurus have we ever had? On the web, you can choose your professors.” Dinesh Singh said. “If the internet is going to replace Universities, perhaps books and VCR would have done it long ago. But, all of them had many problems, like no interactivity. With the internet there is more interactivity, and this model has a better chance of success.” He said.

In 2012, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had collaborated to launch, EdX, a not-for-profit enterprise that offers many classes of Universities like Harvard, MIT and Berkeley for free online. Other prestigious universities are soon likely to join. EdX also looks into how technology and the internet can transform learning in the future. But, even before the advent of such MOOC platforms of elite universities, there were several millions of online students across the world.

India’s online educational market itself is estimated to be over twenty billion US dollars and is growing very fast. Some expect it to double in the next five years.

Source: Business Standard (Online Edition), March 21, 2013

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Slowdown not a word at B-school placements

'Where's the slowdown?' is the common question asked on B-school campuses. While B-schools agree the market conditions are adverse, they are pleasantly surprised at the participation by major sectors, recruiting in good numbers. From the Indian Institutes of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and Calcutta (IIM-C) to other major B-schools like Xavier Labour Research Institute (XLRI) and Xavier Institute of Management-Bhubaneswar (XIM-B), campuses have seen traditional sectors recruiting in decent numbers.

At IIM-A, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) emerged as top recruiter across clusters, taking 15 students against 17 last year. Last year, IBM was the top recruiter from IIM-A, hiring 21 students. Accenture recruited 13 students this year against 14 last year, McKinsey & Company and Capgemini made 10 offers each, and Bain & Company selected nine students from the batch.

"The demand for IIM-A graduates continues to be high, and has overridden concerns of a general slowdown in hiring activities in 2012-13," said Kirti Sharda, Chairperson, Placement Committee. Other companies which recruited from IIM-A include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Asian Paints, HUL, ITC, Kraft, L'Oréal, Mars, Nestle, P&G and Pepsi, among others.

At IIM-C, the slot zero of final placement saw finance and consulting majors recruiting students from the campus. While 135 offers were made during the premier slot zero held on March 3 and 5, much of it came from finance and consulting sectors. A total of 25 students from IIM-C have secured final placements in Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Co, McKinsey and AT Kearney, along with Accenture Management Consulting, Opera Consulting, and Hay Group among others.

"Finance proved once again to be the stronghold of IIM-C with several top-notch firms coming to the B-school for slot zero placements despite the economic slowdown. Some of the financial majors like JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Standard Chartered among others flocked to the campus to recruit students in large numbers during the slot zero process," IIM-C said in a statement.

At XLRI and XIM-B, finance and consulting majors, followed by information technology (IT) and marketing picked up students. Prominent recruiters at XLRI include Standard Chartered Bank, Citibank, Nomura, Goldman Sachs and Development Bank of Singapore. Standard Chartered Bank was the largest finance recruiter whereas treasury roles were offered by Axis Bank and ICICI Bank. L'Oréal, Airtel, Dr Reddys and L&T Finance offered roles in corporate finance.

"All the major finance, consulting, IT and infrastructure companies have visited our campus, despite the much-anticipated economic slowdown. This has shown that placements have been pretty successful across B-schools this year, especially with finance and investment banks coming back," said Sabita Mohanty, Faculty Coordinator (Placements) at XIM-B, refusing to divulge details.

About 75 recruiters participated at XLRI placement process, with 255 offers being made for a batch of 240 students. The batch size at XIM-B stood at 180 students. At Mumbai-based Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, the response from companies has been better than last year, said a placement committee member. The institute begins its placements next week, as pre-placement talks on campus are underway.

Source: Business Standard, March 7, 2013

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Axis Bank-ISB launch leadership programme for women

Axis Bank and the Indian School of Business (ISB) have jointly launched a leadership programme for women, aimed at building a diversified leadership talent pipeline within the bank. The bank aims at recruiting women students pursuing the Post Graduate program at ISB who are interested in a banking career.

The bank has partnered with ISB for this initiative as it has one of the largest pools of experienced women students in India with over 216 students coming from diverse academic and professional backgrounds.

The programme includes intensive in-house training with faculty from Axis Bank and ISB. The training gives the students an overview of the Indian banking industry with focus on current and future trends and other important areas of banking like retail, corporate, wholesale and consumer business. Upon successful completion of the programme and the selection process, the students get an opportunity to work with Axis Bank across diverse roles. Along with this, students are awarded the Axis Bank - ISB Women Leadership Certification.

Source: Business Standard, March 6, 2013

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Harvard, MIT among top world varsity rankings; Indian institutions lag

Harvard leads the pack of top 100 institutions in the 2013 World Reputation Rankings by Times Higher Education Magazine. No Indian university has made it to the list. But if the rankings were to list the top 200, IISc Bangalore, would be 130th. IIT-Bombay would be in 192nd place.

The other three BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia and China, are on the list, though. The rankings are based on the largest worldwide invitation-only survey of academic opinion, with the 2013 results culled out of 16,639 responses from senior published academics.

Indian Scene
In its latest World Reputation Rankings for 2013, Times Higher Education magazine, (THE) UK, for the first time, has released an India top-10 list. According to THE India Reputation Rankings, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, is in the first position, followed by IIT-Bombay, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Delhi respectively. The University of Delhi takes the sixth place — the first full-fledged university on the list.

The reputation rankings, a spin-off of the annual THE World University Rankings, are based on subjective, but expert judgement of senior, published academics. As to why an India-specific ranking, Phil Baty, editor, THE Rankings, in an exclusive interview to The Times of India, says that the world of higher education is interested in the country's development, and its huge potential, and there is a strong demand from within India for data, which helps people to map the rapidly changing higher education landscape. IIT-Madras (7), IIT-Kharagpur (8), Aligarh Muslim University (9) and University of Hyderabad (10) are the other names, which feature in the list.

However, globally, not a single Indian institution has made it to the top 100 of the 'World Reputation Rankings 2013.' While Harvard University tops the list, it is followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University.

THE revealed that if the rankings were to list more than top-100, IISc, Bangalore would be 130th, IIT-Bombay in the 192nd place, with all other Indian institutions falling outside the global top-200.

How is India faring vis-a-vis the global education market? Baty points out that India needs to improve research capacity in universities, with better co-ordination of university research and industrial research, besides addressing the issue of low spending per student."As a country with a rapidly growing economy and a fine tradition of scholarship, it is a cause for concern that India does not have institutions that are sufficiently highly regarded by international scholars that they feature among the global top 100," said Phil Baty, editor, Times Higher Education Rankings, in a statement.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2012-2013 powered by Thomson Reuters are the only global university performance tables to judge world class universities across all of their core missions - teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The top universities rankings employ 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.

For the full rankings, visit

Source: The Economic Times & The Times of India, March 5, 2013

Blog Archive