Saturday, April 11, 2015

Education System and Business Sustainability

Published in SME WORLD Apr 2015 Issue
What is the ultimate goal of acquiring education? To sustain oneself and propagate. That is why in the medieval texts we have a sequence of Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha and Sanyasa. Brahmacharya ashrama is all about acquiring skills and education followed by Grihastha when on marries and has family. This is also the stage when one works for livelihood either for someone else (working in a company) or for the self by creating an enterprise. The skills that one acquires help them sustain at their workplace, helps them support their family and helps create an enterprise.
The underlying theme is the vibrancy, innovation, newness and depth of an education system greatly impacts the type of business which grows and flourishes in that environment.
Why our education system needs complete overhauling?
If we observe the developed countries; it is clear that they have progressed mainly on the strength of their education system and teaching methodology. Elizabeth Holmes has created Theranos – a path-breaking diagnostic solution company while dropping out of her graduate program at Stanford. Steve Jobs is the brain behind Apple whose products have become “must have” possessions. Google and Zuckerberg’s Facebook do not require any introduction.
Why India has been unable to come up with any such solutions? The American education system and process definitely plays a pivotal role in nurturing the thought and analytical process, the confidence to take risks among their students which has helped create such enterprises. The German system is another case in point. How do they manage to build such fantastic automobiles, chemical companies and green energy solutions? I am sure it is definitely not the case of being God-gifted. Audi, BMW, Mercedes are still strong aspiration possessions around the world. Other Europeans including the Nordic nations are equally strong in their educational system. Finland whose education system is much studied and often emulated is again overhauling it. They are now going to teach skill-wise instead of subject-wise which makes more practical sense.     
It is still not too late. We need a system where the students are not pursuing higher marks through rote learning rather gathering skills which can help them become valuable for enterprises or being able to create one.
What should be changed?
We have one of the largest populations in the world but if we compare it to per capita income or contribution to GDP, the numbers are appalling against those countries having lesser population and better economy. Our system of education creates lot of good coders for IT companies but how many Indian engineers are in demand for design or original equipment design or manufacturing firms. How many Indians lead large scale projects in the world?
One Preet Bharara in the American Justice System or an Indian financial brain close to Warren Buffet is not enough. It is quite shallow as Indians go gaga whenever a person of Indian origin achieves something on the global platform. Are they there because of being Indian (or Indian blood from either of the parent’s side) or due to their upbringing in an advanced education system? Why do the Chinese immigrants excel in America? The American system amplifies their ability of doing hard work with a process that is value driven. Dignity of labor is one of their basic tenets of learning and the children work to earn from a young age.
Our entire curriculum should change starting from entry level to of course higher education; the testing and evaluation system needs to be made more scientific, a need to identify actual learning potential and outcome and as per the the new Education Policy stress on ethics and life skills.
Unless there is a deeper relation, exchange of ideas and actual joint working teams from education and industry; both will remain disjointed. Teachers play an important role in this backdrop. We mostly see people sticking to a fixed curriculum and racing to finish the course within a stipulated time. We need teachers who are aware of demands of the business world and train students to not only become employable but skillful. The entire approach should be outcome oriented rather than GPAs and marks. Both industry personnel and teachers need deeper interaction on a regular and coordinated basis to understand each other.
We need a 360 degree change. It is about time we put in a serious team in place to study what is working in other countries of the world, why and how are they implementing the system then create an indigenous one.
Many countries have dignity of labor as one of their basic tenets of learning and the children work to earn from a young age. This builds their ability to analyze, decide and choose and become independent. Vital skills for everyday life in any business, any profile.
How educated people can help? They are the people who drive your vehicle, read road signs, unload and load material, answer phone calls, get orders, process them and bill, and at each moment they are making many micro decisions which actually affect the outcome of your business. The ability to open up to new ideas, adopt them, implement and innovate comes from education. Is our education system helping create such individuals?