Education Reform in India…bold agenda, same old foot dragging

Getting their citizen ready to lead productive and prosperous lives is one of the primary obligations of a democratic government. Despite all the hype and excitement about the quality of Indian education, it is very clear that vocational and advanced education in India remain an elitist pursuit. That is unfortunate, because in the modern Indian economy the *only* way to escape from the social class of your birth is through education.

In the last few weeks, there has been renewed (and I hesitate to use this word) debate on the subject of allowing foreign universities to confer degrees in India. I hesitate to call the response a debate because, predictably, the response has come in the form of party line pandering. There has been no evidence of a thoughtful, emotion-less debate on a subject that would likely impact the future prosperity of the nation.

The minister, Kapil Sibal, makes some reasonable statements. There are 220 million kids who go to school, and only 26 million of these will be able to go to college. The remaining folks don’t have access to advanced or vocational training that they would need in order to get into higher paying jobs and businesses. This is a huge problem, in terms of the manpower requirements of a modern economy…will we, after all, import TV technicians from Japan to repair our TVs? The bigger problem is that the social divide between the ultra rich (educated IIT/IIM types) and the abject poor will continue to widen and, even worse, the people on the poor side would not have access to any means of crossing over.

Of course, the usual leftist objection to “phoren imperialists” will come up. After all, if they educate our kids today, who is to say that they won’t brain-wash our kids into capitalistic zombies tomorrow?

The real question is…who has the content, experience and credentials to provide India the education that Indians need? A case may be made that India should be taught by Indians. All well and good, but where will the content and the management capability come from “in the numbers that India will need”? Surely there is room to allow foreign universities to come in an help where they can?

Meeting “Fixing”

Gaurav, Google has the answer to the biggest problem that large companies face – scheduling meetings!  Techcrunch reviews Google’s Smart Rescheduler feature here

“The person scheduling the meeting enters the names of the participants, how long the meeting will be, and a date by when the meeting must take place. The Smart Rescheduler then goes out and looks at everyone’s calendar to see when everyone is free, taking into account different time zones and other commitments on their calendars

What the Rescheduler does is look at all the soft constraints and actually ranks the best meeting times. Different attendees can be prioritized so the meeting is set around their schedule. Soft constraints are taken into account like partial schedule overlaps, times blocked with no other attendees, meetings where someone’s been invited but hasn’t yet accepted, or meetings organized by that person. These factors often indicate a schedule that can be altered.”

Personally, I love the last bit – the algorithms used to determine what can be changed.  Especially the “times blocked with no other attendees”.  No more games of blocking one’s calendar with random activities, just to prevent other’s from trying to schedule meetings during that time.  It also suggests that meetings can take precedence over anything else – a worrying sign if someone actually hoped to get work done in office!

Apple and the New PLC

Continuing from my last post on the New Product Life Cycle.  I stumbled across some really interesting sales data for the iPod.  Notice how Apple’s new product introduction process coincides perfectly with the decline of each product’s individual PLC.  This is the challenge that companies will increasingly face.  Even a blockbuster product like the iPod requires constant innovation to keep the sales numbers growing.

This may be simple in concept.  But hardly any companies in India seem to have the capability or even the mentality to be innovation leaders.  On this front, at least, the US seems to have little to worry about!