Monday, April 09, 2012

The Start-up: Global Network, Local Presence

In constructing a model for global education, the biggest challenge to negotiate is one that of local context. From the high ideal of global skills, it may not be visible that same words may mean different things for different people, and there is no universal agreement on how businesses should run and societies should function. This is where our business model of delivering British Education programmes worldwide comes up for a reality check. This is where we are having to think beyond the technology: In fact, technology plays only a minor part in the plans we are putting together.

The consideration of context introduces a layer of complexity beyond just the online provision of teaching in our plans. We wouldn't be counting on the lazy assumption that if we put a set of good tutors and smart technologies, everything will fall in place. One of the things about Independent Education is that the success of students is everything: It is they who pay the bill, and it would be wrong to define their success in the narrow term of handing out degrees. Our education mission is broader - that to equip every student we teach with skills to thrive in the global economy - and while this may mean a set of common standards for our graduates, we must attempt to go the extra mile and reach out to them in their own cultural context. This is indeed the primary value proposition for our 'education in search of students' model.

We are trying to achieve this through partnership with local institutions in countries where the students will be. The idea is to integrate local mentoring at all stages, with all the courses. And, again, this can not be a hands off process. It is expected that local mentors in different countries will operate differently, will have different approach and expectations. The extra burden that we will have to carry initially is to establish a set of operating standards, which have to balance our goals of creating a global education network allowing students from one location to another without trouble, and respect for a tutor's own practise, and the cultural assumptions that they themselves carry.

I may be guilty of making it too complex: Challenging as it is, it is not impossible. The key is to create a platform of dialogue and trust, and an overarching respect for the educator's practise and acceptance of myriad ways that people teach and learn. It sounds difficult as we are used to formula and an unique set of perfect possibilities, though in reality, in most cases, everything is a bit of negotiation and a story of progress through various imperfect states. We are not trying to create a perfect educational institution; we are only trying to create one which continues to learn and adapt, with respect to various cultures and possibilities and with a non-negotiable commitment to students' success.

I treat this as a great opportunity, for us as an organisation and for me individually, to be involved in a worldwide dialogue with educators. We don't see ourselves as a Value Chain business, where we inject value - in this case, education - into our students. We see ourselves as a User Network business, where the sum is greater than its parts, and the learning occurs from the constant interactions between the local and the global, the mentors in the neighbourhood and the tutors online, with local presence and global ambitions.




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