Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why I Want To Stop Teaching

I am in the midst of a change: After teaching in a public institution for two years, I am looking to give up teaching and get back to other kind of work. Indeed, teaching was primarily to cover me during the bootstrap years so that I can pay my bills. However, there was more to it: I chose to take up teaching responsibilities, dating back to 2010, in order to learn the practice of teaching, concurrently with my Masters in Education. This was part of my commitment to get into education and a demonstration of my deeply held belief that education is an art by itself and to get into it, one must understand the domain.

That may seem obvious, but it is not. Because education touches almost everyone, everyone has a view about it, which is good. However, what's problematic is that everyone seems to think that they have a definitive view what education should be. So, the technologist thinks that education is all about neat technology, the business person thinks that it is about capacity utilisation, the publisher thinks it is about the content, and the employer takes the view that this is about the employability skills, whatever they are. To me, it seemed like the story of those blind men who went to see the elephant: Some thought it was like a tube, some thought it was like a tower, some thought it was like a mountain and some thought it was no bigger than a mouse. I wanted to know what it really is.

Indeed, I don't claim that I know, just with my teaching experience of last five years. But this adds on to the various things that I have done before or since: Written courses, set up projects, planned and executed marketing campaigns, built industry partnerships, ran recruitment companies, implemented ed-tech projects. Each, valuable in itself, appeared to me one aspect of educational engagement: I wanted to have a view of the whole.

I do feel that teaching experience had made me wiser. To be sure, I have taught different kind of learners, which included highly educated entrepreneurs, senior managers of large businesses, school leavers as well as matured learners, and many international students, from about 20 countries by my last count. I have been through different kinds of exposure, ranging from soul-destroying to enlightening, as any teacher will know. I have taught different subjects, international marketing initially, but lately subjects such as innovation and knowledge management. I have had my 'run in' with quality assurance departments and with managers, and debates about views of education, again perhaps a common theme in many teachers' experience. In summary, I enjoyed the experience, it was financially rewarding at a time when I needed the money, and it gave me insights that are invaluable as I wanted to build educational institutions eventually. But, now, I wanted to stop teaching.

This is because I now want to commit myself to the next thing: That of creating the educational models fit for a jobless world. The more I taught in a traditional environment, the more I became aware that the practices, the content and the engagement work with a presumption of traditional jobs and careers. In fact, my greatest difficulties with the students, and sometimes with the institutions, were to bring this point to the fore, that a new approach is needed, in education as well as in lives, to succeed in this new environment. Too many educators, particularly those hardwired to Ofsted kind, think that the world will go on as usual. Some of my learners, though not all, believe that this is only about a certificate in the end, and that will ensure everything. Working inside the classroom and alongside other educators enhanced my sense of urgency in committing myself to the agenda of change in education.

Too many educators seem to think that talking about the jobless future is a neo-liberal conspiracy. The underlying view is that the employers are automating and cutting jobs because they are in an inhuman pursuit of profit. None of these angry educators are indeed not going to do anything about it other than writing very complicated academic papers for self-consumption, and only very occasionally take political action in the form of a walk-out, though this is more likely to happen when their own pay and perks are threatened rather than for the sake of the jobless.  

The point, of course, is not to resent the world but changing it. I have come to see the 'second Machine age' as a reality rather than a conspiracy, and I believe that educators should be involved in designing an educational response, rather than sulking about it. After pursuing my teaching ambitions for a while, I have come to the realisation that such response will perhaps come from outside the public institutions rather than from them. 

Indeed, I have spent my time in For-Profits and know their inherent limitations, their short-term perspectives, in advancing an educational response to a changing economy. In my view, these institutions may be good at filling the skills gaps when it is obvious, but not so good at a time of structural change such as now. Therefore, I am not looking to transition into some kind of work with a For-Profit institution, but rather looking into alternatives which allow me to commit to the cause of educational change completely.

There was a time when I wanted to get into the classroom. I would remember that this is how I approached a For-Profit college in London several years ago, and eventually ended up joining the Senior Management team there, doing many things including teaching. And, even after my plans to morph that college into the base to execute my plans for a global college failed, I continued down more or less the same path exploring the opportunity within the traditional format. But, finally, I have reached that inflection point, with a mixture of desperation and courage, to make the commitment that whatever I do from now on will be towards building an educational model fit for the changing economy and society (impacted by hyper-globalisation plus intelligent machines). This is the reason I must stop teaching.

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