Thursday, March 05, 2015
Micro-degrees and All That
Are we ready for Micro-degrees or not?
The jury is still out.
On one hand, the combination of open courses taught by some of the best professors in the world and employer led Capstone project, all organised around a certain area of knowledge, looks irresistible. For a start, it bypasses the regulatory structures, which is the source of most problems in Higher Ed. It also addresses the problem of cost of education, and present a scalable solution. With right employers and projects, these can make education relevant in a way it is not in its current form.
On the other, however, degrees are part of our furniture and it is difficult to get away from its allure. To become a global solution for the problems of Higher Ed, this new idea should be workable in developing countries. However, the employers in developing countries, where societies are organised around a certain division of power, mostly inherited from colonial days or pre-modern cultures (such as tribal hierarchies), degrees serve as the modern instruments to legitmise the structures. Employers, as much they are driven by modern economic considerations, are very much part of this system of power and privilege, not least because they themselves are products of the same, and it is difficult to see them participating willingly in disrupting this structure. Apart from the fact that online education is kept under leash for the lack of Internet bandwidth, the unwillingness of employers to participate in education innovation may keep the incidence of micro-degrees limited to the margins rather than at the centre-stage of global Higher Ed.
In this would-it, wont-it kind of speculation, the force that matters is the success of globalisation. Since the reverses of 2007/8, pervasive globalisation of the kind seen in the first few years of the new millennium has disappeared. Its place has been taken up by a number of rather confusing and contradictory trends - an unified global rhetoric of business-friendliness and development, a consensus around education as a tool for productivity improvement, assertion of national cultures and traditions, advent of modern religions which expropriate traditionalism into soundbites and to create an unified doctrine for statism and against innovation - and how Higher Ed evolves depends a lot on what happens to globalisation. Micro-degrees, with the kind of disruptive influence they may have on not just education but on the society at large, work in the context of globalisation, but not if statism is ascendant, as it is now.
In the end, perhaps, it is best to judge the potential of micro-degrees within the context of my favourite theory of globalisation, advanced by Dani Rodrik, currently at Princeton. His point simply is that one can not have Globalisation, Democracy and Nation State together. One has to choose two out of three, any two. Microdegree and similar disruptive educational innovations work if the trend was towards global democracies, the utopian kind underpinned by global governance, but, as things stand, we are moving towards a kind of economic globalisation sustained by autocratic nation states. At this time, it is degrees, nationally regulated, however inefficient and even corrupt and mind-destroying they may be, have the upper-hand.
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the...
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are ...
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today –...
Indian Higher Education needs reform, and urgently. The post-Independence system of education, built on the edifice of the colonial struct...
Last week, voice recording of an HR executive firing an employee at Tech Mahindra, a big Indian IT company, went viral (as above). The ...
Evolution of Meritocracy: American Eugenics, Intelligence Testing and The Making Of Modern MeritocracyIntroduction In the second decade of the new millennium - now - new questions about human abilities and human worth have arisen. A vas...
Ideas are fascinating and exciting. We live in a culture that celebrates ideas. In a sense, we see all history as history of ideas now. It...
The world of politics is changing profoundly. It is not just about the rise of the strongmen rulers - President Xi of China, Prime Ministe...
As the crisis in jobs becomes apparent, many think that the way to maintain the Middle Class society is to be found in entrepreneurship. I...
Automation is Capitalism's great new prize and its most potent challenge. At once, it breaks the back of organised labour but puts int...
How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.