Nov 22, 2016

Curriculum Development – A Continuous Headache

R Jayaraman

The modern world revolves around education. Many learned people have pointed out that India has remained backward mainly because of our low levels of literacy. This may be one way of keeping the uneducated masses continuously under the thumb of the “learned people.”

Today’s world can be divided into three parts – the Learned World, the Trying World and the Given Up world.

The Learned World is obviously at the forefront of education. This world has mastered the art and science of educating its populations and using the benefits of organised learning, clearly established on utilisation of available resources, converting them to useful products and services and driving up the standards of living. This world has successfully created a “high consumption, living for the sake of a high standard of living” syndrome, according to which the more profits a capitalist makes (and shares some of it with the “aam aadmi”), the more development is inferred to have taken place. The more one is able to consume, the more is the sales, and more is the profit and so on, goes the “economic cycle” which benefits the common good. This world has developed a “curriculum” for education and life which revolves around gathering knowledge and using it for economic benefit, for the common benefit. In Aristotlean terms this is the “knowledge” society, corrupted by the lure for lucre. It is a unidimensional world of money running after more, like a bank willing to lend to someone who can assure that he has enough of it to return the same, after paying interest!The next world is the Trying World. This one tries hard, trying to catch up with the Learned World. In this effort it gets a lot of guidance from the former, simply because the First World believes that more the merrier and wealth can be shared and poverty can be spared. I recall two views about this dichotomy. The illustrious man manager Russi Modi used to hold that “managing wealth is more difficult than poverty.”

He said this in the context of Tata Steel earning record profits when he took over as its Managing Director. Others have opined that while wealth can be shared, poverty has to be endured. It can be no one’s argument that any human being should hold poverty dear and that he should starve because he has no wealth. Printing currency and suffering under the dual burdens of inflation and deficit financing is any day better than missing a meal every other day. However the Learned World will not allow this. And the Trying World will not dare to defy this. This is a mystery of economics. The most wealth creating country – the USA – has the highest levels of deficit financing – and lowest inflation rate for decades. It also has the distinction of others holding more shares in its industry than its indigenous investors. Japan, China, Saudi Arabia and UK hold more stakes in the USA than the 50 United States.

Coming back to our subject the Trying World tries to go through the same path that its illustrious leader has done without sparing a thought that it is not economic development, but a decent and enriching life is what humans are looking for. It is obviously struggling and does not realise that by the time the “catch up” act is over there will be nothing to catch up to! The rate at which the Learned World is consuming thoughtlessly, the world as we know it will soon be gone. Thus the Trying World needs to find other ways and a new idiom and paradigms for world in which life and parameters will be totally different. Days are not far off when the human race will have to migrate to Mars and other planets which are more hospitable to life in the human form. Thus a new curriculum has to be developed.

By this logic what of the curriculum for the Given Up World? Does it have to give up on developing any curriculum at all? Not so. In fact, this world is the one which will have to carry the torch (or whatever) after the changes take place. What will be left? Difficult to imagine but management and managers will continue, hopefully delinked from the capitalistic philosophy as the sole arbiter of good and bad, beneficial and harmful, as has happened with the current Learned World. One needs a more balanced view. One needs to use other parameters to measure “development.” The new world manager will be one who will be trained in fields such as Philosophy, Music, Politics, Public Affairs, Media, Sports which are currently out of the curriculum. Knowledge should be the primary driver. Practice can follow. It is often not appreciated that the only time a management student can legitimately pursue academics is the MBA school, because after exiting, he or she will get into the so called “real world” with its rough and tumble, leaving little time for academic knowledge gathering type of activities. Only by broadbasing the curriculum, deepening the knowledge base and emphasising hard work and work ethic can the managers from the “Given Up” world manage the world that they will inherit from the clutches of the Learned World, with the Trying World being bypassed, as this world will only try and follow and has no ability to lead. In spite of Ratan Tata constantly and consistently exhorting his group company CEOs to “lead, not follow.”

So there are exciting times ahead for curriculum development. Hold on, the flight is about to begin, under new skies.

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