The Reform of the Education System

I was drawn to the OP-ED column of Thomas L. Friedman published in the New York Times on November 23 /24, 2010( through a tweet from Vinod Khosla (!/vkhosla) “We need better parents to hold their kids to better standards. We need better students who come to school ready to learn”. I believe that these messages / perspectives need as much amplification as possible as they are absolutely critical to the reform of the education system in the United States of America. I would also quickly like to add here that this message is equally relevant in India. I cannot personally speak for China as I am not directly conversant with the day to day evolution of culture in the present day China.

I was recently involved in designing a “Performance Management System” for the Memphis City Schools. This was an entirely eye opening experience for me from the point of view of what went on in the district state and district management. A key learning that I gleaned away from this experience was that, not only in this district but across the United States where there was some effort involved in leading the transformation of the education system, the emphasis was on Performance Management alone. Performance as defined in what happens in the classroom within a school. There is of course talk about the Common State Core Standards implementation and a greater involvement of stakeholder such as the PTA in the delivery of Quality Education. All this is largely theory and in order for it to be converted into practice will take the courage of conviction of the educators and administrators together to implement a unified core process that drives the development of Human Capital Management as the following illustration suggests; unifying the universe of process stakeholders including State, District and School Administrators, State & District Executive / Management, Educators, Students, PTA and others such as the Gates Foundation, Dell Foundation, NCTM, etc.

There is no doubt about the fact that it is extremely important to identify the right educators being involved in imparting education. However, what I am not convinced is the approach to solve the larger problem reforming the system of education; where the educator performance or attracting the right talent to educate is just one of them. Poor infrastructure and poor skills of teachers and administrators only add to the woes of executive and management who look upon their jobs and titles with more commitment than the outcomes expected to be delivered in the pursuit of Quality Education. The Gates Foundation as well as the Dell Foundation is doing a wonderful job of supporting the cause of transforming the education; but they would be well advised to run these programs with qualified Change and Program Management experts. Not note taking and miles toting consultants!

It is absolutely critical that this core process is implemented and technology today can support this process end to end seamlessly. Whether it is planning a course curriculum at the state level or driving it down to an educator preparing to deliver the lessons within that curriculum in a classroom or through a field trip, each child should be able to absorb and learn at the optimal individual rate. Such performance must become the inspiration to grow from strength to strength resulting in an involved and innovative education system. If there is no innovation in the education system, very little can be expected out of it.

I am not sure if it is the pursuit of excellence alone drives the parents of the globally ethnic Americans to focus and gain from the education system. However, the value of education is definitely not lost on them. Most importantly, they are able to serve as role models and inspire the value of education and a more secure home environment better than the average American family. Under the circumstance, for Americans to improve the rate of graduation, it becomes important that parents are educated on their role and become participative in the process.

In India, an uneducated farmer or a laborer encourage their children to take advantage of the democratic and socially evolving society to educate and improve the quality of their lives; an opportunity that was hitherto not available to them in their growing years. I have known of mothers who woke up early and stayed late with their children; just being with them while the children studied. The idea here was to focus on the importance of gaining knowledge and finding a better way of life. There have been parents who took their annual leave from their jobs just to coach their children during the time of examination, ensuring the right preparation. On the other hand, there are IIT graduates and other highly qualified parents who are unable to either participate qualitatively or quantitatively in their children’s education due to lack of time and knowledge. With the proliferation of tuition centers, they manage to pay the fees but are unable to comprehend the disservice of such non involvement in their children’s education; either by design or by accident. With the further advent of the BPO industry, the rate of high school graduation is yet to be threatened, but certainly has already seen a drop in the rate of under and post graduates.

A center of excellence was agreed to be set up in New Delhi during President Obama’s visit to India; to further the cause of education in both countries. I sincerely hope that a special branch is dedicated to social transformation that will address the contribution of a family as a whole in the process of education of a child. Single parents, challenging economic conditions, invasive technologies and voyeuristic consumerism are all the necessary evils of our evolving modern society and these have to be addressed; because we the people are the perpetrators and the benefactors of our own actions.


About Subbu Iyer

Subbu Iyer is an Innovation & Transformation Leader as with 28 years of serving customers globally. He is currently the Chief Designer & Transformer at Energizing Innovation, an enterprise that is being founded to facilitate continuous growth in enterprises and as a consequence create societal wealth. The Radical Shift that this enterprise intends to employ is focusing on the Potential rather than the Performance of a business. He has been a serial entrepreneur and an intrapreneur in his past life, having founded Nihilent Technologies and Nandaki Systems besides being associated in senior leadership roles with firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Cambridge Technology Partners, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Technologies and Steria.
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2 Responses to The Reform of the Education System

  1. Feroz says:

    The issue is more systematic and goes at a macro level. Lets consider a student in the higher secondary. He aims to become an engineer. His definition of engineer “holds a B.E. degree”. Why engineer? Cause the society says he can earn more money. So how does he get into an engineering college. Simple solution… make sure his marks are more than the cut off. How does he do that… make sure he knows answers to the “21 most common question sets” by rote. How does he prepare for his exams… by writing the mock papers multiple times to increase his speed of writing.
    If he has done everything correct … on day of results he gets the needed percentage to get admission.
    Compare this to the guy who spent his time grasping the concepts behind the theories and understanding its application in the real world. He does good in his exams but not good enough to get into the BE college.
    The aptitute of the student and his ability to leveragae and apply the BE knowledge is nowhere in the selection process.
    Also, with the so called “free and paid” seats …. students with money banks often gets preferred over the other (probably more deserving ones).
    The entire process of education needs a revamp. We talk of optimum allocation of resources in manufacturing. We need optimum allocation of intellectual capabilities to various vocations. Hitler has covered this beautifully in his Mein Kampf.

    • Subbu Iyer says:

      Dear Feroze

      First of all, let me apologize for this delayed response and the oversight thereof.

      You are absolutely right. We need a system of education that promotes thinking, intellectual capital and as a consequence entrepreneurship. We have a system today for examination rather than education that produces candidates for jobs. You can see how Kapil Sibal congratulated the Delhi University for introducing a system where students were able to get admissions to colleges based on the cut offs that each of them chose to publish. And the Principal of Shree Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) was proud of his elimination system by introducing the 100% cut off. Administrators and Educators in our country are thinking of elimination while the rest of the world is thinking of Inclusion. I have not read Mein Kempf, but your word is good enough for me. Our education systems needs to be renewed without doubt to create Learning and Contribution; rather than Performance and Consumption.

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