Friday 28 November 2014

Change Demands Us

The recent few weeks have brought to my renewed and deeper attention a few things that I now feel compelled more than ever to share, especially with those who are involved in areas of reforms for human development, education and interested in human capital development within societies and of course the development of society itself. As far as I can remember my interest has always been in deciphering and discovering ways in which we can improve our individual and collective lives and I am not sure what propelled me to be concerned, but I was reminded recently that somewhere its foundation lies in pain and agony, which stems from loss, may it be personal or that which is empathetically derived from the pain of those that we love, or we come across.

The last decade of my life was particularly focused on learning ways of people development, understanding behavior and its personal and collective consequences, understanding what ought to be our aspirational ideal selves and what will it take to turn things around to make things better, and whatever that meant.

My choice of books, my seemingly diverse courses of study, my choice of profession and the experiences I chased, conversations I had, were all predominantly decided by what I wanted to learn and do next towards answering these questions I had in my mind. Not that I have by any means found final answers to my questions but it has been a very insightful and in a way has me at this point where I am compelled, as mentioned, to share this with others (of course with those who choose to read my blog).

I plan to write a series of blogs under the title ‘Change Demands Us’ particularly sharing insights into how our habitual and conditioned responses often blind us to reality and the consequences of our actions. I will bring to the conversation real events, actions, dilemmas and judgments that highlight my points in practical real world contexts within the realm of education, human capital development, human and social behavior and related reform. For most people the concept is not new, but yet we are usually non-cognizant of this as it happens especially when we ourselves are perpetrators of these thoughts and actions.

The reason I chose this title ‘Change Demands Us’ is because I realize that the more I delve deep into the issues I talk about and those that concern me deeply, the more I realize that to achieve improved outcomes we need to work on ourselves and change ourselves. We are so ignorant about our own behavior, thought patterns and related personal and other larger consequences, that we are actually part of the problem on account of which we suffer the world in which we live in, yet we find myriad reasons to blame the world for not being the way we believe it ideally should be. Of course we also use over-claimed and conveniently attributed helplessness to cover our own indolence, avarice, lack of courage and understanding. In this way I see personal change and larger reform integrated and completely interdependent, and therefore the need to change ourselves to change the world. Thus, ‘Change Demands Us’

“Of course we would all like others to change, rather than ourselves, because we are just ‘so right and so finely balanced in our helplessness and doing all that we do’ that there is little that can be improved, apart from of course that which we are already working at or will inevitably be led to at the right time. Also how can anybody else tell us otherwise or be more insightful, if they are, then that is going to reveal itself in the next book I am anyway going to read so I will know all about it; or it is the next conclusion, my thinking and work will lead me to anyway. Moreover, as providence would have it, that would be the right time when I ought to be getting that insight.

Yet I live in world where the impoverished thinking and ignorant and damaging actions of others have made a mess of it. If only others could be more like me and I could be less helpless and if I only had (more/less) of _________, I or we could make the world better. But until then I am doing the best I can.” … Think about it, isn't this us?

I leave you to reflect on this until my next blog, when I hope to take you deeper into this narrative and beyond.

Tuesday 16 September 2014


With the new government in place and a vigorous emphasis on skills development, evident through the creation of the new ‘Skills Development and Entrepreneurship’ ministry and the prime minister’s own words in almost every public outing, we are witnessing a phase where the TVET structure and framework is under a very critical eye and being reviewed. The TVET structure has been in focus over the past few years, given the realization of our youthful population, unemployment and related social challenges and poor educational attainment in the country, dissatisfaction of employers with the talent pool available, etc. 

International attention has been rife as well with business and development agendas providing impetus to this area. New structures have been created with industry and government both providing direction and funds to this. A great deal of hectic activity has taken place and we now have the some of the following in focus

1. A New Skills Development Ministry
2. A National Skills Qualification framework (NSQF)
3. National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) a public-private partnership frame primarily for funding capacity building of large scale, high quality for-profit training providers, training schemes and Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) 
4. National Skills Development Agency (NSDA) looking at coordinating and harmonsing work across ministries, government, NSDC and the private sector; directing and managing some other interventions including operationalizing and development of the NSQF, International Interventions and projects, being the nodal agency for SSDMs, etc. 
5. State Skills Development Missions (SSDMs)
6. Sector Skills Councils developing occupational standards for industry requirements
7. Standards for developing assessors and trainers
8. Assessing body approval guidelines and procedures
9. Vocational Training Providers (VTP) approval guidelines and procedures
10. Trans-national standards and international equivalences
11. STAR scheme to increase throughput and other schemes to support the same based on geography and special interest segments. Precursor of some of these were the Modular Employment Scheme (MeS), etc.
12. Labor Management Information Systems (LMIS) proposed but still not functional
13. Other supportive elements like the NSQC, QRC, etc. 

Key concerns

1. Current structure has low level of checks and balances on constituents. The system therefore has been exploited and not yielded the results that should have emerged from these.

2.  There is overlapping of responsibilities or lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities in certain areas and therefore clashes of interest and turf battles undermining the efforts and diverting focus and priority. 

3. There isn’t a structure for planned capacity building of these institutions themselves.

4.  Constituents are provided with roles and responsibilities that have built-in conflicts of interest.

5. New areas, agendas and concerns have emerged since the structure was created and there is no clear process or agency nominated to address these, therefore creating confusion.

6. Industry participation is patchy and industry funding is inconsistent.

7. Lack of integration in existing structures and working. The certificate and qualifications do not link to existing frameworks of education and recognition thereof is missing.

8. Unrealistic expectations of impact, returns and timelines along with short term thinking is undermining quality and creation of a robust TVET framework.

To read the full article click here

Image Building for Vocational Education in India - A comprehensive study

Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in India, as in many other countries, is the less preferred educational option of students. Most people consider it as an option for those left out of main stream education or for them who are unable to cope up with higher education. It is a great travesty indeed, for it undermines necessary work capabilities that are essential to produce goods and services in the real world. It is interesting that this situation exists while there are other countries where TVET is considered the more preferred and sought option.

To understand and address this phenomenon, FICCI and PROGILENCE Capability Development Pvt. Ltd. have undertaken a study where we are interacting with various stakeholders in Indian society to get well-rounded views of the perceptions, practices and outcomes surrounding TVET. 

As part of this study we are interacting with a range of stakeholders including students, parents, training providers and educators, policy makers, influencers, employers and others. The study is expected to be the most comprehensive and inclusive study undertaken in the field in India yet. 

To participate in this study kindly connect with us at 

To know more about the study click here

Thursday 5 June 2014

Recommendations on Skills Development and Education in India

As the new government steps in and everyone has a wish list I have my ten points of recommendations on skills development and education in India. (This is extracted from an article that can be found at
  1. Invest in creating information systems that produce real and authentic data. At the moment all sorts of figures are floating around, particularly guilty are large consulting bodies who produce these with little concern that this would ever have to stand scrutiny. Even though a large number of industry voices dispute these, these are so quickly copied by others that soon the same numbers are being quoted from different sources, which seems to be an erroneous self-validating mechanism. A Labour Market Information System is said to be in the works, but there is little to inspire confidence in it at this stage. Not only should it have been forthcoming much earlier, but even now there is little clarity on how this is being developed.
  2. Create conducive conditions for small entrepreneurs to set-up training and education capacities – this will help as large companies see this business only in terms of numbers and another vertical that allows them to grow. For small entrepreneurs this is usually a matter of passion and survival, both generate immense commitment to the cause. Also for small entrepreneurs these are usually in cohabited locations, whereas for large companies there are relatively more overheads involved in setting up remote capacities.
  3. Take a realistic estimate of how much time and effort it takes to train people to develop meaningful competencies across various contexts and develop norms and guidelines for schemes which align to that. As of now unrealistic expectations seem to be the norm and everyone is using it as an excuse to deliver poor quality and escape accountability; it also thwarts those who want to put in a genuine effort.
  4. Tighten quality norms and create independent quality committees which assess work done by various service providers. It is important to have sufficient diversity in the committees to ensure that the scope for corruption and collusion is minimized. Unquestioned faith on the private sector is as dangerous as unquestioned faith in government monitoring.
  5. Hold employers accountable for providing workers with reasonable work environments and terms and conditions. This includes health, hygiene and safety, remuneration and leave, in-service professional and overall development of workers, conditions that allow workers access to career development avenues to upgrade their professional qualifications, above other things. Create campaigns and drive the agenda of continuing professional development across society.
  6. Support job creation, by encouraging entrepreneurship especially small and micro-entrepreneurs, help spread information about support services that they can avail. Make it easy for them to get support including but not just limited to credit access. Provide a scheme to encourage professionals with high quality work experience to access credit and support services based on the quality of their professional experiences and business plans rather than asset collateral. Expect and have a loss guarantee scheme in place to cover failure. Remember not all failure is bad.
  7. Create a flow of talent in the education system. For doing that invest in development of school and other educational leaders and teachers which are supported by adequate per diems, while overall funds seem huge, high quality providers often find it difficult to deliver quality in low per diems. Provide incentives to people from other professions to move into teaching; at the same time develop career paths and related development opportunities for school leaders, teachers and other education workers to transition to other careers. Recognize that it is as important to bring in talent as much as it is important to let people go out of the system.
  8. Focus on education that develops practical skills as much as there is focus on knowledge acquisition. For this the best thing would be for educational institutes at all levels to engage with the outside world and work in real contexts, rather than in an isolated and cocooned environment. Whether in the form of projects, community work, part-time jobs, commercial assignments, research, etc. get educational institutes to engage with the real world, real society and the market. This should also encourage cross contextual work where students get to experience other cultures and environments.
  9. Focus on multi-disciplinary learning and focus on improving co-scholastic areas including music and arts, physical education and other areas. This not only develops emotional and social competencies, but also has vocational value and inherent personal development benefits.
  10. Bring a focus back on quality, quality drives greater value creation, people pay more for quality and quality therefore creates a virtuous cycle. Create awareness and enablement for quality and bring together people on the table from different contexts and cultures to understand possibilities and get a more balanced view of quality. Let these not be lost in power struggles and bureaucratic, hierarchical decision making. Increase spending on quality education for all and at all levels. 

Authentic leadership shaped by empathy

In policy making and governance, we often look at creating conditions that are best for achieving an objective, setting rules, norms and creating incentives for it. Usually the objective is driven by what society values and often contingent upon majority acceptance of the view, at least in a democracy.
It is therefore incumbent upon policy makers and government to be sensitive about the priorities and needs of the people in line with values of society. Unfortunately, because those in leadership positions, as others, are usually given to be guided by their own experience and values, there can often arise a mismatch in the needs of society and what leaders believe is a priority. This is one of the reasons why people have often said that the most effective leaders are those who are most in touch with their followers.
Take for example today’s news of an Indian Minister Harshvardhan stating that given the loss of a friend and compatriot Mr. Gopinath Munde (Minister for Rural Development) in a car accident, has suddenly made him realize the importance of wearing seat belts in the rear seats of an automobile, and now there will be campaigning and movement on that front. On one hand while we have reason to be grateful that this is being noticed, on the other hand we have to seriously consider that if to gain perspective around something as elementary as basic human safety in cars, it takes a minister a grievous loss at a personal level, then there is definitely a lot to be desired in how governance works. In society we already have countless people who have lost lives to such avoidable circumstances and yet we find no answer to these situations and find such issues languishing in policy and governance focus and priority.
We all know that governance has myriad shortcomings, we want to focus on understanding fundamental realities that really bring about the gap. We also want to understand how we can go about addressing needs with a positive constructive approach.
Now think if it takes personal loss for a leader to recognize something so basic, it would mean we should hope for leaders to experience every kind of loss so they are sensitive to their constituencies’ needs. Ofcourse that is neither possible nor desirable. Therefore we must consider this shortcoming and see how we can overcome it.
If we analyse this from various dimensions, we will find a case for having more authentic leadership.  The idea is to position leaders’ incharge of things that they feel strongly about, which is reflective of their own values that find resonance with society’s values. Not just the top leaders but those who are in every other position of responsibility as well, for we know leaders are dependent on their entire support system to achieve results. Across society, this is where we lack and in areas where we progress, generally, this is where things are different. We are a society that is largely focused on competence and tenure, which is no doubt important, but to achieve truly progressive results requires a more authentic and holistic approach to leadership at every level. It involves passion and perspective that is most emphatically shaped by our experiences, emotions and values.
As humans most of us have some inherent capacity for empathy, which often gets triggered by our own experiences of emotion especially the strong emotions associated with pain and suffering. As we begin to realize the emotions and attribute them to a certain set of circumstances, we begin to get sensitive to others finding themselves in that position as well as what they may experience. It is not necessarily a true indicator of what others feel, but often a projection of what we assume people feel in those situations. We also pick up these indicators through a person’s tone of voice, facial expressions and other subliminal sensory mechanisms that we use. This allows us to predict what others might feel and think in those situations and help us with our relationships and decision making.
Based on our collective experiences and related emotional attributes we often share and develop common understanding of various aspects of human behavior including motivation and situational impact. This along with the values we espouse is used to inform our decisions.
As leaders we are quite often more worried about issues such as compliance, maintaining structures, narrowly defined results and attrition, than having people find their passion and find them roles that they feel strongly about and achieving better results for themselves, others and society as a whole. We must realize that we cannot use everyone else’s experience, but we can help them make best use of theirs.
It is important to focus on development of leaders as a critical start point, having them experience holistic development approaches and helping them connect their own experiences with their values and how they see and work in the world. It is also important to see how each one of us is shaped through the same mechanism; everyone else is only another version of us. Once they understand this, it is important that they prioritize and invest in holistic and authentic development of others. Not guided by a limited view of minimum skills for livelihood to curb social unrest and meet target figures, maintaining the status quo, or limited by current job descriptions and the current organizational needs, but as a human who has valuable and real experiences, values, emotions and the potential to contribute something truly meaningful to society. To help them discover, develop and express the power they have to take themselves, their organization and our society towards true progress with passion.