Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Overcoming Education Challenges in India using US Baldrige in Education Framework

In 2020, average Indian is expected to be only 29 years old against 37 years in China and the US, 45 years in Western Europe, and 48 years in Japan ("Harnessing Indian Youth Power", The Economic Times, May 25, 2009). This youth power in India is a double-aged sword, if it is not managed effectively. The youth in India needs to get proper education and training, as education is an engine of economic growth.

Primary (up to age 14) and Secondary Education (age 14-18):

Let us explore some challenges and opportunities for educating Indian youth. The World Bank statistics found that fewer than 40 percent of adolescents in India attend secondary schools (age 14-18). The Economist reports that half of 10-year-old rural children could not read at a basic level, over 60% were unable to do division, and half dropped out by the age 14. An optimistic estimate is that only one in five job-seekers in India has ever had any sort of vocational training (The Economist, December 11, 2008). 

According to current estimates, 80% of all primary schools are government schools making the government the major provider of free education. However, because of poor quality of public education, 27% of Indian children are privately educated (Global Envision, June 14, 2005). With more than 50% children enrolling in private schools in urban areas, the balance has already tilted towards private schooling in cities; even in rural areas, nearly 20% of the children in 2004-2005 were enrolled in private schools (2009). According to some research, private schools often provide superior results at a multiple of the unit cost of government schools (2007-2009).

Post Secondary Higher Education (age 18 and above):

As per Report of the Higher education in India, key issues are related to Expansion, Inclusiveness, Quality, and Finance (University Grants Commission [UGC], September 2010). The access to higher education measured in term of Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) increased from 0.7% in 1950/1951 to 1.4% in 1960–61. By 2006/2007 the GER increased to about 11 percent. By 2012, (the end of 11th plan objective) is to increase it to 15%.

Education and The World Bank:

Education is fundamental to development as it contributes strongly to economic growth. It also holds sustainable, proven benefits for people in terms of higher earnings, better health, and greater resilience to shocks.

Helping countries reform their education systems to promote learning for all is a central thrust of the World Bank’s Education Strategy. The concept is broad, recognizing that it takes multiple actors and reforms to realize progress.

Why Systems?

Because a systems approach focuses on education outcomes, and how inputs contribute best. The results depend not only on having enough classrooms, teachers, and textbooks but also on having the policy environment, resources, and accountability mechanisms that can promote—and not obstruct—education results.

SABER (Systems Approach for Better Education Results) is a global knowledge platform that is helping countries assess their education policies and identify actionable priorities to help education systems achieve learning for all. Policy areas covered by SABER include early child development, student assessment, teachers, and workforce development. 

  • By collecting data on policies and institutions that matter for success (according to evidence) and producing an objective snapshot of how well the system is performing in relation to global good practice (and other countries).
  • By providing metrics to measure and monitor progress.
  • By promoting cross-country learning.

US Baldrige Performance Excellence in Education Framework:

In the Unites States, by the Act of Congress in 1987, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Award Program was established. In 2001, Education category was included in the Program. Since 2001, there are nine educational institutes that have won the prestigious national award for Excellence in Education. It includes six K-12 schools, one community college, one undergraduate business school, and one university. You can learn more about Baldrige in Education at http://www.nist.gov/baldrige/publications/education_criteria.cfm.

These criteria focus on Systems Approach and include seven categories starting with Leadership and ending with Results. Personally, I have a pleasure to use the Baldrige Criteria at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Naperville, Illinois School System, and in my Operations Management/Quality Management courses since 1993 at various business schools in the Chicago area and in India.

During my recent visit to India in December 2012, from the American Society for Quality (ASQ) India, we conducted a one-day workshop on "Baldrige Excellence in Education and Transformation Journey" at the Mahamaya Technical University (MTU) in Noida, UP. With the visionary leadership and commitment from Prof. Shiban Kak, the Vice Chancellor of MTU, we at ASQ India plan to continue the educational excellence journey at number of institutes within MTU. 

The ASQ India has a singular focus of uplifting educational excellence at all levels (primary, secondary, and in higher education areas). We firmly believe, that by using the Baldrige in Education Criteria, one can begin the assessment of an institution, identify areas of strengths, and opportunities for improvement. There are various role model examples of Baldrige Award Winners in Education. Learning and adapting some of the best practices from the winners will serve Indian Educational Institutions well.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on this critical issue of improving education system in India.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Risk Taking, Fear of Failure, and Innovation

From the dawn of civilization our ancestors took variety of risks, failed at some, gathered themselves up, and made innovative progress to usher us in the modern age.

Risk taking is part of life. If one remains in her/his comfort zone and does not take risks, she/he will not make rapid progress. Again, one needs to recognize what type of risks and what are its consequences. We can take a page from the project management discipline where all projects require proper risk management. The risk management process calls for identification of all risks, analyzing and assessing all risks, developing plans to mitigate risks by minimizing probability of risks occurrence, and establishing contingency plans for dealing with any risks that do manifest.

Let me share my personal example of risk taking and its impact in my life. After high school, I left the comfort of my home to go to Bombay (450 miles away) and stayed in a boarding house. Learning from the benefit of earlier risk taking, two years later I was ready to go to Varanasi (1,000 miles away) for my undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Banaras Hindu University (IIT BHU), a residential university. Again, after four years when opportunity came, I came to Chicago (8,000 miles away) for my graduate work at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.

My first job was at the Institute of Gas Technology in Chicago in a federally funded energy R&D work. While in between jobs, I took a risk to start my MBA at Keller Graduate School of Management. Then I got an opportunity to join AT&T Bell Laboratories while taking risk to move from chemical engineering to telecommunications. Within a year, a new opportunity arrived to start quality planning and management assignment at the AT&T Bell Labs location in Naperville. Again taking risk, I made a switch and has learned a great deal from the Masters of Quality Management like Dr. Deming and Dr. Juran.

Looking back, I can reflect that the choices I made and risks I took, has served me well. I received best education in chemical engineering and then branched out in management discipline. This solid educational background allowed me to make valuable contributions in corporate,  academic, professional, and non-profit sectors.

Now let us talk about failure. We can learn from Thomas A. Edison and I quote, "I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work." We all remember the First Inaugural Address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” As a human being, we all have some fear of failure. However, when we undertake any task, it is better to fail early, learn from the failure, and then succeed faster. This formula applies well to all innovative and creative work.

I would welcome your thoughts on risk taking, fear of failure, and innovation.