Appointment as Visiting Practitioner at Harvard

 

The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) is renowned for its belief that research-based education policy and practice have the power to create a more just and prosperous society. For nearly 100 years, they have prepared smart and passionate individuals to become transformative leaders in education. I have been fortunate to have collaborated with them over the past few years on projects as well as assessing the impact of the Varkey Foundation’s work. .

For example, many of you will have recently seen the work Professor Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education, and I worked on to develop a programme to channel the knowledge and experience of the Top 50 teachers from our Global Teacher Prize initiative to benefit those in the profession who want to develop their own thinking and practice.

A few weeks ago, at the Global Education & Skills Forum we also launched an Alliance on Teachers, which brings together some of the foremost international thinkers and practitioners into a working group that is committed to writing a White Paper on the future of the teaching profession.

This year, I am honoured to be appointed as a Visiting Practitioner in Education at HGSE and am excited about sharing my experiences with the faculty and students at the school to build upon our goals to build a better world.

Following the appointment, Professor Reimers said: “We welcome Vikas Pota to the Harvard community, and look forward to exchanging ideas that have profound long-term impact on education systems through building the capacity of the teaching profession.

“Vikas’s experience in education reform projects globally, as well as his knowledge and networks, will undoubtably be a valuable resource to us. We look forward to providing opportunities for our students to interact with Mr Pota to aid their own development as professionals seeking to strengthen public education systems.”

I look forward to visiting Cambridge regularly and, especially, in providing the benefit of our experience to the student community at the school.

 

How to teach children so they will be able to compete with robots

This article appeared in The Independent on 19th January 2016.

“Digital disruption” may have become a threadbare cliché in tech circles, but it barely does justice to the head-spinning scale of economic change laid out in today’s Future of Jobs report published by the World Economic Forum. Based on a survey of executives in fifteen of the world’s largest economies, the report sees us entering a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” which will transform labour markets in just five short years. 7.1 million jobs will be lost – with the greatest losses in white-collar and administrative roles. At the same time, some of these losses will be offset by the creation of 2.1 million new jobs in sectors such as nanotechnology and robotics and ever-more important functions within companies such as data analysis and sales. The report estimates that 28 per cent of the skills required in the UK will change in the four years to 2020.

The WEF report is reinforcing a message that others have delivered. Last year, Andy Haldane, Chief Economist of the Bank of England warned that nearly half of all jobs in the UK are under threat from automation in the next two decades – affecting people at all levels of the workplace.

Given the scale of this change in such a short period, what can the education system do to keep up?  Firstly we should acknowledge the perils of gazing into the crystal ball. As educationalist Sir Ken Robinson pointed out in his TED Talk, children starting school now will probably be working until around 2065 – yet we can’t even predict what the world will look like in the next five years. How can we possibly predict the skills they will need? In the 1980s, there were suggestions that Japanese teaching was essential in British schools, as that was seen as the business language of the future – obviously looking at it now time would have been better spent preparing for the digital revolution that was just around the corner.

First of all we need to move to an expectation that workers will retrain and reskill throughout their careers. This has of course often been said, but now the need is becoming urgent. It may be exhilarating or alarming that over 90 per cent of Millennials (those born between 1977 and 1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of employees and managers.

We can’t predict exactly what those skills will be, but we can predict the qualities that will be required – soft skills like leadership, flexibility, communication, decision-making, working under pressure, creativity and problem-solving. The drift of educational policy has been to banish much of this from the classroom and fixate on core subjects like science and math to the exclusion of wider learning.

It’s interesting that the demand for a wider curriculum is coming, not from some fossilized relic of 1970s teacher training, but from the world’s largest companies. Laszlo Bock, who is in charge of hiring at Google, said in a recent interview that “while good grades don’t hurt” the company is looking for softer skills too: “leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn”. Julian Thomas, Head of Wellington College – another unlikely revolutionary – has spoken out about his sense that the current education system was “designed for a different era” and, under pressure from constant testing, has squeezed creativity out of the curriculum. Tony Little, former Master of Eton College, has written about the dangers that wider intellectual development is being stifled by an all-encompassing obsession with exams.

Some companies are stepping in to plug the gaps that they think are missing from the education system. Siemens, frustrated with the skills and knowledge among their graduate applicants, has developed its own “future-proofing” training scheme that everyone joining the firm undertakes. By the end of their course, employees are expected to be able to summarise tasks and explain how to solve them in English as well as German.

Technology can make life-long constant retraining and reskilling a more viable option. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) have lowered the price of education and widened access by removing the need for students to be taught at set times or places, facilitating those already in employment to study or those who couldn’t otherwise afford to. Udacity, an online university, recently introduced ‘nano-degrees’ designed to train people for jobs as web developers or data analysts. With the galloping pace of technology, it’s likely that future employees are going to have to take several such courses through their lifetime.

Amid this nervy uncertainty, the WEF report is hopeful about the prospects for the UK economy. For every job lost through automation and technological change here, it estimates that 2.91 new ones will be created – more than twice as many as in the US.  Just as the first industrial revolution created the Spinning Jenny and the steam engine, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is developing artificial intelligence and 3D printing. But far-sighted decisions by policy-makers are required to ensure our education system is rooted in the needs of the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth.

Vikas Pota is CEO of the Varkey Foundation and member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on the Future of Jobs

Young Global Leader announcement

VIKAS POTA SELECTED AS A YOUNG GLOBAL LEADER BY THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

The World Economic Forum & my company released this info today: http://www.gemseducation.com/media-centre/press-releases/Vikas-Pota-CEO-of-the-Varkey-GEMS-Foundation-selected-as-Young-Global-Leader-by-the-World-Economic-Forum/534

What is a Young Global Leader?

I am hugely excited and thrilled to have been selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Having had the opportunity to attend a few regional WEF summits, I’ve always been impressed with the positivity that flows out of this community, and look forward to joining it.

You can read more about the programme here: www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_YGL_Brochure.pdf

What do you hope to achieve?

I am lucky to have had the chance to build a business, work with talented people, travel, commit to making our world a better place, and, importantly, do something about it. Being selected to join the Forum of Young Global Leaders will provide me with invaluable opportunities to connect and collaborate with other people who also share my passion and goal to fix perennial issues that are solvable within our lifetimes.

The diversity of intake – from ages, professions, and countries, allows me to the chance to tap into this mix of experience and ideas, which is key to creating sustainable change.

What issues interest you?

Inter-dependence & collaboration is what creates value. Change cannot & will not come if we work in silos.

I enjoy bringing together change makers from politics, business and NGOs to solve problems that for decades seemed unsolvable.

I find that you really make progress when you bring together people from completely different worlds. Globalisation has created the possibility for powerful collaborations and I believe we have only just started realizing how these connections are going to change the world forever.

I’m trying to change the following:

1. Education – as I believe that there is no greater equalizer. I’m currently leading an effort to raise $70million to train 250,000 teachers in some of the most desperate countries of the world. The Varkey GEMS Foundation, which I am the Chief Executive of, has devised a programme that will see a dramatic improvement in classroom outcomes, which ultimately results in a more secure and prosperous world for everyone.

2. Raising the bar of government & politics – I’m increasingly troubled by the way our world is governed. At one end structural reform issues form a key area of interest and the other end, we need a more conversant electorate that demands a higher standard from its representatives. Later this year, I am launching an initiative in India that will hopefully raise the bar of politics and provide a model that many other nations can emulate.

3. How to harness the energies and expertise of those who share my world view that there are infinitely more people who want to do good in this world that those that don’t. By connecting these people no problem is insurmountable. I’ve been lucky to be part of a founding team of do-gooders, through Sewa Day, who have motivated over 50,000 in 20 countries to provide their time to either help relieve hardship & poverty, protect the environment, or to bring a little joy to those who have little. Our aim is to get 1 million people swinging into action with us within the next five years.

A quote from a wise man from India – Swami Vivekananda – perhaps, sums up what I think best: “Get up, and set your shoulder to the wheel – how long is this life for? As you have come into this world, leave some mark behind. Otherwise where is the difference between you and the trees and stones? – they too come into existence, decay and die.”

Let’s work together

I’m experimenting with all three areas, and am keen on learning what others, who may share these interests, are doing. Leave a comment on this blog if you want to share your experiences (or tweet me on @vikaspota).

David Cameron’s visit to India

Last time DC went to India, I commented on the BBC that he may as well concede that we were the junior partner in that relationship as well, just as he had referred to relations with our American cousins who he had visited immediately prior to India.

This time things are a little different. Let me explain.

Last time DC visited it was in the immediate wake of forming the coalition. This time, I would suggest that this visit is focused on creating opportunities that are specific to the UK electoral calendar – electioneering has started!

The same can also be said of India and her politics. With Narendra Modi’s success at the polls, the only real discussion taking place is whether he will be the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Electioneering in India has also begun as polls are due in 2014.

Such a cycle can play a major role in how these visits are organised. What do you think the major goals of this visit should be? How should DC’s success be measured? Volume of commercial deals done, parity provided to the Opposition, agreements on counter security… ? Interested in your opinions. Leave a comment

Trends – 2010 onwards – quite spectacular

If you’re interested in trends, then take a look at the attached – quite spectacular…

Richard Watson, who’s a futurologist created this, and he claims that those on the outer fray of this tube style map is already taking place.

Incredible stuff. Enjoy.

Trends Map

Investing in girls & women will boost global trade & economics

Just a couple of weeks ago, I visited Ethiopia to attend the World Economic Forum’s Africa Summit – a choice which confused many of us, as, like many other African countries, doesn’t strike you as being a natural choice to host such an event, but when we scratched beneath the surface, what impressed was their total focus on applying science and engineering to boost their economic and agricultural productivity, which is obviously working as they’re now the world’s third fastest growing economy. Imagine that! I remember, as a young boy, cycling to my local record shop to buy the charity single that brought Ethiopia into focus, and where we all sang along to “do they know its Christmas time at all”.

And it’s not the only example of a country that we think of as ‘developing’ as being in a vastly different economic environment than we might think. While we all know of the rise of the BRIC economies, but did you know that a country like India produces more engineers & doctors than the whole of Europe put together?

Both examples show that investing in STEM education makes good economic sense. Education can be the driver for economic growth. But it’s not always universal and girls and women are often being left behind. There’s an obvious moral argument to this – how can it be right to leave behind so many people – but there’s also an economic argument. On what basis can we look at ourselves if we don’t do more to ensure that we create generations of female mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and technologists?

Did you know that since the inception of the Nobel Prize for Physics, only two women have won this prize? Only four have won the Chemistry prize. How can this be right? We can drill even further as the statistics for women “of colour” are even more alarming such as; only 2% of all women professors in the US are “of colour”.

How can this be right?

The work that the Varkey GEMS Foundation does with UNESCO concerns the recruitment of more women into the teaching profession, the skilling of these recruits to ensure girls advance in STEM subjects, and an ongoing commitment to their professional development as educators.

As a company, if there’s one thing that GEMS has learnt from educating children is that good teachers matter. Who stands at the front of a classroom often makes the essential difference to a child’s prospects of success.

As a charitable foundation we believe that the role & status of teachers has become so derided that we fail to appreciate their critical contribution to a country’s progress. We also fail to understand the way in which the teaching profession is changing, for example as technology allows for easier transfer of knowledge, the classroom teacher takes on an ever more critical role – that of a “mentor”. In this avatar, teachers can have an incredible influence on parents, students and the wider community, and can convince those who don’t believe that science pays, of the rewards advancement in STEM subjects can hold for families and communities – whether in cosmopolitan cities like London or Paris or in the most rural locations in Lesotho or Kenya, where our intervention is targeted.

No longer are STEM subjects taught in isolation, real world challenges demand an inclusive, combined approach. In this new way of learning, teachers become even more vital as they join the dots for students to make the subjects real and practical.

We need to be clear in our minds that a focus on STEM education can boost a country’s economic chances – which in these challenging and austere times is important to understand. But, clarity of thought is one thing, we ought to also bear in mind the moral argument in training girls and women, for they have been neglected for far too long by a male dominated political culture, which is hard to defend on any basis.

Teachers are the backbone of the education sector. By investing in them, we invest in ourselves.

As a father of two daughters, I wanted to convey my thanks to H. E. Ms. Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO for convening such an alliance to further the education of girls and women and look forward to reporting back the progress we’re making in Lesotho & Kenya over the next few years.

Vikas Pota
Chief Executive Officer
The Varkey GEMS Foundation

Feed the woorrlddd – let them know its Christmas time…

Remember those words? Remember Bob Geldof on TV during Live Aid launching into a tirade asking people to call in to pledge money for the people of Ethiopia? Well, guess what?

I’m on my way to Addis for the Africa Summit of the World Economic Forum, which last year was held in Cape Town – in Africa’s largest economy – South Africa. So, when they announced that this year it’d be in Ethiopia, I, and many others, looked a little puzzled – about their choice.

Since then, I’ve paid attention to everything “African” and am actually looking forward to attending, knowing that Ethiopia is one of world’s fastest growing economies – YES, you read correctly – Ethiopia’s BOOMING – who would have thought!!

Take a look at this BBC report if you want to learn more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15739706

I’m going to be live tweeting from Addis, so please do follow me on Twitter if you want to know what’s being said.

The Social Capital: Nigel Walsh of Cap Gemini

This interview was first featured on www.indiaincorporated.com, where I write a column called The Social Capital

The Social Capital with Vikas Pota – What giving really means?

Vikas Pota speaks to Nigel Walsh from the world of financial services…

Nigel Walsh is Business Development Director, Insurance, at Capgemini Financial Services.

1. Is giving important? Why?

Yes. Pay it forward, helping others is always more rewarding than helping yourself.

2. What charities do you personally support?

I do a lot of cycling and this is mainly organised by Action Medical Research (www.action.org.uk) that has provided some great research into premature births and much more. Other charities that organise cycling events include BHF (British Heart Foundation).

I also support many other charities through my involvement in Freemasonry and I am a trustee of a national charity focused on health in the community, Hertsmere Leisure.

3. What was your first ever donation to a charity?

Possibly, to the British Heart Foundation.

4. Do you have a focus on where you donate your money?

Children’s charities.

5. Which individuals stand out for their support to charitable causes?

People like David Walliams and Eddie Izzard are a real inspiration. It’s too easy to give money. Giving time, especially training time, goes way beyond leveraging their brand to get more for the charity of choice.

6. What percentage of our income should we give to good causes?

At least one per cent.

7. What do you personally gain from contributing?

That everyone can make a difference, not everyone is as fortunate. There is always someone better and someone worse off than you.

8. What was the last donation you made?

This was my fifth consecutive year as part of a team of 11 cyclists from London to Paris. We raised over £25,000 as part of a bigger group that collected a total of £600,000. Something different awaits in 2012!

9. Have you taken part in any adventure events to raise money?

Cycling to Paris, among other charity bike rides.

10.·Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and charitable giving by companies a marketing gimmick?

No. It brings emotion, usually in a few key individual’s minds, to bear to a brand that by nature can’t have a personality.

Through these in-depth interviews with industry leaders, Vikas Pota asks charity-related questions that unearth the driving force behind their philanthropy and social responsibility.

Asian Businessmen!

Not wanting to cite specifics but one of the thing that annoys me is how people’s egos get the better of them. Whether we’re talking personal, professional or other, where is the need to make unfounded claims? By doing so, you’ll likely to get caught out, just like an “Asian businessman” who I had respect for – has had his cover blown in today’s tabloid press.

Asian businessmen have contributed significantly to the UK, for this reason, I hope that today’s very sad episode doesn’t sully all the hard work done by the majority. Let’s hope the media play fair.