Attributed to Lord Bourgham (18th century) is a remark that fits the bill of this crazy attitude, “Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave”. Promoters of business, who were seized of such thinking, desired to on-board only the less qualified, the only distinction they searched for was the possession of the element of honesty. A trait in my view, as a manager of human resources for several decades, is an obvious thing present in all. Honesty needs to be evaluated only in exceptional cases, where there is irrefutable evidence to the contrary, only then can integrity be doubted.
This manner of thinking and approach was prevalent till about the end of the decade of the nineties. Post the information deluge that came around with significant advancements in technology, particularly, information technology, the entrepreneurs have now unwillingly conceded, to the demands of hiring ‘knowledgeable’ workers, to either maintain or enhance the necessary competitive edge in the marketplace.
This however is not to suggest that the concept of hiring, qualified and technically proficient individuals, has been embraced, totally by the entrepreneurs. In most family owned businesses, regardless of how large or small, they may be, the effort is to keep away from hiring people, who audaciously possess the ability to think independently. The exceptions to this attitude are there too, but only far and few. Most are desirous that those hired must serve in submission and not look beyond the task assigned. Creative thinking is abhorred by such classes. The army of “corporate slaves” is a growing one, globally; it is not merely a Pakistani market phenomenon.
The difference between a corporate slave in the West and the one in our midst, is that the former is made subservient through the mechanism of standard operating procedures and policies; the later is condemned as a personal slave to the “Seth” (owner), a term and form of address loved by them. Essentially it means, Your Majesty. Corporate colonialism is rampant. The Masters know it, the Slaves know it too; yet there is no rebellion, because the “ power”, in all its formats and manifestations, rests in the hands of the entrepreneurs. This is achieved, without any consideration, whether the entrepreneur is illiterate or highly educated, the preference is to have a closed mind set. The liberals amongst them are a handful lot, and they are doing well, in building their businesses by sharing the burden of growth and profitability, with the hiring of related professionals.
The global economy has turned at lightning speed, infact dramatically, from its outdated practices, to the more technologically inspired, policies, thought and action. The newly industrialised countries are a good reflection of the concept of “Knowledge Economy”. The patterns of behaviour relating to the need of goods and services is now more dynamically assessed than ever before, by virtue of artificial intelligence . The shifts in consumer behaviour are essentials for business ventures to be aware of; failing which, they are most likely to vanish and disappear, through decay and decline, in thought and productivity, respectively. In a speech at Harvard,(1943), Winston Churchill said, “the empires of the future are the empires of the mind”. To get there, the need is to have an open mind.
The emphasis on the development of the Human Capital by countries like, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, China and the three emerging economies from the Golden Triangle of SouthEast Asia, is now resulting in major economic gains for their society/country. Singapore is not blessed with nature’s endowments, yet , the tiny nation state, is an amazing story of economic success. Why and how? All because of one person, Lee Kuan Yew, the founder and first Prime Minister of Singapore, who marshalled his people, to acquire quality education, and to remain adept at all times, towards learning the new concepts and technology, emerging in the fields of science, commerce, industry and IT.
The difference between a corporate slave in the West and the one in our midst, is that the former is made subservient through the mechanism of standard operating procedures and policies; the later is condemned as a personal slave to the “Seth” (owner), a term and form of address loved by them. Essentially it means, Your Majesty. Corporate colonialism is rampant. The Masters know it, the Slaves know it too; yet there is no rebellion, because the “ power”, in all its formats and manifestations, rests in the hands of the entrepreneurs. This is achieved, without any consideration, whether the entrepreneur is illiterate or highly educated, the preference is to have a closed mind set.
Countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are examples before Pakistan to emulate (my heart sinks, in making this recommendation), for, we were far ahead of these nations, only two decades back. In the period starting from the year 2000, when China decided to exit and vacate the lower end of the value chain, relating to the textile industry, these countries, beside Bangladesh, rushed in to occupy the space created, in the market. Ideally, this should have been our strategy, to move and occupy in haste, given our cotton production and textile focus. We missed, yet, another bus; lack of imagination, lack of adequate research, and lack of focus, of both, the government and the private sector, to envisage and predict future outcomes, is a major cause of our inability to take advantage of market imbalances. Today, Vietnam, who until a decade back had exports (earnings in dollars, for easy understanding) of less than $40 billion, now it exceeds $400 billion — and that’s just one example of the adoption of the concept of knowledge based economy.
We have, unfortunately, a very large segment of the youthful population, who however, unfortunately are not tooled, adequately to take advantage of the shifts in global migration of both, the skilled and unskilled workers. We are lamenting the brain drain of almost 750,000 persons, who chose to go overseas in search of “El- Dorado”. It is only when the local business environment does not provide gainful opportunities, the zestfully charged youngsters, look outside the horizon of the national boundaries. The moaning is because only the “best” are lost. The replacement to these excelling individuals is now a far cry.
The quality of education, with the proliferation of universities and colleges in the private sector, as well as in the government owned, has taken a nosedive. The need to remain profitable as an entity in the education sector is fully justified, but only with the proviso, that the education and training imparted, has to be world class quality.
Regrettably, that’s not the case. Those doing an honest undertaking are few.
A young lass in an interview, said to me, as a response, that she doesn’t remember her subjects of study at the intermediate level, because she never went to attend college or appeared in any examination — so how did you get the certificate? I asked. “My aunt appeared on my behalf “ was her innocent reply.
This young girl had no remorse nor qualms in making this public admission; infact, I felt that she was expecting, if not a thunderous applause, at least, some words of appreciation, for being the ‘artful dodger’ to the system/mechanism. Tomorrow, she will be a cradle to future generations of this land of pure. Education is knowledge of values. Conduct is adoption of these values.
This decline in societal standards is again an outcome of the low quality of education. Morality, now, is a negotiable principle; integrity is tradable, at an acceptable price, and accumulation of wealth, by any means, is a measure of intelligence and ‘street smartness’. Personally, I am irrevocably repulsive to the term, ‘street smart’. The lingua and attitude used by such smart individuals is also of ‘street quality’. This is an inexcusable acceptance by society . But it has happened and exists.
Professionals mostly are not keen themselves, nor are their supervisors/employers interested in their continued education. The cost of training and development weighs heavily upon the supervisors; it is the second of the cheapest cost cutting recommendations made by the ‘brilliant supervisors’, the first being curtailing coffee consumption by staff; again reflection of poor training. Silly, at its best and worst at, it’s brainlessness and stupidity.
To prepare our twenty year old, for the year 2030, strategic and critical thinking demands that the ministry of Education, ministry of Commerce and the ministry of Foreign Affairs must sit together, to review and improve the existing curriculum of various disciplines, envisioning the future trends of the movement of Human Capital. This will be best achieved, if it is held and done, under the aegis of the Planning Commission — which at least today, is headed by a Wharton product, who thinks strategically, a marked distinction for the cabinet, he is part of ... although, with that intellect, he surprises many, including this scribe, with his political association and the odd political statements, he makes — otherwise, he is well meaning person.
Bertrand Russel had said that a child must be educated at least a hundred years before he/she is born. Do we understand?
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist