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A Culture Cross

India traditionally boasts of a rich culture built on values. But today India ranks alarmingly low on several indices such as Happiness, Human Development, Quality of Life, Corruption Perception and Rule of Law

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Recently came across two interesting articles that were both informative and analytical in their respective areas. One was on how to tackle under-performing cultures, and the other was a worldwide indexing of countries by their capacity to provide education for the future. The digestion of these two pieces side by side brought up some intersecting concepts in my mind. Let me elaborate.

India traditionally boasts of a rich culture built on values. But today India ranks alarmingly low on several indices such as Happiness, Human Development, Quality of Life, Corruption Perception and Rule of Law.

The truth is that the real culture of a system is not merely based on its espoused values, but on the extent of behaviour deviation that can prevail. Often values and mission statements adorn corporate walls but what takes place within the corridors is a totally different ballgame because no-one had realised or intercepted the aberration. A school where students are seemingly ‘happy’ (because they are left unchallenged) may lose sight of its core objective of  ‘effective learning’, and choose to dispense with rigour altogether from its processes.

According to the Yidan Prize study sponsored by The Economist, India stands 29th among the 35 principal economies together contributing 88 per cent to world GDP and 77 per cent to the global population which have been indexed on its preparedness to impart future-ready education.  India “needs vast improvement” in her ability to groom tomorrow’s workforce.

We are also seized with a dichotomy in our society – on the one hand, shackled by prejudices and partialities that throttle social and economic progress, and on the other, a young burgeoning middle class which displays a remarkable appetite for conspicuous consumption, but is short on discipline, fairness, tolerance and respect.

It is tough to overthrow an operating culture, but one can try to build on it. Education can be harnessed to reinforce values, promote storytelling and good communication skills which we generally fall short of, instill  leadership training and bring awareness of social etiquettes and proper community living. Education can help apply the brakes on arrogance and self-centredness, and foster team spirit to arrive at a brand culture that can be competitive and aspirational in a global world.

So how do you identify the right culture to adopt? From the macro-level to the micro, this needs to start at the leadership level so that their impetus may powerfully drive ‘the brand’ forward. At the team level people tend to pick up cues, and if incentivised, will tend to take the brand in the right direction. People who consider themselves true ambassadors will adopt the right attitudes and practices as long as they find them relevant and empowering to apply and internalise in their own framework.  

If we get our policy environment right, if we can build up a pool of  well-trained teachers, we treat the teacher community with respect, dignity and commensurate pay, and focus on learning both inside and outside the classroom, we can hope to achieve far more societal openness, tolerance and global citizenship skills than exists currently. If India must meet the skills gap, our education systems must adapt to the evolving requirements of modern times. India can hardly rest on its oars and say: “We are like that only”!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Indranil Gupta

The author is Founder Director & Chief Executive Officer of BrandNEW Associates Private Limited

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