Higher Education Innovation Speech – Part 2

I’d like to start with a small story.   I was at Columbia University about 3 weeks ago giving a talk on transforming India.   Columbia is my Alma Mater where I did my masters in EE about 23 years ago.  The talk  was in the Lowe Library. I was a student of the School of Enginering  and the Lowe Library,  the biggest structure  and pretty much visible as you enter the campus.

I realised I’d never been in there throughout the time that I was in Columbia.    My focus was so narrow  — School of Engineering and my room.  And when I look back over my last 20 years,   most of what I have learnt has come outside the school of engineering! I should have spent a lot more time in the Low Library, because a lot of things which are in there, are what I have used afterwards.    And that’s something you don’t realise when the education process is going on, but hopefully we can make some changes when I talk about some of these things.

So this informal learning, the ability to learn outside the classroom, I think is very important.  I became an entrepreneur, I tried multiple things.   I failed many times over;  I succeeded a few times. Much of that entrepreneurship  stuff,  I did not learn from the educational institutions.   I learnt it from my father, and ironically,  it is something which we could have probably focused on a lot more in our educational system,  because what India needs going forward is a lot more innovation.

These are some facets which we  will explore as we go along.   In today’s India, we are really  not letting that education happen. This can really make a difference and which people can make the best use of in their lives. That needs to change.   We are not really encouraging people. In many cases, we are actually discouraging people from becoming entrepreneurs by stigmatising failure and not creating a climate where people are willing to accept risk.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.