Public Education: Using The Eisenhower Matrix To Examine The Who, What and Why (Part 2/3)

Part 2 will delve into the nuances of the lifetime human need for education, from the perspectives of equitable delivery and uniformity.

In the preceding article, we proposed that a well designed and equitably delivered education system could become a key lever towards achieving poverty alleviation. Additionally, we discussed the necessity for state actors to strategically apply decision making principles to determine the allocation of limited state resources. We also purported that the Eisenhower Matrix could be a useful tool to make such allocation decisions.

This article will examine the lifetime human need for education, from the perspectives of equitable delivery and uniformity. We had earlier discussed that the primary objective of state provided education should be to offer access to learning, such that it can augment a citizen’s overall quality of life. It can do so by providing a pathway to meaningful livelihood opportunities, as a result of the education received*. Life today is sharply different from what it was in 2004 (when children, who are 21 today, began their learning journey in LKG); technology and lifestyles are altering at a faster pace than we have encountered before. Accordingly, it is necessary to prepare children who enter the education system today for the world of work that they will encounter in 2035; the expected year for children in 1st grade today to turn eighteen.

Keeping this objective in mind, we can categorise the lifetime human need for education into the following four groups, each bearing the following features:

1. Primary Learning

Education received between the ages of 5 and 12

Here, the objective of education should be to build foundational knowledge and skills amongst children; focussing on encouraging children to use their intellect to build the hard skills of literacy, comprehension, numeracy, and the softer skills of effective communication and critical thinking.
It is necessary to deliver such education in as uniform a manner as possible to ensure that the building blocks of learning for each child remain the same. It is only when the foundation for learning is delivered in an equitable manner, that we can ensure that all children will start their lifelong journey of learning on as level a playing field as possible. Viable customisations to the learning delivery in this context could be to alter the medium of instruction, such that learning occurs in a child’s native language, however the curricular content imparted should remain the same..
Attaining mastery in foundational literacy and numeracy skills will ensure that the child will be able to learn proficiently, no matter what their future choice of subject or professional pathway will be. Learning to read to read to learn is an old adage which exemplifies this line of reasoning; mastery in foundational skills has been noted as being critical to being able to successfully function in Industry 4.0.

2. Secondary or High School Learning

Education received between the ages of 13 and 18

Here, the objective of education should be to provide young people with the opportunity to explore a variety of different subject pathways, build further technical knowledge across all segments of learning, gain meaningful career counselling and gain a deeper understanding of entrepreneurial and critical thinking.
It is necessary to deliver such types of education where the skeletal components of delivery and the access to various subject pathways are uniform. However, research has shown that there is merit in customising the finer details of the education imparted to suit local contexts, opportunities and labour market conditions.
During this period, young people should be able to meaningfully engage in planning the trajectory of their professional development; identifying where their interests lie, choosing whether they want to build traditional careers, choose vocational professions or choose entrepreneurialism** as a means to their livelihoods. This period of learning should be the building block for ascertaining the professional trajectory of one’s career path.

3. Workforce Ready Education

Education received from the age of 18 onwards, designed to make the learner workforce ready

Traditionally, such education has been in the form of university learning, vocational training or informal apprenticeships. Here, the objective of education should be to prepare people to enter the workforce, and learn the key skills which will enable them to successfully work in their chosen field meaningful, applied career counselling which can support learners in making the correct decisions related to their careers.
It is necessary to deliver such education such that the primary components of the learning should be customisable to the specific workforce needs and the primary components of career counselling should be customised to the learners needs. However, an element of uniformity should remain in imparting the core, transferable competencies needed to thrive in Industry 4.0.
During this period, people should be able to select a career trajectory that is suitable to their skill sets and interests, fits the trend of labour market demands, and allows them to learn the applied skills required to thrive in their chosen career.

4. Lifelong Learning Opportunities

Education received by adults, through their lifetime, designed to support the learner in either imbibing further knowledge to gain the necessary skills which are required to remain professionally relevant

Traditionally, such education has largely been delivered by either industry or the public sector; the former aiming to upskill their workforce and the latter aiming to reduce the rate of unemployment. Here, the objective of the education imparted should be to engage adult learners with the specific knowledge and skills they require to improve their ability to do a particular job.
It is necessary to deliver such education in a manner as contextual, customised and targeted as possible, as research has shown that most adult learners will be best motivated to learn when they can visualise the material impact that the learning will have on their daily professional growth. It is not necessary to maintain any uniformity in the service delivery of this category of learning, because there is an implicit expectation that learners will be best placed to decide what manner of learning will best suit their needs. There is however a need to maintain uniformity in providing access to opportunities for lifelong learning, particularly as research postulate that the average worker will alter their professional trajectory multiple times in Industry 4.0.

The following diagram describes the extent of uniformity or customisation that each category of lifetime education requires to ensure equitable access to learning.


Let us assume that due to limited resource availability, the state system cannot equitably provide access to quality education for the entire spectrum of lifetime human needs. Let us further assume that while the state cannot itself deliver the entire spectrum of education required, it can create a conducive environment through policy decisions and targeted regulation which will ensure access to the spectrum of learning and support which citizens need, in a reasonably equitable manner. For example, to ensure equitable access to Workforce Ready Learning, the state can mandate that non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) must provide universal, affordable access to credit such that learners from lower income backgrounds can also obtain the necessary support required to develop a meaningful career. It can further establish the framework against which educational institutions will be held accountable for delivery of quality education.

Given this context, how do you think each of the components of lifetime education should be categorised into an Eisenhower Matrix, contextualised for state decision making. How would you allocate resources keeping in mind the necessary urgency or importance of each of the four categories of the lifetime need for human education?

*Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) is the education goal. It aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

**By focusing on entrepreneurial skills as a core competency, the Indian education system can also become inclusive to the needs of the informal and agricultural sector; which account for approximately 60% of national income in India and are slated to account for a larger proportion of income as production becomes increasingly automated.

Posted by Aparna Shankar

The Curious Case of Serious Humour: Why Humour at Workplace is Important

“Why so serious?” asks an iconic villain, right in the middle of several intense settings in a Hollywood movie that came out not so long ago. “Let’s put a smile on that face,” he adds, and carries on with his villainy with gusto! You remember, right?

A villain – an epitome of serious, dark affairs, is inadvertently highlighting the need for lightheartedness in the midst of a raging conversation. Yes, an idea that may seem out of context, yet so relevant.
We often take things too seriously, in fact we tend to take everything seriously, don’t we? Of all those things, one stands out – work! Work forms a significant part of most of our lives. Be it an intern at a start-up or the vice president of a corporate conglomerate, we are expected to be seriously serious about work.

The seriousness we attach to our professional lives unknowingly ends up being a bane as much as a boon, and the reason why many of us have to cope with stress, or more specifically, work-related stress. This burnout is often a by-product of us undermining the importance of a crucial element in our work life – humour.

Even though humans have an inherent affinity towards humour, we often tend to neglect the impact of humour at our workplace. We do not realise how humour can potentially help individuals, teams and even organisations to define an emotionally and psychologically balanced work environment. Research has validated how laughter has the ability to release endorphins in our brain. Endorphins are chemicals, which have the ability to diminish the perception of pain or stress, in other words, the human body’s in-house “feel good pill”.

A study conducted in 2017 by Finnish and British researchers of University of Turku highlighted how social laughter resulted in positive feelings and a significantly improved release of endorphins. The results of the study point in the direction of endorphin release induced by social laughter, being an important pathway that supports formation, reinforcement, and maintenance of social bonds between humans. This social bond inevitably forms the foundation of a positive work environment leading to an improved work culture and increased productivity.

As aptly pointed out by Eric Tsytsylin in a video published by Stanford Graduate School of Business, we are “in the midst of a laughter drought”. He adds that children on an average laugh 400 times a day whereas adults above 35 years of age tend to do it just about 15 times a day. Data from various researches also suggest that people laugh significantly less on weekdays than on weekends. Somewhere between growing up, growing old and chasing our dreams, we seem to have forgotten to just laugh!

Is increased workplace stress a result of decreased workplace humour or is it the other way around? A publication by Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute suggests that the brains of depression sufferers tend to show decreased activity in the regions that are engaged while processing something humorous. In certain studies, patients being treated for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, associated laughter less with humour and more with communicating emotions. Contagious laughter was often identified as a mutual validation of emotions within a group and thereby supporting the notion that mutual empathy is also a shared experience.

Humour however, isn’t as easy as we think it is. Just as we say – to each his own, humour translates into different meanings for different individuals. The thin red line that separates a good joke from an offensive, incongruous passé must be something that one treads carefully. Misplaced humour at the workplace can easily transform into a disaster if delivered distastefully, be it intentional or unintentional.

The “how” of workplace humour can therefore be a tricky thing to pull off. While team members tend to admire and derive more motivation from leaders with a sense of humour, they may tend to have less respect for leaders who “try” to be funny. Humour isn’t only about laughing at a joke. It is about being authentic and genuine in your reactions to a situation. It is also about your ability to laugh at your own mistakes and take it in its stride. A disarming self-deprecating laugh at your own folly goes a long way, even more than an apology. Remember, a team that laughs together, grows together!

It’s only fair to assume that practice makes perfect and it takes practice to master humour at the workplace. But remember, we cannot practice soccer on an ice skating rink wearing sneakers. Know your strengths, know your people, know your surroundings and then, strike!

Next time you are at work, ask your colleagues, “Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face!” But, please don’t carve up their face with a knife like our villain. (Okay! Bad joke!).

Mannin et al (2017, June).Social Laughter Triggers Endogenous Opioid Release in Humans. The Journal of Neuroscience.
Tsytsylin, Eric (2013, May). Laughter: Serious Business. Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute (2010). On The Brain Vol.16 No.2.

Posted by Abhimanyu A