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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Steve Jobs

Apple of the World’s Eye

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.” That was Steve Jobs, the Founder-Chairman of Apple icon, who, saying so, replaced himself with Tim Cook as CEO of Apple on August 24.

Ultimately, on October 6, the 56-year-old Steve was caught hold of by the ‘life’s change agent’ and the ‘single best innovation of life’—death; and thus came to an end his life and his marvelous creation, quite prematurely. Who knows what else the world’s greatest techno-entrepreneur-architect and the iconic showman would have invented, besides iMac, iPod, iTunes, and iPad, if he had lived a little longer…

If not inventing new products, I am sure, he would have certainly delivered consumers the all important education wrapped as an altogether new product. For, he is not the one to “be trapped by dogma.” He had the courage not to let his “inner voice” drowned out by the “noise of others” and “to follow [his] heart and intuition.” With this clarity of purpose, he would have delivered education in an altogether new fashion so as to make the life of earthlings equitable and the earth a better place to live in.

“I'm a very big believer in equal opportunity as opposed to equal outcome,” said Steve Jobs. To Steve, equal opportunity “means a great education—maybe even more important than a great family life.” He lamented the current status of education in the US: “We fall far short of that. I know from my own education that if I hadn't encountered two or three individuals that spent extra time with me, I'm sure I would have been in jail.”

So what he believed in is: good teachers are vital for great education.  Unfortunately this tribe is becoming rarer and rarer throughout the world. Of course, he was well aware of the underlying problem: “The problem there, of course, is the teachers' unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it’s not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. Nobody can be fired. It’s terrible.”

He is also of the firm opinion that this problem cannot be bypassed using computers and other electronic gadgets as teaching aids. He says: “I’ve helped with more computers in more schools than anybody else in the world, and I am absolutely convinced that is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. Computers are very reactive but they’re not proactive; they are not agents.”

Therefore, in order to create a system of education that is manned by good and motivated teachers, Jobs says, “What we need in education is to go to the full voucher system. The customers (in education) are the parents, and the customers went away. Mothers started working and they didn’t have time to spend at PTA meetings and watching their kids’ school. Schools became much more institutionalized and parents spent less and less and less time involved in their kids’ education.

Now the question is: What happens when a customer goes away and a monopoly gets control? The obvious answer is: “the service level almost always goes down.” He asserts that is what is today happening with the “government school system” in the US.

According to Jobs, “the economics of state education is crazy.” The US government spends around $4,400 per child per year. But the consumer has no power on it. As a consumer, the parents of the kids have no choice—i.e., to choose a better school that caters to his/her ward’s requirements. He goes on to say: When you go to buy a car, you obviously collect a lot of information to make a right choice, for you are conscious that you are going to spend your money. This creates competition and because of it carmakers keep improving. Whereas in government schools, no one thinks that they are spending their own money. The result is: lackluster performance of the teaching community.

He therefore advises that the government should give each parent a voucher for $4400 with a condition that they could spend it only at any accredited school. This, he says, would result in many benefits: one, schools would start marketing themselves; two, parents get empowered to question the quality of delivery; three, this generates competition among schools; four, the quality of education even in government schools will improve; and five, competent people get into education field to start new schools. All this leads to great education.

That was Steve Jobs—to describe whom rightly, I must borrow his own words: “the crazy one … the round peg in the square hole … the one who see[s] things differently—[he’s] not fond of rules … You can quote [him], disagree with [him], glorify or vilify [him], but the only thing you can’t do is ignore [him] because [he] change[s] things … [he] push[es] the human race forward, and while some may see [him] as the crazy [one], we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

And can India afford to ignore him? Indeed, I had a strong belief that Steve had spoken these words keeping the plight of education in government schools in India, for they make an apt reflection of them. Our teaching community is so smart that they go on strike when examinations are due, or when evaluation is to be done. In the remaining period, they do many things other than teaching, but religiously. No one is there to question their absence, or competency to teach. Many citizens like me pray that someone in government listens to this lamentation.

There is another interesting dimension to Steve that India Inc should take note of. Is there any Steve in India Inc, who, realizing that he is not fit enough to run a company as its CEO, would willingly replace himself with another competent man? Are there leaders who are willing to nurture ‘leadership’ in companies to have a smooth succession at the top merely defined by competency and not ‘inheritance’?

Let us ponder over it. That is the only right way to remember Steve.


Dr.A.Jagadeesh said...

Excellent list of Great Men of Excellence.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

karpuramanjari said...

Thanks for your comment Pl

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