Modelling Modern-Day Leadership Schools By Learning From Our Ancient Takshshila University

Here is how modern-day leadership schools that run like Takshshila university can help us beat the outdated education system and build leadership skills.

By Shobhit Mathur, Co-Founder and Dean at Rashtram School of Public Leadership

This article was published in India Today.

We are increasingly moving into a VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Pervasive and disruptive technology, rapid information flow, globally interconnected supply chains and financial markets are sucking us deeper into the chaos of this fast-paced world. There is a need to make sense of the world and understand not just how to fit in, but to lead the rest. This is only possible through executive education.

With the world’s youngest population, the biggest onus on India is on education and leadership. The education sector must evolve and respond to these changing needs. And time has already run out.

The Indian higher education system is the largest in the world with more than 51,000 institutions.

Although access has increased, quality remains poor — low employability of graduates, outdated and globally irrelevant curriculum, poor quality of teaching, crumbling infrastructure, non-existent research, etc.

A recent report by Brookings shows that about 50% of enrolment in higher education is in three degrees BA, BSc, and BComm. Most of these courses are run through colleges affiliated to universities and there is limited scope of innovation.

Leadership crisis in India

Additionally, although there are dedicated institutions for engineering, medical, management, and design, there are no institutions focused on creating leadership for India, which has resulted in a leadership crisis.

This in turn, feeds in to the cycle of ignorance, wherein the education system remains unchanged and outdated.

We need Universities like Takshshila in the modern day to help address issues like outdated education and produce competent leadership.

Indian civilisation and Takshshila

The Indian Civilisation is an old and living civilisation that has existed for over 2000 years, and has consistently produced great thought leaders, reformist social leaders, and dedicated political leaders in the past.

Takshshila is considered one of the greatest education institutes in the history of the world, producing both – thought and leaders.

Chanakya was a teacher at Takshshila, and wrote Arthashastra — which is relevant to this day. Vishnugupta is said to have composed his masterful work Panchatantra’ at Takshashila.

The great grammarian and information theorist Panini was also believed to be at Takshashila.

Indic knowledge systems and meta skills in the 21st century

Indic knowledge systems are knowledge frameworks that are authentic to India, and are derived from centuries of wisdom from thought and political leaders.

These evergreen frameworks, when calibrated in the modern context, will help produce relevant solutions to tackle India’s pressing concerns, including outdated education and leadership crisis.

Indic knowledge systems also place immense importance on understanding India’s history, evolution, and structure of Indian thought.

Meta-skills are mental models that help with better assimilation of information i.e. the process of learning.

In an information-heavy environment, meta-skills like critical thinking, deductive reasoning, leadership communication, and networking, prove extremely useful in decluttering non-relevant details and help focus on what’s important.

Two international schools which are modern day Takshshila

Here are a few examples what modern leadership schools are like and what they should adapt from the Takshshila model:

1. Japan’s Takshshila: Matsushita Institute of Government and Management

  • Throughout history, various countries have created institutions to nurture public leaders whenever they faced a crisis of existence.
  • Matsushita Institute of Government and Management is one such institute from Japan.
  • Established in 1979 by Konosuke Matsushita, Founder of Panasonic Corporation.
  • The vision was to create leaders who can envision an ideal Japanese society and work to make that dream into a reality.
  • Graduates of the school have become leaders in various walks of life including the Prime Minister of Japan, members of the Japanese Parliament, mayors, academicians, and CEOs.

2. Frances Takshshila:École Libre des Sciences Politiques (Sciences Po)

  • The French Army was decisively defeated in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War.
  • The defeat was attributed to outdated military education.
  • Émile Boutmy, a French political scientist and sociologist analysed this defeat and created Sciences Po as a response.
  • The intention was to create an institution that will help France come out of its moral and political crisis.
  • Sciences Po has produced several French presidents, heads of government and international organisations, and much more.

The commonalities amongst these institutions were that they were steeped in the ethos of the country they were founded in, and placed importance on the development of skills.

By replicating the Takshshila model and inculcating Indian ethos in our leadership schools, competent leadership can be generated for India that can help tackle India’s pressing concerns.

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