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Business Movies – Education Through Entertainment

Entertainment can collaborate with business to present itself in multidimensional learning experience. This piece enlists documentaries as well the commercial films that have links to the real world events.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind examines for the viewer the behind the scene events leading to the fall of one of the business Giants in the world which resulted in criminal trials for several of the company’s top executives.It also shows the involvement of the Enron traders in helping the company get into crisis. Featuring interviews with McLean and Elkind, as well as former Enron executives and employees, stock analysts, reporters and the former Governor of California,Gray Davis, this movie shoots right on top of the list of must watch.

The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World

Professor Niall Ferguson takes us through a journey from the past into the present, from the origins of credit and debt, the rise of the bond market, the origins of modern insurance in the early 19th century and to the birth of the welfare state in post-war Japan, and from the Mississippi Bubble to the current stock market crash and mortgage crises.

Rogue Trader

Based on the book Rogue Trader: How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World by Nick Leeson, is a drama film based on the 1995 collapse of Barings Bank. The movie follows Leeson’s rise as he soon becomes one of Barings’ key traders. However, everything isn’t as it appears, he gets into trades with huge leverage eventually leading to losses amounting to well over £800 million. This case of barring bank frequently appears in derivative trading lessons.

Classroom Tools – Should You Watch Movies in Class?

The job of a teacher is quite challenging. After all, teachers have to meet a completely new set of students each year, and then they have to set about the often arduous task of trying to connect with each of these new students and engage with them on an intellectual level. This task is difficult enough already, but it is even more of a challenge when you consider that each of these students has his own foibles and peculiarities, and that beyond those problems, he almost certainly doesn’t even feel like being there in the first place, let alone learning anything from you.

It is precisely this set of challenges, on top of who knows how many others, that pushes teachers to find new tools to use in the classroom. After all, when you must come up with fresh, interesting ways to pique your students’ interest, it isn’t long until you move beyond textbooks and lectures in search of something that will, so to speak, jump out and grab your audience in a more direct way. In this desperate situation, many teachers have turned to the use of movies as an educational tool. After all, some movies can be quite educational, and what student wouldn’t prefer to watch a movie over listening to yet another lecture?

It’s true–movies can be useful teaching tools. There are basically two types: one is the more traditional feature film that gets played in theatres. Although many of these have intellectual value whatsoever, a careful teacher can find one that will be legitimately useful. The other type is a documentary, or other purely informative film–these of course do the job even better, though they may not be quite as engaging as those belonging to the first group. The bottom line is that as long as a teacher is careful about what she chooses, she can create a useful learning experience for her students through this medium.

Then again, however, there are certainly teachers who are not so careful. Sometime a movie is an all too convenient compromise–the teacher doesn’t feel like lecturing, and the students don’t feel like listening to a lecture, so instead of having to put up with each other, the teacher puts on a movie. Perhaps this is a pessimistic view, and it’s certainly not the case in all movie-viewing classrooms, but it happens. In these situations, when the movie as a teaching tool is overused, it can start to be detrimental. When a teacher starts to use movies to replace teaching, instead of to enhance teaching, the movie as an educational tool becomes problematic.

While there will always be people who feel very strongly that watching a movie in school is never appropriate, the best course of action is almost certainly a mixed approach. Movies can be quite helpful, and can definitely facilitate the goal of learning, as long as they are used only when necessary and productive. It’s when that sort of tactic becomes the norm that it starts to be counterproductive and threaten the entire purpose of the classroom itself.

The 3 Idiots of the Education System

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think”. ~ Anne Sullivan.

I was conducting a Discover Your True Calling workshop at IIM, Indore last week. I had the afternoon free and decided to see the much acclaimed, high-grossing Bollywood movie – “3 Idiots”. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, largely because it is a complete indictment of our education system. The message was strikingly similar to the theme of my workshop.

The film is about three students who do not really fit into the prestigious engineering college and are considered idiots by their professor. However, the movie clearly shows who the three real idiots are – the educational system, the teachers and the parents. Reflecting on the movie on the flight back to Mumbai, I realized that any real change in education is possible only by transforming these three constituencies.

Idiot #1 – The Education System:

Our current system is performance-oriented rather than mastery-oriented. The emphasis on examinations forces students to learn by rote. They focus on scoring high marks rather than investing the time and energy to understand the subject in depth. A system where true geniuses like Einstein and Ramanujan are considered poor students really needs its head examined. In the movie, this is brilliantly brought out by Aamir Khan playing Rancho – the truly outstanding engineer who goes beyond the book to gain mastery.

Idiot #2 – The Teachers:

Our current system of pedagogy is faculty-led and follows a fixed curriculum. The average teacher assumes that there is one right answer and that (s)he knows the answer. It is the rare teacher who has the ability to facilitate rather than teach, to nurture rather than preach and to support students who stray from the well-trodden path in search of creative ways to learn. Boman Irani as Viru Sahastrabuddhe does a superb job of bringing to life a dogmatic, highly competitive, over-confident college professor – the antithesis of an ideal teacher in every way.

Idiot #3 – The Parents:

When India’s HRD Minister Kapil Sibal suggested scrapping of the 10th grade exams, parents were the first to stand up against the proposal. Parents want their children to be at the top of their classes, get admitted to the best colleges and follow traditional career options – engineering, medicine, management and the like.

Parents rarely encourage their children to discover their true passions and pursue mastery rather than mediocrity. The movie’s middle class Quereshis, who want their son to be an engineer, and the poorer Rastogis, who see education as a way out of poverty, are typical of today’s Indian parents. They would probably be the toughest nut to crack.

The 21st century calls for talented people who are masters in their chosen fields of work. It calls for collaboration among passionate individuals, from different disciplines, to address the truly challenging issues and opportunities that the world presents. The current assembly-line approach to education falls severely short. We are not equipping our children to succeed in their world. The appeal of the movie is universal and obvious.

But what will it take for all three of the constituencies above, as well as the student community to rally around to a new educational order? Please share your perspectives. We need to work together to bring about transformation in this vital area of our society.

Committed to transformation on all fronts, Sudhakar Ram has written articles on transforming India, corporate governance, financial markets and governments. He believes that we have the potential to create a sustainable world and live in harmony with our environment. However, this would require a fundamental shift in our mindsets – the “constructs” that drive our attitudes and actions. The New Constructs is his initiative to leverage Connected Intelligence in realizing the Connected Age. Please share. Stay active, stay engaged.