Aug 22, 2016

MBA Education in India – What is in Store for the Future (PART II)

R Jayaraman

Contiued from the earlier blog: “MBA Education in India – what is in store for the future (PART I )” by the same author.

There are three main impacting forces. First, the attention span of students is reducing with the advent of social media, instant ‘like’s and ‘thumbs down’ buttons, mobile android phones, a fast-paced life, shorter tenures at the work place, lack of “meaty“ jobs (because consultancies do not have the big jobs, and consulting is the growing job sector for MBAs in India). Second, the syllabus is constantly evolving. Topics come in and go out like a metronome. This is primarily because the needs of the industry are changing. Keeping pace with the drumbeat of the industry is a task which needs constant attention and quick response. Else there is a good chance of the B-School becoming irrelevant. Third, the pedagogical methods are evolving, albeit more slowly than the syllabi. MOOCs, Blended Learning (SPJIMR has made a beginning in this), on-line MBA are some of the brand extensions where B-Schools are treading fresh ground.

Of late, one has been hearing of the “burden” that MBA students have to carry. Too much of work, too many courses, too many assignments, too much of MBA! One is reminded of the periodical reports in the popular media on the burden that school students have to carry – their outsized, loaded (overloaded?) bags. These are just peripheral to learning and can get demonised, well beyond their “ill effects“. For example, school students in India have to study three languages, plus history, geography, science, civics et al. In all, every day there are typically eight periods in which different subjects are taught. Each subject has a text and a notebook in which students make notes (hopefully). So that makes for at least 10 to 15 100 pages books to be carried. Plus the compass box, scales, pens and pencils. If that is a burden, then education is one too.

In the same vein, MBA students, by definition, have to learn several streams of knowledge. All this has to be done in one year, so that in the second year, they could study some of their specialisation subjects in-depth. Thus, MBA education in India tries to walk a tightrope between a general education and a specialised one. Perhaps the objective is to create general specialists!

However that may be, in this objective, one can easily see that courses vie with each other for the students’ time and lead to a heavy pressure on everyday life. It should be the objective of the B-School to enable the students to deal with this pressure. One way could be to reduce the load, perhaps, the easy way, and the other is the Harvard way, to hope that students will dedicate themselves to studies. The argument of “lack of time for reflection” and, another companion concept, “doing live projects“ should be seen in context and perspective.

In a student’s life, the first 16 years are spent in studies, and the balance at work. When in the education system, the student’s primary job is to gain knowledge – and not worry about how to apply it. Applying this knowledge, experiential learning will happen on-the-job over the next 30 to 40 years. Thus students in B Schools should be relieved of the constant battering that they will have to be “employment ready“. This could de-stress them and allow them to spend more time to learn and handle the load with full concentration.

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