The need of the hour

Written by Arun Pereira | Updated: Mar 26 2012, 08:41am hrs
Management education in India is at a crossroads. It has the potential to be the destination of choice for the best and brightest students from across the world. But, that possibility hinges on key issues that should be addressed by business schools in India. The major among these are:

The programmes: The silo approach to designing management programmes based on business functions (for example, marketing, accounting, etc), which is the bane of the American model, has been blindly followed by a majority of Indian business schools. What is, however, needed is an approach that emphasises functional integration of business functions (for example, value creation, innovation management, etc), because effective managerial decisions are integrative in nature. Moreover, Indian business schools must grab the opportunity to develop expertise in areas relevant for the global managers of tomorrow, such as bottom of the pyramid (BoP) markets and emerging markets. This means that Indian business schools can play a leadership role in creating specialised content in topics such as branding at the BoP, reverse innovation, etc. Unfortunately, only few business schools are doing so. Most follow the outdated western model, and misplace their focus on efforts such as international exchange programmes, which are more likely to be valuable to foreign students visiting India rather than Indian students going abroad.

The faculty: Most Indian business schools have few full-time professors and employ a host of part-timers to fill their teaching needs. Even if these part-timers excel as teachers, they tend to teach in multiple business schools, therefore having little time for research activities. Business schools must have committed, full-time faculty who are involved in high quality research. What students deserve in the classroom is content that is relevant, and state-of-the-art. It is far more likely that a full-time professor involved in cutting-edge research and doing part-time consulting has the ability to provide this, rather than a corporate executive who is a part-time teacher. More important, corporate executives will more likely have in-depth knowledge about a particular industry, as opposed to generalised knowledge that spans industriessomething that is really required to teach a class of diverse managers.

The classroom: Again, most business school classrooms in India follow the model of a guru giving gyan, or what the West calls the sage on the stage approach. It is now well established that such passive modes of teaching are not as effective as active approaches where the teacher facilitates learning through interactive and collaborative exercises. As a matter of fact, there is a compelling case to be made for the so-called flipped classroom where work that was traditionally done outside classroom (such as assignments) is brought into the classroom and actively managed by the teacher, and the passive lectures are moved outside the classroom in the form of webcasts. After all, the real value of the teacher lies in facilitating learning, not simply disseminating information.

The bottom line is can Indian business schools become the destination of choice for the next generation of management students from across the world The opportunity is here. But the necessary changes have to be made today, if it is to become a reality tomorrow.