Teach like a gurukula

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November 10, 2014 12:40 AM

Business schools should aim at empowering the young mind to think vertically and apply laterally

Holistically, education in India has been a quest for knowledge that makes one live a meaningful life. The equal emphasis on mind and body were quantified in ancient universities of Nalanda and Taxila. There were gurukulas led by a guru where students would spend their brahmacharya (celibate) life, learning and serving the guru and, in the process, becoming ready for grihastha (householder) life. It was apparently a small institution and the course curriculum was set and decided by the guru. Even the king’s son, for example Lord Rama, went to one (as the epic Ramayana tells). But as life became complicated and knowledge complex, the need for universities—set up in huge campuses where community living and learning by books became necessary—arose. No longer one learned from life’s experiences.

While the modern university with fixed syllabi taught by trained teachers can be equated to Nalanda and Taxila, many business schools are actually closer to gurukulas where there is an emphasis on imbibing real-world situations and then improvising. Management to an untrained mind is like starting a dialogue with the stakeholder and, more importantly, the end-user of the product or service. But one must keep in mind that, in today’s world, the real purpose of a business school should be to empower the young mind to think vertically and apply laterally—ancient wisdom is an euphemism. Newer problems need newer solutions, and herein comes the need to revisit the emphasis on skill-based training.
Business schools today need to focus on creating social leaders and not just business leaders. Most business schools use a ‘case study’ method of teaching. This helps in developing problem-solving intuitive skills. There are some other business schools which are using a skills-based approach in teaching business courses. This approach helps a student in tackling and solving problems by using a set of tools.

India has been witnessing economic growth in recent years, driven by the growth in new-age industries. The purchasing power increase has resulted in the demand for higher level of quality of service. However, there is a shortage of skilled manpower, so it is necessary to focus on inculcating and advancing the skill-sets of the young population. India lags in imparting skill training as compared to other countries. Only 10% of the total workforce in the country receives some kind of skills training (2% formal training and 8% informal training). Further, 80% of the entrants into the workforce do not have the opportunity for skills training, as quoted by the ILO in a report in 2011 titled Labour Market Performance and the Challenges of Creating Employment in India.

Employees globally are voicing various reasons for their inability to fill jobs, ranging from geographical constraints to candidates expecting high pay packages. In India, the lack of the pool of available applicants, shortage of hard skills and shortage of suitable employability, including soft skills, are some of the key reasons in finding a right candidate for available jobs.

In 2009, the government formulated the national skill development policy that laid the framework for skill development. As compared to developed economies where there is a burden of geriatric population, India has the advantage of demographic dividend—a higher percentage of young working population vis-a-vis the entire population. This results in low dependency ratio, which can provide a comparative cost advantage to the Indian economy. India has the world’s youngest workforce with a median age way below that of China and OECD countries.
Business schools can play a major role in this regard by developing an education curriculum that the industry requires to solve the employability problem. The have to reinvent and establish themselves at the core of social leadership.

The author is assistant professor, MDI Gurgaon

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