Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Talking About a New Business School

Yesterday evening, I spent time talking to someone who is planning to set up a business school in Hyderabad. It was a very interesting discussion - not just because this is a very successful professional pursuing his ideas of how business education should be imparted. He was also clear why there is space for another management school - because the demand is immense and the seats in good educational institutions remain limited. Besides, he also had a lot to say about what is wrong in the business education industry as of today, and how he wants to address the problems.

To be honest, while I found his opinions interesting, his policy prescriptions, at least within the short span of discussion we had, were limited to introduction of blended learning. So, he was one of those who thought introducing an amount of technology will actually solve most of the problems the B-Schools in India face today. In my opinion, that is a rather simple view, and more must be done to enable a skills leap in the Indian industry.

For example, India, so far, has done fairly well in followership, picking up ideas and perfecting processes for the Western companies and governments. This has surely contributed in our development, but to move beyond this current point, we must develop talent to innovate and to lead. This is a challenge: Indian culture prompts people into group thinking, and when people are plucked out of group-think, they become terribly narrow and selfish, incapable of meaningful contribution in a team/ organization context. So, the primary challenge of modern education in India is to prepare people to have a balanced view, a questioning and innovative attitude and a penchant for leadership - an intent to do things differently, whatever the cost. There are established methods in Business Education which allows this already - case study based approach, for example - and the B-schools in India must put in the necessary curriculum development money into sourcing and developing such pedagogical tools.

Technology will surely help, but upto a point. A conscious attempt must be made to move into participative learning technologies rather than authoritative systems, such as an LMS, which should dovetail into the overall approach to developing leadership and independent thinking.

Also, as I look into the British universities, I do think post-experience Business Education is a great idea. This gives the learner a perspective beyond the theoretical bounds of a curriculum, and makes the case based studies much more relevant and productive. I am sure a way can be found to create a shorter, 12 month or so, intensive post-experience programme for the Indian market.

The problem in India is actually diametrically opposite to that of creating a successful school: In India, students actually expect little and rarely challenges whatever is handed down to them. This makes it even more difficult to tell the wheat from chaff, and provides even less incentive for investors to innovate in education offering. However, hopefully, the recession will do some good here - by expanding the number of students heading to B-School, but limiting, somewhat temporarily, the number of positions to be filled. This will eventually lead to performance pressures on competing schools, and as the economy peaks again, innovation will be the name of the game. I wish the entrepreneur in question all the best, and hope he finds the answers before everyone else has started jumping into the same boat.

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