Indian Management Education: Time To Stop Aping the West

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There is a growing feeling that the curriculum offered by a majority of B-Schools in India is not oriented to create managers to handle socially responsibly management requirements. 

By Suresh Kr Pramar

Are Indian B-Schools preparing students to adequately fulfill the requirements of inclusive and responsible management? According to a number of Management experts Indian Management students still do not fully understand the requirements of inclusive and responsible management.

Even though many schools have the facilities and courses for teaching CSR, Sustainability and responsible business student seemed more interested in taking up courses in finance and marketing. These are areas which promise high salary jobs much more than what they would earn being socially responsible.  This, say experts, is largely due to the fact that an MBA or BBA is considered to be a passport for high salary jobs with high perks.

Students say that after having paid high for admission it was natural they would try to make the best of their learning so that they can recover, fully or partially, monies spent on their education. Many say they cared for society and would like to do sometime for their fellow beings but that would come after they have earned enough for themselves and their families.

The number of B-Schools providing teaching facilities for responsible business, inclusive development, CSR and sustainable have increased over the past few years. Some Schools are offering specialized programmes on CSR and Sustainable development. Many of these programmes were now attracting a number of students. However, say teachers, these are largely students who have been left over from programmes in finance and marketing.

There is a growing feeling that the curriculum offered by a majority of B-Schools in India is not oriented to create managers to handle socially responsibly management requirements.  Management experts point out that the type of management training offered, not only in India, but in other Asian countries as well, does not jell with the needs of the region. Experts say “management education in India has grown quantitatively, but not qualitatively, and has contributed very little to our labour-rich but skill-poor economy.” In 2011, according to official statistics there were 3858 approved institutions with 3, 78,907 students.

There is a strong and growing feeling that institutions offer management education only with the intention of making quick profits as against contributing their bit to the field with some genuine concern. These institutions have negated quality and concentrated on quantity. Lapses in curriculum up gradation and banking on some core subjects and niche electives added to the problems.”

The demands posed by the industry and other socio-economic and cultural factors, need to be properly analysed and understood from an altogether fresh approach, opine experts. Former Chairman of the University Grant Commission, Arun Nigavekar, says that under the changed circumstances it become inevitable to shun the old curriculum in management education and prepare CEOs by directing them to set goals and develop necessary skills to pursue them.

Baba Prasad, President & CEO, Vivekin Group & Visiting Professor of Management, IIIT-Hyderabad  in an article in The Hindu has said “ It is sad that, the same disease plagues our B-Schools and, consequently, our management thinking in the business world — a lack of original Indian thinking. One must pause to ask if we are teaching our students to reject a language they know well and to instead put on a voice and idiom that they only half-know. Throttling ties and stifling suits are also metaphors for the dark state of management education and thought in India.”

According to several management experts almost all B-Schools in India have adopted a curricula borrowed almost entirely from the west. These schools boost of having visiting western teachers conducting classes on a regular basis Many B-Schools are now seeking accreditation with western institutions to attract students.

Writing in Management Education, an online site devoted to management education, Chandran Nair, founder of the Global Institute for Tomorrow, chairman of Avantage Ventures and author of ‘Consumptionomics’, says “More and more of Asia’s best students are enrolling in the world’s top business schools as a means to career success – something these students usually measure by salary size rather than their actual contribution to the region’s development.”

In the article titled ‘Asian business schools cannot remain beholden to schools in the west,’ Nair says Asian students are “compelled to attend these schools’ tedious executive education courses conducted by so-called gurus flown in from the west, individuals whose insight is derived from short trips to the region’s capital cities. He says “What is taught typically falls into two categories: a regurgitation of the outdated market-fundamentalism that has held sway for the past 30 years; or empty rhetoric about competitive advantage, supply chains, and sales and marketing strategies. And there are always  platitudes  about leadership, ethics and authenticity.

According to Nair today’s global business school industry, born in the west, has entangled an unsuspecting Asia and become strongly entrenched. “This,” he says, “is due in no small part to Asia’s deep-seated intellectual subservience to western thought. For decades now business schools have been convincing their students that anything is good business so long as it makes money.

He says a majority of today’s generation of management executives continue to believe Milton Friedman’s proclamation that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”. “Asia’s most promising executives are trained in these schools, indoctrinated into accepting an archaic worldview and then rewarded for their subservience with jobs in investment banks and multinationals. It has never been more apparent that what western business schools are teaching is of little relevance to the world’s and especially Asia’s, current needs.

“Asian executives have accepted and then promoted the very same platitudes that have led to the west’s current economic morass. Foremost among these are that relentless consumption aided by debt is not only sustainable, but salutary, and that a combination of free-markets and technology will solve all the world’s problems.

Nowhere is the very real need for constraints or limits mentioned. No attention is paid to the tensions between an economic model whose only metric for success is growth and the finite resources of a crowded planet.”

According to Nair Business schools in Asia need a new curriculum. “They should begin by asking themselves some critical questions. First, given that Asia’s population is predicted to break 5bn by 2050, how is widespread prosperity to be delivered and what will it look like? The western view sees Asia’s large population only as a tremendous opportunity, which it undoubtedly is, but willfully ignores the overwhelming scientific evidence that suggests it will also pose serious problems if Asia adopts the western model of growth.

“Second, given that the planet’s natural resources are finite, how should they be priced and, most importantly, how should productivity be measured? The west’s approach to maximising output is the product of its historically privileged access to abundant natural wealth. In Asia, with a vast population and scarce resources, aping this formula would be catastrophic.”

Nair stresses the need for a concerted effort to reject the widely held, but absurd notion, that good ideas can come only from the west. The faculty at Asian business schools and the campuses of western business schools in Asia must be pushed to devise sustainable business models applicable in a local context.

“They are in a far better position to do so than any armchair business guru sitting 5,000 miles away. It is the responsibility of these schools to take an honest look at the problems confronting the region and educate their students in a way that equips them to operate properly in the local context, so that they become part of the solution rather than the problem. Asian business schools can no longer afford to remain beholden to schools in the west.”

What Nair says abut Asian B-Schools applies strongly to Indian schools as well. Management experts point out that there is urgent need for a critical relook at the type of management education being offered by these schools. The curriculum needs to be reworked to include courses, programmes and research to meet the growing challenges of development in the country and the growing need for responsible and inclusive business. Lets stop aping the west.

(Suresh Kr Pramar, Speaker, Trainer, Writer,  CSR Consultant and the Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business is a veteran journalist presently actively involved in promoting CSR through He is Managing Trustee, Global Gandhian Trusteeship & Corporate Responsibility Foundation  He can be reached at suresh.pramar@gmail.com & sureshpramar@outlook.com )

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