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MBA education must enable students to address societal

by manishyadav

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In recent times, Indian industry has increasingly found many graduates (including MBAs) unemployable. In such a scenario, the issues of the purpose of education, the disconnect between theory and practice and the absence of application of concepts learnt need to be addressed. These concerns were the focal point in the session on ‘Revamping the MBA Curricula: The need, the process, and the lessons’by the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad (IMT, Ghaziabad) at the Indian Management Conclave 2012. “The purpose of management education should be beyond selling soaps and insurance policies, to finding solutions for societal problems”, pointed out Dr. Bibek Banerjee, Director of IMTGhaziabad. To be able to do so, it was important to upgrade and change the curriculum, which was akin to turning a 16-wheeler truck in a 10 ft wide road. This, in Dr. Banerjee’s opinion, was the first challenge.

“A two-year PGDBM programme is best compared to a raga and not to pop music, which has short bursts of music.  Quantitative metric tests give a natural bias and edge to engineering applicants in securing an MBA seat, but does that address the fundamental question of his aptitude for and conviction in a management education?” asked Dr. Banerjee. To overcome this problem, IMT Ghaziabad’s one-month orientation programme is designed to develop in students a mindset and a framework for what they are to study in the next two years.

The next challenge in management education is the presence of many silos: functional silos, discipline silos, pedagogical silos, context vs. concept silos and training vs. educational silos, to name a few. Course material taught in classrooms is often very outdated and does not capture the tectonic shifts happening across the globe with respect to where the power balance – whether economic or social - is heading. The other challenge was the presence of far too many tool box courses. “So we have these courses that are largely tool-centric - how to run SPSS, how to run SAS, etc. - which are very technical,” said Dr. Banerjee. “Most of the curriculum is focused on the WHATS and the HOWS and less on the WHYS.” He added that the curriculum doesn’t focus enough on implementing and doing.

The next challenge was the continuing prevalence of the ‘chalk and talk’ method of teaching, or educated textbook story telling. “This pedagogy of telling is a passive teaching methodology where the focus is on a teacher’s teaching ability and not on the student’s learning ability,” said Dr. Banerjee. “As a result we have a curriculum which is structured by the seasonality of what we were talking about, which was placements,” he said ruefully. “So, taking these issues into consideration, our philosophy at IMT Ghaziabad is to putting the student or the learning at the center of the universe.” 

It is true that there should be a focus on manufacturing and services in the Indian economy, but in management education the focus should be on the student, who is the key stakeholder. “We, therefore extended the orientation programme to one month akin to the alap in a raga for both offline and online students and mapped the shift evolution in management thought, people who have influence, alternative perspectives  and the learning processes. We basically remodeled a lot of the flow of the programme by bringing in a lot of innovation,and changed the way learning happens rather than teaching,” said Dr. Banerjee. 

Finally, in a management institute the role of faculty is supreme and the institution has to be driven by the faculty. “They have the deepest engagement with the students who are the main stakeholders. So it is very critical for the faculty to participate in this whole process. I have fantastic colleagues at IMT Ghaziabad who take complete ownership of this process. They are questioning their own way of doing things. I want to focus on implementation and to me that is the real change that is helping in getting more energy into trying new things. The faculty is working in teams, they are collaborating within organisations, working with industry and working with our overseas partners. We are bringing in a process to keep us on track and on time,” said Dr. Banerjee, as he concluded. “The academia in my institute is working closely with industry to customise curriculum, co-build curriculum and co-teach curriculum. However, industry also needs to invest both in terms of time and intent in developing this partnership. That will make our education more relevant.”

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