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BW Businessworld

Keeping An Ear To The Ground

The most important expertise that a manager must have is an understanding of the reality of India’s large grass roots level population

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The higher educational ecosystem of the future will rest on three pillars. First, inter-disciplinarity; second, viewing it as a continual process in one’s career; and third, access of quality education to beyond those who formally and physically participate. Compared to a variety of educational domains, management education is amenable to the three pillars.

Management education is intrinsically interdisciplinary, integrating basic disciplines such as economics, psychology, sociology, and mathematics/ statistics/ computer science.

Mid-career degree programmes and executive education have been accepted as key learning opportunities to keep up with the latest to enhance performance in one’s career.

Distance education and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are now enabling access of quality education to large numbers of students.

The challenge of a good B-school today is how well it can deliver on the three pillars by integrating it as part of the overall portfolio of activities.

In terms of inter-disciplinarity, the challenge is in the design and delivery of the curriculum. The case study method, where students are presented with real-life challenges faced by companies, is a good pedagogy. In effect, the classroom becomes a ‘business simulator’, where students can test their thinking and judgment in a low-risk, supportive environment, receiving instant feedback from professors with diversity of insight and knowledge. Beyond this, independent projects, workshop courses and specifically designed electives can add.

Faculty, who traditionally come from a single discipline need to provide an inter-disciplinary approach. Encouraging faculty to participate in complementary areas, centres, cross-area research teams, and even in executive education, enables this.

There is an intrinsic culture of keeping up-to-date with management concepts through executive eEducation. It could also be useful to explore if the long-duration programme students can come back to school for refresher programmes at various stages in their life.

Traditionally, the top business schools have cultivated an image of being exclusive, given the competitive selection process. One way in which this education has become a little more inclusive is through the Constitutionally-directed reservation process. But we must explore how the quality education can reach out to larger number of students.

Distance education offered, either in a synchronous or asynchronous mode, is a good direction. A few of the top business schools are exploring programmes towards this. The distance education programme (e-PGP), offered by IIM Ahmedabad, and the MOOCs, offered by IIM Bangalore, are a few examples.

On a concluding note, the world is going through what is popularly being called the fourth industrial revolution, driven by digital technology and artificial intelligence. This revolution not only requires speedy adaptation, but also offers opportunities to address the problems arising from Indian reality.

Relative to many other countries in the world, India is far more culturally, socially, environmentally and economically diverse, crying for solutions as we seek to improve the quality of life of the 125-plus crore population. Towards this, the most important expertise that a manager must have is an understanding of the reality of the large grass roots level population in India. This, I believe, is the biggest challenge facing B-schools in terms of how they should direct their education.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

G. Raghuram

The author is Director, IIM Bangalore

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