The trouble with the Indian MBA education
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Subba Iyer is a radical thought leader who excels at business strategy and execution. He act as a strategic advisor to start-ups and SMEs and currently teach advanced IT subjects at S.P. Jain Center of Management, Singapore and Dubai. He is also a seasoned Executive coach who helps senior executives transform their perspectives and discover new meaning and methods in their roles.
Students enter the MBA program not because of their thinking or problem solving skills but because of a well-honed method of rote learning and excelling at standardized tests acquired through enrolment at the various coaching factories.
During the course of the MBA program,most students are conditioned to cruise through the courses taking the path of least resistance, because at the end of the program all they are looking for is a job, never mind the skills. If they do manage to acquire some skills, that is an accidental byproduct, not an intentional endeavor. In my several years as an educator in the classroom, most students are just not conditioned to think; forget think in original terms. At best they process information and learn to apply standard template based frameworks religiously well. Part of the reason is the number of courses they have to do and several other distractions that are part of the B-school environment.
At the end of the program, most of them find jobs which rarely demand new skills and thinking. Some are even glorified clerical and administrative roles which further blunts whatever little thinking skills they might have acquired. Corporate recruiters also need to take a fair share of the blame since many do not even do a rigorous interview. Many hire based on the so called reputation of the school and the candidate’s past record rather than his potential. Few recruiters understand that accreditation and so called rankings apply to the school while what they are hiring is a student and a prospective manager and the attributes have poor congruency.
Management educators need to take more than the fair share. Most of them are recycling concepts and theories which have long passed the due date. Few want to swim against the tide and innovate in the classroom or in the course design. There are simply no incentives to do so and there is always a risk of failure. If educators do not innovate, how do we expect the students to be innovative? Further, few educators want to take it upon themselves to really shake students off from the comfort zone and prod them to think. In many business schools, the students’ rating of the faculty is the only instrument used to gauge the faculty’s value. No wonder, the faculty is happy or forced to do things that will make them popular with students.
The B-school management is not above blame. Most of them watch only two numbers — The school ranking dished out by publications and the placement statistics. Both are riddled with lies and deceit. Everyone in the system knows that and yet they continue to publicize both numbers with great zeal. How the school ranking system is one heap of nonsense, is well chronicled here by Malcolm Gladwell here. Worth a read!!. If that is true of U.S. schools, the less said about Indian schools the better.
With such a state of affairs, is it any wonder that we have been having a jugaad of sorts in the Business school education as we have in other areas of higher education. I have heard a respected management educator now even proposing that we teach Jugaad in Indian business schools and this forced me to write an angry post here for which I still get some hate mail now and then.
The situation has to get worse before it gets better. I only hope it gets there sooner.