Millennium Post

Nation-building needs managers at fore

Management education sector has been vibrant in this Country and though it has been contributing to the overall growth, a lot still needs to be done. With more than 3600 Management schools affiliated to the University system, another 300 PGDM schools, many of them as good as any in the world, and with a total intake capacity that exceeds 3.8 laks annually, we truly have the wherewithal to count in a global context.

Higher education has been undergoing change in the last few years. Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary courses, use of new technologies and a host of new trends seem to have changed the basics of management education.

Management education is going through changes as well. As IIM Calcutta would put it, the changing scenario does offer students more opportunities, greater self confidence and out of box ways to better hone their skills. Internationalisation with increased focus on international partnerships, National and international internships, student exchange programs, joint degrees, dual degrees and integrated degrees etc have come to stay.

The regulators need to be alive to these changes and the use of new technologies in management teaching learning pedagogy is a trend that is catching up fast and is to be recognised so. MOOCS like initiatives need to be mainstreamed to expand the reach. While recognising the use of the social media to establish connection with students is on the rise, the same should also be seen as free from the perils that associate the use of it.

Faculty of different disciplines need to come together to teach newer courses, for example, human resources, marketing, strategy and operations research and management, faculty from other disciplines coming together to teach a course, are seen as the way forward because in real life situations most events have multiple and often overlapping dimensions. Another trend that is engaging students are games that simulate the need to find solutions to complex scenarios through team building and teamwork. Values and understanding the dynamics of life and living contribute to these new trends.

The craze for management education seems to be ebbing with the sector stabilising on quality concerns. Students have realised that like in all other subjects, they can get good jobs with management education if and only if they learn something more besides their area of expertise. They are also less likely to be swayed with promises of placements – they use disparate sources of information to check such claims.  However fees seem to be a bottleneck that has to be resolved. Financial models and revenue models need to come to terms with reality and seriously promote soft loans that can work as an alternative. 

Is the arm chair wrestling between the managements, the intelligentsia, the regulators and a certain section of the society, management education, a subject that the media is greatly interested in, justified in a country of more than a billion people where a majority of them are trying to make ends meet? Where hardly 25 million annually actually go to colleges contributing to a dismal GER of 20?
Fundamental rights, section 19 of the Constitution of India bestows upon every citizen the right to practice his or her profession. 

The educational entrepreneurs would argue that what is invested is their land and money in setting up an institute for management education and that they have a healthy respect for the norms of the regulators. Would it be possible to deny their right? Yes, quality concerns are rightful apprehensions and are to be addressed differently. The resolute student and parent will certainly differentiate wheat from the chaff. The non performing colleges will be forced to shut down and if a few of them do close down how does it matter. Is the regulator obliged to also supply the students to see the college running? How does the regulator presuppose that a new college would not provide quality education when all that he ensures at the beginning are requirements to start a college is complied with? On the other hand, can a regulator force an entrepreneur to set up a college in one of those more than 100 districts where none seem to go today?       

With the demographics shifting towards the youth of this country, would it not be prudent to invest now in infrastructure that would stand in good stead for the future?
A Country blesssed with great numbers of youth in productive age can also be severly undercut if they are not in the mainstream. An example would suffice the seriousness of this statement. Over 50% of youth fail between 10th, 11th and 12th grade and probably out of the education scene for ever after that. They surely must be contributing to the growth of the Country in some way as much as contributing to the muck. An out of box approach is required to meet these challenges and am sure the management schools would do well to address them.

 Two arguments are important here. Since I have less job opportunities I restrict the supply side market, and since I have vacancies in the existing system, I will restrict the educational infrastructure from coming up. Both are poor arguments from a growth perspective. The first since economy and GDP would suffer and the second since the GER would always be pegged low. Instead recognise that newer job opportunities would evolve because of the first and the second would necessitate improvements in the supply side of the education supply chain and consequently more children would get into higher education.

A GER of about 20% would certainly need to be revisited and it will be our and the Government’s endeavour to push it as high as 30% in the next 5 years. I wish, we attain a figure of 50% in probably the next 15 years. Higher education will shape individual lives, the economy and society. Such an activity must be the subject of broad and informed consideration and debate. We need to create a knowledge society for knowledge is all pervasive. A truly inclusive system is in everyone’s interest.

Further as IIM Calcutta would say, willingness to work hard, focussed approach, internships and work experience that may be useful for properly appreciating the courses that are taught in management schools, being not only aware of the events happening in the world but also trying to make sense of these events through a process of logical reasoning, a progressive outlook and sensitivity to the concerns of the underprivileged demonstrating a knowledge of ethical dilemmas are some of qualities that need to be encouraged and promoted in our B schools.

The job prospects provided in the primary sector which depends on the produce of earth is about 10%. Secondary sector based on manufacturing provides for about 30% of the jobs whereas the tertiary sector which is the largest provides for 60% of the service sector job opportunities. Hence, it is natural that people opt for service oriented professions. We need to seriously relook at this development model for this cannot sustain unless the secondary employment markets based on manufacturing progress.

Does lack of employability stem from lack of employment or the other way round? There are several studies such as that of NASSCOM, Ernst and Yong, McKinsey, ASSOCHAM etc which are predominantly based on specific sectors where out of the applications received by prospective employers, the percentage employability was estimated against the number actually employed from amongst the applications received for those job positions. These surveys by no means can assume that the employability figures would be the same for all students vis-à-vis all sectors. Hence it is possible that some graduates may be underemployed which is also serious but is also reasonable to assume that most of them do get employment over a period of six months to one and half years.

We need to empower the youth with education that promotes knowledge and promotes meaningful employment and such a pursuit will always benefit the society we live in and the management schools, I believe have something to deliver here.

One great incongruity in our system has been development of an orgainsed sector of barely 10 per cent when the developed world over, the figure is in the excess of 80 pper cent, and a total neglect of the so called unorganised sector whose development, in reality has unheard potential for many of the ills of this country. Every challenge can be converted into an opportunity. New vistas of ideas and potential for development emanate from this. The management schools need to create new paradigms and new markets for job creation.

We need to inspire, achieve and engage our youth, wean them away from divisive forces, build them into a formidable force to pitchfork the economy to be positioned at a higher plane and of course create a WIN-WIN for everyone so that, like Sant Kabir said ‘Kala nala heen jal, so phir paani hoye, jo paani moti bhaya, so phir neer na hoye’ , (ice becomes water in the course of time. The water that has become a pearl will never again become water). We need to convert all our youth into those pearls.

It is time to act and act decisively. The message to the society should be that the Country is alive, active and can impose its chosen path of protecting the rights of students, teachers, and the society and so on. The new Government has begun well and needs to consolidate the gains. 

The author is Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education.
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