It is lamented in the Indian as well as in the Western higher education sectors that Business School education is lacking in industry relevance. It has been blamed that B-Schools are using an out dated curriculum, having less focus on skill building, unable to establish ‘industry connect’ and failing to impact graduate attributes that are valued by today’s employers such as problem solving and decision making skills, leadership, work effectively as a team member, intrapreneurship, and the ability to grasp and manage complexity and dynamics in organisations and in the profession. Both employers and management educators are of the view that there is a gap between B-School academia and industry, that they couldn’t do much to bridge this gap.
As a result of this there is a mismatch between what the students in B-School study and what they have to practice in their entry-level careers. In workplace, freshers do feel as though they are fish out of water and face roadblocks interms of grasping work. As novice managers, they seem to lack in confidence to apply the theory and skills they are taught in college to solve various problems in the workplace.
Furthermore, to their distress, they realise that they need more of softskills to succeed in work place, more competence to manage their boss, peers, subordinates and outsiders, and better communication and social skills. Infact soft skills can be an added advantage for them when they need to create an impression in the organisation. At times employers, who hire them are also disappointed the freshers are not really ‘job ready,’ and need undergo longer in-house training in both technical and interpersonal areas. Interestingly, employers off late don’t mind offering them longer traineeship as they don’t have high expectations. But, what appears to irk them is that their apprentice managers lack curiosity, inquisitiveness and inner drive to learn, and they don’t take responsibility for their own learning and development. Some management graduates even come across as not attained skills to become lifelong learners.
There are a number of systemic reasons that create a gap between industry and business administration academia. Many B-Schools recruit new students having no work experience gained after their first degrees. As a result, in a typical B-School cohort, we find a large number of students without work experience. It is mandatory by the B-School Regulator AICTE that the students must undergo 6 to 8 weeks of Summer Internship in organisations after their first year of MBA/PGDM study. Usually this internship follows with the presentation of a report and viva-voce examination that are given the credits in the marks card. However, since this compulsory internship is of a short period, undergoing it may provide very little exposure of organisational dynamics to the students.
“Another B-School administrative issue that unwittingly is widening the gap between management academia and industry is that in promotions and in providing institutional incentives, research publications are given lopsided importance”
On the other hand, faculty members enter B-School to teach them without considerable industry exposure. Most of them end up teaching from standard text books. Furthermore, the authors of many of these internationally acclaimed, often adopted textbooks write them on consulting research articles published in academic journals. While business practice has been changing and evolving around the world at a much faster rate, unfortunately, these dynamic current practices might not have been captured in these text books. As a result, what their teaching involves is more from the academic sources rather than from the practices that are out there in today’s industry. Add to this challenge, these internationally adopted textbook sare published from the knowledge of and research in the industrialised West; what they write may not be relevant to our Indian business practice. Even textbooks written by Indian professors are found to be influenced by western management thoughts; by research that are carried out and published in the west; and not necessarily drawing from what we practice here in Indian organisations, so not pure Desi. Although there are some commonalities in organizational practices in the west and in India due to isomorphism or imitating, we miss out on the distinctive differences found in the Indian management practice in many of our teaching. This could be rectified when the faculty members of the Indian B-Schools are immersed more in Indian organisations and in our Indian business practices.
Most of the students who join B-Schools, although tested for their aptitude through their MAT or CAT scores, don’t get much exposure in the learning and teaching areas such as the application of knowledge and skills into practice and gaining soft skills, which are problem solving skills, ability to work in a team, and strong communication skills that are later useful for deep learning in B-School classrooms. As a result, the students approach their MBA study with academic purpose at its best or to merely pass exams at its worst.
Another B-School administrative issue that unwittingly is widening the gap between management academia and industry is that in promotions and in providing institutional incentives, research publications are given lopsided importance. In many B-Schools, ‘publish or perish’ culture is fast spreading. As a result, any efforts by faculty members to learn from industry or practice doesn’t carry weightage for institutional incentives. Faculty members in B-Schools are not conversant in case based teaching (CBT) nor are encouraged to write case studies. In our curriculum and pedagogy, we aren’t using much problem based learning (PBL), project based learning, group assignments and industry based projects.
All is not dark and gloom in B-Schools in bringing the practice and academia closer. Some B-Schools encourage faculty to engage in consulting to industry. Case based teaching and case writing are taught in faculty development programs (FDPs). Senior managers and business consultants are invited to teach full length subjects or to give guest talks in seminars and conclaves. Managers and business consultants are invited to design curriculum and in its updating. In progressive B-Schools the students are given opportunities to participate in business incubators, entrepreneurship development programmes (EDPs), interdisciplinary business project competitions and hackathons.
Problem based teaching and project based teaching need to be incorporated more vigorously in MBA/PGDM pedagogy. Institutions must regularly conduct multi and inter-disciplinary hackathons and project competitions, which is possible for comprehensive universities and deemed to be universities. These decisions and initiatives, when taken by both management institutions and industry would provide opportunities and support for faculty members to bring the industry experience to classroom.
Dr. Raveendranath Nayak, Director & Professor
Professor Dr. Raveendranath Nayak, has widespread know-how of teaching, research, consulting and management and his research on sustainability of business organizations and academic problems of International students in Australian higher education institutions gained worldwide recognition.