There is a general concern that majority of our engineering and management graduates are not employable. We hear this view from our leaders, policy makers, academicians and consultants without going deep into several key questions related to corporate readiness. Even though this problem is faced across disciplines, but it is intense in the case of engineering and management education in India. Before we jump into finding a solution for corporate non-readiness of our graduates, let's first ask two important questions related to corporate readiness; what is corporate readiness and why should we care about it? For example, across the globe, job placements are considered as the most important outcome of any management degree and hence training students for corporate jobs becomes extremely important for business schools. One major reason being the direct impact of this data on their school rankings. What is even more disturbing is the urgent call for action to rectify this corporate non-readiness by incorporating several quick fixes such as personality and soft skills development in our management curriculum. But just blindly following this corporate readiness dictum by adding few such classes is not proving anything useful in the long-term for our students.
In this short article we encourage educators, policy makers and corporate professionals to think beyond the short-sighted goal of corporate readiness and focus on intellectual readiness and ultimately citizen readiness. Once we achieve intellectual and citizen readiness, corporate readiness will follow as the result of a job well done rather than focussing just on corporate readiness. For intellectual readiness we as educators must teach our students how to understand, structure, frame and communicate problems and solutions. Mentoring students see problem differently by modifying the underlying assumptions of a problem in such a way that the problems can be framed and understood in many ways. This will make our graduates capable of finding solutions that are acceptable to various stakeholders in organizations and society. Teaching our management students to find quick answers and get away with it problematic. Effective problem solving is not about finding smart answers to a question or a case. But it is about creating actionable knowledge which can be used to get the buy-in of various stakeholders for effective implementation and long-term sustainability. Students should be taught to take ownership of their solutions and feel good about it which goes beyond just being ethical. Additionally, making them intellectually ready will ensure greater good and happiness for all the major stakeholders involved. This will also help to ensure their citizen readiness in the larger scheme of life. If we train our graduates in a broad-based curriculum of core management subjects and complimentary topics covering the physical, emotional and cultural world in which businesses operate, we will be able to achieve the two core purposes for which higher education exists: knowing oneself and intellectually freeing one self.
"One of the most important goals of higher education should be to help young students to blossom into ethical citizens who are confident yet intellectually humble"
Knowing oneself is a life long journey of understanding one's interests, strengths, limitations and aspirations. All young students starting their higher studies would only have a limited understanding of the fit between their self and the field of study. There is no perfect science to predict the perfect fit, and one should go on a journey of trial error to find or even create this fit. Another important point is that irrespective of what they study, the learning journey they go through should facilitate their pursuit of self-exploration. The responsibility of higher education institutions in India and elsewhere in the world is to focus primarily on helping students know themselves. Self-knowing is connecting to others and the world around us. Self-knowing is about being confident and humble. It is also about developing empathy and a need for creating collective good. This self-knowing is also the first step in becoming responsible citizens who are motivated to connect and contribute to the well-being of our nation and the world at large. The significance of self-knowing has exponentially increased in today's digitised world. Intellectual freedom is another important aspect of growing up to become a responsible adult who is first a citizen and then a corporate professional or an entrepreneur. One of the most important goals of higher education should be to help young students to blossom into ethical citizens who are confident yet intellectually humble. This seemingly paradoxical, yet vital combination of intellectual humility and confidence can be developed only with a wholistic understanding of the world around us. Our higher education curriculum, particularly in management should include basic concepts of philosophy, anthropology, social psychology, cognitive science, behavioural economics, history and evolutionary biology. These subjects are fundamental to understanding and appreciating the intricacies of our epistemologically complex world. This understanding is the starting point of developing citizens with a great degree of intellectual humility and openness. The goal of every nation should be to educate her citizens to be able to contribute to the collective good of the world.