Does higher education in business management prepare the students for the roles they require to play as professional resources and citizens of an emerging economy like India?
A recent study conducted by the industry has revealed that the availability of resources is not the challenge, the gap is in the talent and skills available compared to the requirement is. In addition, to that the employability factor for business school graduates based on soft skills is totally inadequate.
In order to overcome these challenges and the evolving future of work in India and overseas business management students need to get equipped with the right domain skills which are in demand in the industry and soft skills which would make them employable.
The NEP 2020 has brought in a fresh outlook to the entire gamut of education including higher education in India. While embracing on this new path we must not lose sight of the overall objective of education to not only impart knowledge and skill but also transform the learners with ability to think, adhere to truth and become responsible citizens resisting the temptations of popular mob culture.
In order to achieve this, higher education in general and business management education in particular has to change from the present system of silo-based learning with fixed three hour written exam-based evaluation and rudimentary dissertation projects. The learning has to become andragogical and open without boundaries moving from a fixed set of subjects in the business management program to development of industry or vocation specific professional skills. Evaluations should be aligned to assessing the acquisition of skills together with application of knowledge through demonstration throughout the period of learning and not at the end of it.
The hard domain skills the students need to overcome sighted by the Industry are 1) Strategic thinking for decision making in the areas like AI, Automation etc, 2) Creative problem solving and risk taking 3) Analytical ability to understand data. The soft skills the students need to be considered employable are 1) Communication skills 2) Ability to work collaboratively with a wide variety of people and 3) Leadership skills to take initiatives.
Educators will not be able to achieve this on their own. They will need the backing of all stakeholders such as industry, Government, education administrators, teachers, students, alumni and parents. Another issue in the current context is the development of digital space and virtual campus. In industry too, automation and digital communication is expected to cover more than 70% of all jobs. In another two years skills like analytical thinking, digital communication and emotional intelligence will swamp the traditional skills of reading, writing and document-based systems.
The current generation of students are also different. They prefer flexible mix media methods for learning, comfortable using digital devices and have a low attention span. The students are also prone to interactive, inter-discipline and cross curricular learning. Overall, it is suggesting that they show a marked preference for experiential learning.
In order to develop these skills teachers, have to adopt student centric learning programs. Changes that have been suggested by some industry experts are as follows:
1. Dynamic curriculum: Experiment with different types of learning platforms that provide freedom to students in realizing their critical skill development goals in an enjoyable way.
2. Experiential learning: Let students practice learning from failures using simulation and management games. The experience of taking management decisions and getting to debrief the results will sharpen their implementation and teamwork skills.
3. Ownership and leadership: Create opportunities for leadership strategies that motivate and inculcate ownership of responsibilities. Let students build on their abilities to take independent decisions. They should be able to demonstrate their ability to convince or be convinces.
Business schools should take advantage of autonomy being provided under the NEP to develop innovative teaching and learning methods in close collaboration with industry leaders in order to provide productive and employable resources.
The schools should also provide students and alumni the facility to opt for lifelong learning. This would enable resources in the industry to keep pace with the dynamic developments in a disruptive industry. They can switch between learning from a program with work due to the facility of online learning.
According to late Dr S Radhakrishnan, the first vice President of India and renowned teacher the guiding motto of an education system should be the development of personality and faith, formation of character, cultivation of social, moral and spiritual values.
Ultimately the combination of both hard domain skills and soft skills would transform students into resources that meet the requirement of industry and draw respect from society.
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Dr Ramesh Raj Ayer, PhD Associate Dean,
AIMS School of Business
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