Jyoti Bansal & Shashank Agarwal
O P Jindal Global University, Sonipat Haryana
Quality in industries could be defined as adhering to the stated or implied performance requirements of the customer but with interpretations as varied as the individuals, it is rather difficult to define the Quality in educational institutions. The overall scenario of higher education in India does not match with global quality standards. Hence, there is enough justification for an increased assessment of the quality of the country’s educational institutions. Traditionally, these institutions assumed that quality could be determined by their internal resources, viz., faculty with fancy degrees and experiences detailed at the end of the admissions’s brochure, number of books and journals in the library, modern campus, and size of the endowment, etc., or by its definable and assessable outputs, viz., efficient use of resources, producing uniquely educated, highly satisfied and employable graduates. This view of determining quality in higher education, popularly termed as the “value-addition” approach, does not measure the competencies students develop through the curriculum and programs offered. These competencies are recall, understanding, and problem solving. “Recall” amounts to a competency of gaining knowledge by way of reading, viewing, listening, assimilating, and demonstrating it when required. “Understanding” is comprehension, which requires explanations and vocabulary development, and demonstrating it by giving ideas, predict, and evaluate cause and effect. The competency of “problem solving” can be developed by solving text-book type of problems and the expertise so developed can be used in handling real-life situations. The students should understand and accept these concepts, and the level of competency they are expected to attain should also be defined in consultation with them.
For many years, MBA programs of Business Schools enjoyed rising respectability in academia and growing prestige in the business world. Their admissions were ever more selective, the pay packages of graduates ever more dazzling. Today, however, MBA programs face intense criticism for failing to impart useful skills, failing to prepare leaders, failing to instill norms of ethical behavior—and even failing to lead graduates to good corporate jobs. These criticisms come not just from students, employers, and the media but also from deans of some of most prestigious business schools.
The main reason behind this fall in reputation of top B Schools has been the adoption of inappropriate model of academic excellence. Many business schools have adopted self-defeating model of Quality Excellence. Instead of measuring the competency level of their graduates or by how well their faculty members understand important drivers of business, they asseses solely by the rigor of their scientific research.
It has always been realized that technology and business administration is the perfect combination to impart skillful education to students as well as to get them good jobs. However, many B-Schools have transformed their academic model into more science driven curriculum due to this phenomenon based on abstract financial economic analysis, regressions, correlations. Some of the research is excellent but so little grounded in actual business practices. This has resulted them to be more scientific rather than focusing on competence of their students. Hence the B School education is becoming less relevant in the practical scenario and is being considered as depleting and inappropriate. McGill University professor Henry Mintzberg, says that the main culprit is a less-than-relevant MBA curriculum.
Businesses, where an MBA is considered necessary, call upon many areas of science itself but businesses are not merely about science. Business Management is not a scientific discipline but a profession, and must deal what a professional education requires. Hence, if B-Schools are to regain their relevance, they must walk in line with this reality and understand that business management is a profession rather than a mere scientific discipline. According to a Harvard Business School study, business professions have four key elements namely, an accepted body of knowledge, field masters, commitment to public welfare, and enforceable code of ethics. However, these days, most of these four parameters are missing in any B-School vision and mission statements.
Business school faculties simply must discover the practice of business. Imagine a professor of surgery who has never seen a patient, or a piano teacher who doesn’t play any instrument, and yet today’s business schools are packed with intelligent, highly skilled faculty with little or no managerial experience. As a result, they can’t identify the most important problems facing executives and don’t know how to analyze the indirect and long term implications of complex business decisions. In this way, they shortchange their students and, ultimately society.
Things won’t improve until professors see that they have as much responsibility for educating professionals to make practical decisions as they do for advancing the state of scientific knowledge.
Science can give you a preset formula but not hands on solution, at least to current business complex complications. If the purpose of graduate business education is to develop executive leaders, then the faculty must have expertise in more than just fact collection.
For instance, a leading management journal recently reviewed the results of a promising study of the behavior of several thousand leaders in global corporations. The initial research results showed that certain indicators of leadership misbehavior could be monitored to identify ethical problems before a crisis occurs. Unfortunately, that could not be proved in a strictly scientific sense.
In business research, however, the things routinely ignored by academics on the grounds that they cannot be measured—most human factors and all matters relating to judgment, ethics, and morality —are exactly what make the difference between good business decisions and bad ones.
By allowing the scientific research model to drive out all others, business schools are institutionalizing their own irrelevance.
Hence to give students practical exposure, more industry fellows should be appointed to impart practical exposure rather than following only scientific models. What differentiates between scientific models and B-School learnings is that in science top faculties members are known for their publication in top journals and their focus is lesser on attending their own discipline. To be fair, some of these journals are excellent and carry value but they are only research journals far away from practicality. They indulge themselves into various researches and hence they find the scholars of repute. They actually leave the practical implication on others as theoretical knowledge and practical exposure are way to different when it comes to comparison. In any post-graduate programme like MBA students long for learning the ability to deal with practical situations which much depends on the value of the professor’s ability to teach and make them skillful for day to day operations. This is what is needed in an MBA aspirant.
Today, business practitioners are discovering that B school professors know more about academic publishing than about the problems of the workplace.
However, this very basic fundamental requirement is missing in a scientific model of learning. Another point evidencing that why scientific model application is not completely immersible with B School learnings is the question of judgment. what appears like a simple managerial decision has several implications on other related parameters? Such as a decision to cut down the cost which is a financial decision, has direct impact on marketing, strategy, sales and manufacturing divisions etc.
Another point worth mentioning here is that when scientific models such as regression and statistics are applied to a problem solution, the results are often overweighed. This means there are several other non-scientific factors to be considered before reaching a conclusion, which may get missed due to a hardcore scientific approach. Scientific models are like set machines where you put in raw data and the outcome will be based on preset rules. There is no scope of making necessary adjustments to it. Hence the results usually don’t apply to real world problems. This finally leads to a lack of confidence in to-be-managers to solve real time business issues and hence this becomes a major reason of loss in faith on B-School learnings.
Where does this legacy comes from? These so-called B-Sschool scholars, becoming professors of future, teach their MBA students what they have researched and what they have learnt through these researches. Generation becomes used to what has been written in journals rather than what actually needs to be applied in business issues. No doubt these professors are brilliant in fact collections but they fail to perform well in real classroom multidisciplinary issues. They feel uncomfortable in devising strategy and examining cases requiring judgement based on true facts. The decision-making in today’s cut-throat competitive market is a key essential skill which can’t be taught by research-oriented professors and hence the quality of B-School is deteriorating as students who are the future managers fail to imply what they have never leant but what is actually required of them.
Integration of Scientific knowledge often referred to as discipline-based knowledge is left to the wisdom of students. But since the course curriculum of MBA studies is designed by research scholars, the entire toil goes in vain. Hence, first of all the course curriculum of MBA courses need to be revamped and be made in line with practicality rather than set principles which prove vague in current business situations. At least the curriculum should be elastic enough to adapt to changing needs of the business environment. The current-age employers have also realized that the failure to succumb to business requirements has been a major area of concern for many B-School alumnus.
Though it will not be easy for B-Schools to look back and mend their teaching methodologies retrospectively to fundamental business problems. However, if they long to regain the confidence of students, society, employers and professors at large, they need to change the way they are making future leaders. No curriculum reforms will work until scientific model is replaced by more appropriate models grounded in the special requirements of profession along with quality policies, procedures, and practices which are critical to ensure the relevance and effectiveness of business and management education. n