'Sustainability of IIM education questionable'
Guest writer and IIM Ranchi director Prof MJ Xavier argues that India's business schools should go deep enough into teaching Indian business to develop their own brand of education that international applicants will find palatable.
These days, improving the diversity ratios in MBA classrooms has become a common point of discussion in management education circles.
Although gender and discipline diversity are extremely important, it is equally necessary now to create internationally diverse management classrooms in Indian B-schools, understanding the problems that would be encountered in making that happen and coming up with the right solutions.
Having an inflow of foreign students to Indian b-schools would not only help increase foreign exchange revenue, but having international students as classmates would enhance the learning experiences of Indian students in many ways.
For example, case studies would draw even more diverse opinions and make for rich discussions.
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Image: Prof MJ Xavier
'India's B-schools essentially follow the US model'
Despite the benefits, it's not easy to create an internationally diverse MBA classroom in India.
Management is essentially 50 per cent engineering and 50 per cent culture-specific learning.
While the engineering half is more or less uniform all over the world, it is the culture-specific parts which make management education of a particular country stand out and attract students from across the globe.
The United States of America has developed a pertinent model in this regard that many countries try to mirror, as have the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.
India's B-schools essentially follow the US model.
Despite following an already paved route, the Indian style of teaching is more analytical and fast-paced in comparison to teaching methods at US B-schools, which are relatively more in-depth and designed for more comprehensive understanding of issues among participants.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
'CAT, with its toughness level would be a big hurdle'
India's B-schools have been working to increase the number of exchange programme with top foreign B-schools as a way to have some foreign students on campus.
If foreign students tried to get direct admissions to Indian B-schools, or the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) specifically, they would face problems from the very start.
To begin with, the Common Admission Test (CAT) with its toughness level would be a big hurdle, as would be the pattern and rigour of teaching.
If we considered the second and third-tier B-schools of India, the second-tier institutes are doing a fairly good job in terms of imparting education and attracting international students through exchange programmes.
However, I am extremely wary of the third tier B-schools in the country. Such institutes have placed agents in places such as the Gulf countries or in South Africa to source students for their exchange programmes.
Once these foreign students reach India, they suffer at the hands of the average education imparted at such institutes and return with a mediocre opinion about the country's management education system.
This, I fear, will ultimately hurt the credibility of even the first-tier and the second-tier institutes.
Illustrations: Dominic Xavier
'IIMs and other B-schools have increased their fees significantly'
Even if we thought solely from the Indian student market perspective, it is a fact that these days the aspirant focus has converged towards the top-20 B-schools of the country.
If they fail to get an admission at one of these, many instead join a school in Malaysia or Singapore, which would offer them better education as compared to India's third-tier institutes.
So if Indian students are averse to joining the lower-tiers of Indian management education, the question of international students joining them does not even arise.
In addition, previously, Indian MBA programmes were a lot cheaper than their counterparts in the US, which used to work in India's favour.
However, in recent times the IIMs and other B-schools have increased their fees significantly.
In such a scenario, why would any international student want to come and study at an Indian institute that offers a poor cousin of the US management education model and at a high cost price?
The Indian government is gradually waking up to the potential of management education in the country and is trying to convert it into an educational hub for the international market.
However, some steps need to be taken by both the government as well as stalwarts in the management fraternity if we want to realise our aspiration of making our classrooms internationally more diverse.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
'We must create our unique brand of management education'
First, we need to build upon the US education model and create our unique brand of management education.
By adapting the US research methods to the Indian context, we need to help the world including international students get better perspectives and understanding of how business is done in India.
And then market it through the correct channels to international students.
I am not saying that a model that teaches Indian business does not exist currently. But I do believe that it has not been framed from a uniquely Indian perspective.
It is a follow-up on the US model, comprises similar case studies and does not go deep enough into Indian business to truly provide a perspective on how things are done in this country.
How can B-schools offer this depth?
They can either offer a specific elective on business in India or even create a one-year programme on Indian business.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
'There is a crunch of good management faculty'
Next, B-schools would have to improve the scope and quality of research in the country.
The first thing that any prospective international student does is to research the qualifications of faculty in a B-school.
If we are falling short in this aspect, the market is lost there and then.
There is a crunch of good management faculty across the globe but this shortage is felt keenly in India.
The Chinese are making proactive attempts to improve research in their country.
China's annual budget includes a substantial amount of money set aside for research, which helps the country attract research scholars from across the world.
This is ultimately adding to China's educational resources. In a similar manner, India also needs to invest heavily into knowledge creation, which is the foundation of good faculty creation.
In the final analysis, we need to understand that even though IIMs have a global acceptance and that IIM students get placements in various international firms, the sustainability of the education offered at these institutes raises a huge question mark.
We need to learn more from the liberal thought processes that drive many international institutes such as INSEAD (France), Harvard Business School (Boston) and Uppsala University (Sweden) and create a more wholesome management education scene that would make for truly international education in the country.
Image: Image for representation purpose only