15 Sep 2021 18:41 IST

B-school curriculum needs a major overhaul

An MBA revamp with a cross-disciplinary outlook to meet the demands of a post-Covid industry is critical

The applications for management studentship fell by 6.9 per cent worldwide in 2020, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council. One of the main reasons could be an overall decline in employability. Despite paying high fees, only 20 to 25 per cent of the graduates get suitably employed, while the rest are either grossly underemployed or require additional training to be eligible for hiring. The Assocham reports that despite being ranked as the second-most employable course, only 46.59 per cent of the MBA graduates in India have enough skills to be hired. The latest India Skill report reveals that an MBA degree is no longer the key to land jobs in India.

This imbalance is often attributed to B-schools continuing with outdated curriculum with less emphasis on developing managerial talent with new-age capabilities and skills (managing complexity, critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making, team spirit and leadership, entrepreneurship), and developing necessary business acumen to solve emerging corporate challenges — attributes valued by employers.

Industry linkages

It is being argued across the world today that B-school education is lacking industry-connect with a yawning gap between academia and industry. The only alternative offered by both educators and employers is a complete overhaul of the curriculum.

The management curriculum needs to be more holistic to help build a fair understanding of the economic, political, social and cultural environment which inevitably influences business. This would mean enabling students to develop a cross-disciplinary outlook encompassing liberal arts, literature, linguistics, and science. Such holistic education will enhance the ability of the students to respond effectively to far-reaching changes such as the backlash against capitalism and globalisation, the resurgence of nationalism, and climate emergency. Partnerships between business schools and schools of other disciplines — law, medicine, art — will be of great value in this regard.

Creating business leaders with a social purpose is the need of the hour. Therefore, there is a need to introduce courses such as business and society, geopolitics and geo-economics, climate change, and public policy, social inequality, and environmental sustainability. The growing number of students from diverse background in management institutions demands a place for ‘diversity management’ in the curriculum with a special focus on gender sensitivity.

Understanding global geopolitics and geo-economics has become necessary for organisations to sustain themselves in the face of complex challenges they are facing today. A course on International Business covering these aspects can help students build a global perspective through case studies from different societies, cultures and geographies and appreciate global business environment, global business practices and challenges better.

Impact of tech

Since technology is driving every function of management, through increasing digitisation and automation, studying the impact of technology in various courses has become very important today. There should be an emphasis on courses related to Data Analytics, such as Big Data Analytics, HR Analytics, Marketing Analytics, and Social Media Analytics. Courses such as fintech, machine learning, blockchain, cyber security, and digital innovation and various programming languages such as C++, Python, and R should also be part of the curriculum.

In many B-schools, emphasis on ‘entrepreneurship’ is missing. ‘Entrepreneurship’ can be offered as a specialisation in the curriculum. This is already trending in top management schools around the world.

The aim of B-schools is to create more ethical, self-managing and responsible leaders, with the ability to take big decisions which have a lasting impact on business, people and society. The stress and strain of business education sometimes divert the attention of the students from investing in knowing themselves. Management curriculum should, therefore, encourage courses like “personal growth lab” to help the students understand their vision in life, strengths and weaknesses, and teach them to take corrective actions for self-improvement. Developing communication skills and emotional intelligence is also integral to such personality development.

In the post-pandemic world, the challenges have grown manifold making business hyper-competitive. Against this setting, improvising the management curriculum for Industry 4.0, based on the discussion above, has become a dire necessity. This will necessitate adjustments in teaching-learning pedagogy and re-defining the role played by the faculty as coaches and mentors with the aim of enriching the learning experience of the students to enable them to be their best and competitive selves.

(The writer is Dean (Academics), FORE School of management, New Delhi.)