04 Aug 2020 21:18 IST

Stumped by the NEP impact on management education

B-schools will have their hands full creating the pedagogy, assessments and faculty for the new order

As I try to make meaning of the new National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), I imagine it as having four distinct personas. First, that of the parent of a child who will be in the first batch of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) and the new assessment pattern under the 5+3+3+4 system, that replaces the 10+2 system.

Second is the students, who will have to wade through the uncertain waters of a newly enforced system and grapple with the flexible and modular curriculum while keeping their aspirations high and preparing for entry into graduate programmes run by institutions of excellence in the country.

Third, and rather selfishly, someone like me: a business school faculty imagining the application of AI in tracking student performance and making me more accountable, and at the same time grappling with micro specialisations as obtuse as IoT in warehousing to omni-channel and hyper local distribution versus e-commerce. The fourth persona is the business school administrator and the Dean of the programme, who has to manage expectations and match the demand-supply equation, even while the system is nascent and in a constant state of flux.

Conflicts among the persona

NEP 2020 renders the parent most helpless, without any control on the means or the ends. While the ward belongs to the digital era, enlightened, socially aware and a global citizen, the parent is typically a Gen Y or may be a late Gen X, having witnessed the process of liberalisation of the economy, and later the 9/11 attacks and, now, pandemics like SARS and Covid. The parent is confused as to how to motivate the enlightened ward to focus on maths and science, rather than choosing a mix of science and social science subjects in secondary school, while targeting an engineering programme during graduation.

The student, on the other hand, now has all the flexibility to choose, with assessment patterns becoming easier and more practical. But where does it lead the student? How does the student stay competitive enough on the global stage, competing with the Chinese student for a master’s programme in an Ivy League university in the US?

The third entity is “me” as I see myself, a faculty in a leading business school trying to deliver value to the Gen Z aspirant who has come from a four-year BBA or a BBM programme. The NEP 2020 provides different levels of entry and exit modes to undergraduate programmes wherein a student completing a four-year BBA degree passes out with a bachelor’s degree with research competencies.

Essentially, a student with four years of grounding in business management or economics or statistics is adequately competent and may well find several core courses in the first 12 months of the curriculum repetitive and non-value adding. The faculty also needs to be cognizant of the fact that freeware courses from Coursera further equip the Gen Z student better to face the faculty in the class. Poor me, what do I do?

Finally, the leadership of the school has to match the demand and supply side and constantly needs to create value to stay afloat in such challenging times. Not just do student expectations need to be met, given the increased career options, the challenge lies in the hows of execution of the programmes, given the capability and competencies of the faculty base. How does the school stay relevant when the specialisations are no more restricted to finance, marketing, operations and human resources? How does the leadership meet the personalised needs of specialisation of the student who has equipped herself with strong domain knowledge on, say, hyper-local distribution versus e-commerce, and aspires to pursue a career in retail distribution analytics?

The dilemma

The problem stares at the governing bodies and administrators of business schools in India. Reality shall set in when the MBA aspirant appears before the interview panel in 2028 and, as a parting question, asks the interviewers how they would assign weightages scientifically to different key success factors based on the qualitative research she has done in her graduation dissertation. These are the kind of hard truths that would be difficult to digest. To add to the madness is the transferrable credits programme and phased autonomy, giving a fresh lease of life to those institutions of excellence that remained unrecognised and languished for want of affiliation.

The way forward

This cannot be an isolated agenda as the problem at hand is daunting. The need of the hour is to get the thought leaders and administrators of leading business schools and universities to put their minds together and chalk out the phased execution roadmap to face the 2027- 2028 MBA aspirant. The strategy diamond for a typical business school will not only have to map the curriculum and pedagogy, but the human supply chain with competencies to run the programmes. It could well be as arduous as a blind man searching for a black cat in a dark room where the cat does not exist!

(The writer is faculty at MICA, Ahmedabad, in the Strategy and General Management area.)