The worldover, universities offering business and management education are asking hard questions regarding the purpose of their MBA programmes. MBA graduates are expected to be competent in functional areas, decisive and effective managers and leaders, with a strong moral compass and a firm sense of purpose.
“Perhaps, the MBA degree becomes more relevant than before, in the highly competitive world. The reason is that many functional specialisations may be taken over by robots or artificial intelligence. But, there is a need for an orchestrator or conductor who understands the individual artists (functional specialists) and brings out their collective best for best organisational outcomes. It needs empathy, negotiations, bargaining and striking alliances among other things. These tasks cannot be robotised. Therefore, a well-rounded MBA education makes the individual better prepared to compete not just with human intelligence but also with artificial intelligence,” says Dr. Anantha Nageswaran, Dean of IFMR Graduate School of Business at Krea University. Based out of Sri City near Chennai, Krea University ushers in a fundamentally different approach to higher education – Interwoven Learning – which brings together thought with action, arts with sciences, and the learnings of the past with preparedness for the future.
Dr. Nageswaran has a doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, U.S.A., and has taught extensively in India and Singapore since 2006. He was the Chief Investment Officer of Bank Julius Baer from 2009 to 2011 and has co-authored three books - Economics of Derivatives, Derivatives, and Can India Grow. He is a well-known columnist having written for The Economic Times, Business Line, Financial Express, and Mint.
Interview with Dr. Anantha Nageswaran:
Q. In a world where every professional degree or vocation is going in for micro specialisation, what avenues in education are open to students now?
A. Students can choose to specialise in specific areas that are both in demand and that suit their aptitudes and skills. It is clear that ‘multiple intelligence’ is called for from today’s professionals. So, students should learn to connect the dots and be able to draw from multiple disciplines and perspectives. Familiarity, proficiency, and interest in literature, in history and in arts will stand them in good stead. Therefore, in a world of specialisations that could be replaced by technology, there is also room for generalists to shine.
Q. In comparison to foreign universities, how competitive is the Indian business education programme?
A. The fact that Indian business education programme is competitive is evident from the number of foreign employers that recruit from India even for their overseas operations. Second, Indian business school graduates have gone on to occupy leadership positions offshore. Third, many Indian institutions of management or business education are beginning to get accredited by western accreditation bodies. That too is a testimony to the competitiveness and the standards of their business education programmes.
Q. What changes should be made in the curriculum at the primary and higher school educational systems to make the youth of tomorrow well-equipped to lead the industry?
A. Under the primary and higher school educational systems, they must be exposed to the culture, history and traditions of their country. Second, they must be taught life skills with progressive and increasing complexity. These life skills will make them better and confident human beings, competent to lead the industry. Skills of communication should be inculcated from an early age. They should become empathetic human beings too. Third, they should be taught their mother tongue and at least one more Indian language. Fourth, science and mathematics could be taught in a local language itself. Of course, that assumes the availability of good textbooks in the local language. Fifth, English could be taught as a language and the medium of instruction could be the local language. Sixth, apart from the fourth and fifth requirements mentioned above, it is important that there be rigour in Science and Mathematics curriculum. Seventh, history – local and global, appreciation of poetry and literature must be part of the curriculum, taken seriously and taught by competent instructors.
More than private schools, these changes must come about in government-run schools in the country. That requires accountability for education outcomes among teachers and their management, which is the government.
Q. What is your view of educating the youth of tomorrow in good governance, in both private and public services and enterprises as well as in the government?
A. In general, I welcome the idea of educating the youth of tomorrow in good governance, in both private and public services and enterprises as well as in the government. Regulatory compliance and ethics are important for private and public sector agencies and institutions – commercial or not.
Good governance requires good ethics and norms of accountability. Hence, education to the youth must involve a sound ethical foundation. Ethics cannot be a standalone course but must be interwoven into other courses.
Next, good governance requires, as a pre-condition, awareness of socio-economic and political factors and the environment in the country and, perhaps, globally too. Hence, it is important that the youth be made aware of them in their course work.
Q. What is the interwoven learning approach all about?
A. KREA University’s Interwoven Learning approach provides us the multidimensional perspective and ethical foundation to build a host of functional and behavioural competencies in IFMR-GSB MBA programme.
Q. How does IMFR Graduate School stand apart in the ocean of similar institutes?
A. Recognising IFMR’s service to the community since
1970, it was awarded the Best Institute Serving Social Cause-CSR by ASSOCHAM. IFMR also bagged the 2016 MMA Award for Managerial Excellence and the IMC Gold award for its institutional leadership efforts in strengthening the research eco-system during the 7th Indian Management Conclave 2016 held at IIM-Ahmedabad.