A number of books about B-schools abroad have been published over the last few years. But in my opinion, they are largely “tips in street smart business tactics” as stated in by Mark H McCormacks best seller titled “What they still don’t teach you at B-schools.” There is not much written on the realities of education and training of MBA students for their careers in the Indian business world.

Having worked for over 25 years in corporations and having taught at B-schools for over 15 years, I see some serious shortcomings in the performance and what we teach at our B-schools in India. I wish to share some of my personal observations and views with readers in this article. I will however restrict my comments to the marketing, advertising and communication areas in which I am involved and know better than some of the other areas. I see an urgent need for removing the shortcomings for the future of our student managers.

Education and teaching in B-schools, all over India, is in fact quite accepted and also advanced. And the need for qualified and trained MBAs from B-schools in corporates is also very high indeed today. But on the other hand the situation of “learning” at B-schools and “unlearning” at corporate jobs among students after the MBA qualification does not seem to have resolved or changed! Because of some things lacking in our

B-school education and training. MBAs are still expected to unlearn quite a bit when join organizations. This is where the shortcomings exist and lies the difference in “what they teach” and “what they don’t teach” at B-schools. There are a number of things they really don’t teach the MBA students at their small or sprawling infrastructure and campuses.

What the B-schools teach, as I said, is generally good and well known to all. But what they don’t teach is very vital in today’s context, and also not known much, to students in particular. This lacking shows up quite early on their jobs in the real business world. Also it is for some of these reasons that the reputation of MBA students is often negative in the toughest of business environments today, despite passing out of B-schools which may be big and well-known.

If one is to analyze the root cause of this, it is a mix of shortcomings in some fundamental aspects at many of the management institutes. The content of courses taught and their in-class teaching is generally bookish and superficial. The faculty is excellent on paper, but fairly weak in respect to industry interface and exposure and the realities of the corporate ways. There exists a vast difference between the academic theories and the actual practice in the course subjects.

Further, the objective of the institutes is to “pass” all the students, and then push to place them on jobs in organizations (at the campus interviews) and other available means, as if they were a herd of horses for sale from their stables!

Another aspect, leading on from this, and one that benefits the institutes, is having a continued and larger student intake. Thereby improving their image and ranking further in the surveys on B-schools undertaken and published by business magazines and journals. The ultimate responsibility of higher intellectual development and standards in education and training as a result, therefore, tends to fall on the shoulders of the students themselves!

I have always wondered if this is the right process building careers and the future of our  students as managers in companies and organizations?

Shortcomings in courses taught

A closer look at the courses at our B-schools shows a vast gap between the theories taught n class and the actual practice of concepts at the marketplace. Most of what is taught is from western books and are western concepts, with little adaptation to the Indian situation.  The depth of the courses is thus lacking and the faculty weak in adapting and teaching in respect of the Indian context. While the overall categorization and selection of the career oriented areas such a marketing, human resource development, finance, and information technology, today are appropriate and in line with the top B-schools all over, there are lacunas in the list of subjects the specific to the area. For instance, subjects like ethics, corporate governance, business communications, personality development, and business cycles and trends are some of the critical subjects one finds are conspicuously missing from the syllabi and course outlines in the areas where they should be taught. Late Sumantra Ghoshal said the same thing sometime back when he talked about the link between declining ethics and ascendancy of MBAs, in an editorial in the Times of India.

In the classroom work and projects for students, great emphasis is today is laid on case studies. But the students are hardly encouraged to read material – specifically related to the courses or even general business. Students therefore, most often do not even come prepared (having read) the case studies, and the discussion on them in class is therefore generally impromptu and unstructured! The case studies for discussion and analysis furtherstill are mostly from textbooks or from journals like the Harvard Business Review, wherein the context is mostly western and highly theoretical and difficult to understand and discuss. Also the faculty is often unable to get into the depth and realm of the case in the analysis of the problem and solution in the real life organizational situation.

Most B-schools do not have a system for developing indigenous case studies by the faculty or students for use in class for greater academic and intellectual stimulus, or for publication in refereed journals for the benefit of others.

Google.com culture!

Written and oral communication skills of students also are often far from ideal and left underdeveloped at B-schools. Students today are adopting a “Google.com culture”. Most of what they do in class and as projects or presentations is largely downloaded from Google.com or websites on the Net. Their own original thinking and individuality is not nurtured, developed or monitored by the faculty and the institute at large. Very often students just cannot communicate effectively in their written work and presentations, from the exam answer sheets to project reports to even writing of their own resumes for placement purposes. This has far-reaching adverse effect on their performance at their jobs and careers in organizations.

Similarly, while placement activity at institutes is given great importance, hardly any B-school gives the students practical training in facing interviews and handling group discussions thru mock sessions or any other practical means, followed with feedback on how students can improve and fare better at the campus interviews, and even later when they may want to change jobs. Personal interviews and group discussions for admissions and placement at B-schools are usually high voltage dramas and full of anxiety and stress which students need to know and overcome to perform with confidence and honesty.

Weak and cheaper faculty

In many of the non-IIM level of B-schools the poor quality of the faculty is yet another problem. They may be qualified PhDs, but their practical knowledge in their subjects, teaching capabilities, spoken and written English, presentation skills, general personality and sociability are often weak, and their command over students is thus poor.

Some of them may take pride in having done academic research and published papers, but these are usually too technical and theoretical without much relevance to the student’s and for preparing them for corporate work on their jobs.

At many of our B-schools a major trend that may weaken them further seems to be taking place. While we know that good faculty (except may be for IIMs) is very difficult to get. Yet one is witnessing that B-schools all over prefer and are going in for hiring inexpensive (salary wise) and inexperienced faculty to tide over the shortage and keep their courses going! Many of such faculties have no industry experience or exposure, and yet continue to teach vital subjects to students. I know two faculties who taught International Marketing, but have they not ever visited a foreign country on business, or for teaching, or even for a holiday! And surprisingly they still teach concepts of global business like customer relations, distribution, salesmanship, advertising and inter-cultural communications, among other topics! All from books, or with the help of slides which today come with books from publishers and which they download directly from the Net. It makes me shudder at the thought of the dismal quantity and quality of inputs of the faculty. Practical aspects, situations, and challenges are missed out almost entirely.

As one sees, in many cases partly because of non-availability of trained and matured faculty, and partly on low level of the compensation  paid, B-schools are taking on young, green faculty at the entry level with a hope of grooming them over the years. But often one finds that this faculty soon moves to greener pasture for their own growth and progress. The turnover of faculty in smaller B-schools is fairly high. The losers in the process either way are the students who have opted for the institute thinking it to be ideal in terms of infrastructure, faculty and image in the industry.

To overcome this situation, some of the B-schools now also have begun to lean on their FPM students who are doing their PhDs. They are motivating them to take on faculty positions in the institute after their 3 or 4 years of study. But still in respect of teaching and training capabilities they also fail to deliver on the required quality!  And the students again suffer in their intellectual growth and development, for which they have enrolled in the MBA programme.

B-school surveys and the  boycott by IIMs

In my opinion a horrific development that has taken place recently is that the top IIMs of the country have decided to boycott B-school surveys carried out and published by some leading business magazines and journals. The reason for this stated was the questionable methods and techniques adopted by the publications in conducting the surveys and the results they announce. While there may be some truth in the allegation, if IIMs pull out the surveys will be meaningless. How will the thousands of students assess the strengths and weaknesses of B-schools they want to join after the CAT exams? On what basis will they be able to choose and apply to one or the other B-school? This will impact their careers and life in many ways.

Furthermore, despite the boycott by IIMs, the concerned publications will still carry out and publish the surveys for  advertising revenue and earnings. As a result of this the second line and not so popular B-schools will gain (jump up) in ranking and take advantage of the situation for their own benefit, rather than the benefit of the student community for whom they exist.

It is indeed a very discomforting trend. One hopes good sense will prevail among the IIMs and they will relent. Alternatively, the publications may need to scrap the surveys altogether to avoid misgivings, biases and unhealthy competition among B-schools.

Greater academia and industry interface

In line with some of the observations I have made, it is obvious that there is great need for correction in the operations of B-schools in respect of course contents, teaching methods, faculty standards, and running of the programmes.

There is need for bringing about professionalism in the teaching and the administration areas. Hiring and inducting qualified and senior level faculty wherever needed and possible, delivering the requirements of education and organizations among students.

There is great need for more interface and interaction between the academicians (B-schools) and industry (organizations) continuously and with the objective of mutual benefit in creating good managers out of MBA students.

The tasks for B-schools should be to produce student managers who manage better and get work done more efficiently and effectively at the organizations they work for and at every rung of the corporate ladder. They should be leaders and trendsetter to take work place practices, ethics and culture, and management systems to profitable heights in the competitive business world today. The B-schools should have their own unique agenda for greater contact and interaction with industry and to build talent in students through new sets of skills that are needed, besides just the qualifications (MBA degree) to realize their dreams, and to successfully contribute to their organizations success on their jobs.

The young talent from our large and small B-schools must be the bedrock on which  Indian business and economy grows and prospers – locally and globally. And I hope when they look out for B-schools on the net they are able to log on to b-school.coms’ which have overcome many of the shortcomings I have pointed out!