Business Education in India at Crossroads: The Dilemma of Offering Programs that Build Employability Value

Business Education in India at Crossroads: The Dilemma of Offering Programs that Build Employability Value

Business education in India has been at the cross roads for a while now. The last couple of decades saw the emergence of a range of business programs at both postgraduate and undergraduate level with a promise of solving the “employability” challenge for thousands of candidates. The touted formula seemed easy enough, especially for those who had chosen the ‘commerce’ pathway post their level 10 School Education. The BBA/BB,/BCom qualification after completion of level 12 of school education became a rage, and soon enough the postgraduate top up with an MBA or PGDM award became the norm. The initial response of the Industry was quite positive as MBAs were sought after, and based on the reputation and ranking of the Institute of University, the starting salaries were also quite impressive. The industry was happy to receive trained executives to manage a range of functions-specialized or generic. The business graduates received job offers through campus interviews organized by the Institutions and based on perceived rankings or reputation, the salary range varied from place to place and from one industry segment to another. The post graduate business qualification attracted a salary premium that convinced young candidates that a business degree at an undergraduate level with a post graduate top up was the perfect recipe for a high paying business career.

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Emerging Issues and Challenges

The key issue with higher education in India has been an ongoing disconnect with the industry in terms of the quality of graduates or post graduates being produced from a perspective of employability. There is a clear gap that has emerged in terms of what the Industry expects and the talent that the institutions are producing. This issue requires the institutions and their academic leadership to take a hard look at the ‘graduate attributes’ that are required in terms of the knowledge and skill components as well as the curriculum and its delivery mechanisms. The industry too can clarify expectations from the young graduates as they seek employment opportunities, but it is for the institutions to walk the talk to enable the learners to become employable. The recent action by the government to cut down the ‘content loading’ of the curriculum for the 10th, 11th and 12th classes at the school level is indication that there is some realization of how content heavy delivery, that has poor alignment with industry required learning outcomes has failed at multiple levels. While it is early days, it may be the first step in terms of an overhaul of our educational system that is long due.

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Higher education is no different; the general tenor of the domestic programmes lends them to be content heavy, taking a cue from the long entrenched lower education approach. In the context of business management space despite nomenclature differences, the key issue remains the same, curricula are content heavy, modules exist in silos with no regard to an imminent need to have inter-disciplinary functionality. Industry is seldom part of the programme development process and as a result it is the academia that decides the ‘output’ that the programmes produce, while the industry grapples with a wave of business professionals ill equipped to perform at intended job roles. There are off course exceptions to the dismal picture painted above, but the pockets of excellence and innovation in business education are far and few. While buzz words like inter disciplinary, applied learning, and pedagogy innovation are being thrown around, it is going to take a lot more than this for institutions and industry to work together to offer collaborative programmes that enhance skills and knowledge aspects linked with employability.

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