Futuristic Education At Indian B-Schools

The scope of what a good B-School defines as management education is rapidly changing with the times.

As a business school faculty teaching marketing for the last 15 odd years, I know that ‘exams’ and ‘question papers’ are two words which provoke a spontaneous disinclination amongst students. Given this obvious understanding, I try to be as innovative as possible in setting question papers. After every exam, as a matter of conditioned curiosity, I quiz students on how they felt about their term paper. Reproduced here are five random replies from the most recent MBA cohort, and I have quoted them verbatim. Their replies set the context for this article. 

 “Loved taking an exam as everything was application-based!” 

“Creativity and imagination at its best. A very conceptual exam” 

“The questions were very innovative and tested my thought process” 

“Very intuitive and conceptual and it tested the real marketer within me”  

“Loved the question paper, Sir. As far as exams go, this exam was right at the top” 

To get into this generation’s mindset, all that is needed is a cursory content analysis of the random lines quoted above. Creativity, imagination, innovation, intuitiveness, conceptual strength and application orientation are the contours that the millennial is painting for something as transactional as a term paper. And all these years, the education system has been associating exams with precision, accuracy, memorization and reproducibility. This contrast embodies the paradox of management education today.  

Many new-age schools in India are cognitive of the emerging realities of the fast-changing education schema. They understand that in today’s T20 world of instant gratification, attention spans are getting reduced from days to hours, maybe minutes. Technology alignment takes a role more formidable than people alignment and devices are fast becoming an extension of the human body. Today’s generation spends more time with their machines and hence man-to-man communication is slowly getting rewired to man-to-machine communication and eventually to machine-to-machine communication.  With our machines being trained using artificial intelligence to learn and replicate human decision capability, the competition spectrum is no longer limited to men. Machines are now an equally powerful competitor. It knows no boredom, stays above politics and learns much faster than most human beings!  

The scope of what a good B-School defines as management education is rapidly changing with the times. A decade or so back, analytics (read school level probability and statistics) had only a marginal presence in Business Schools.  Today, Analytics (yes with a capital A) is a mainstay and is talked in the same breath as Marketing, Operations and Finance. Take disconnected words like Web, Social Media, Consumer, Risk or Supply Chain and throw the magic word Analytics to buoy it up – hey presto, you are signing up hordes of students for a 20-hour elective!  

The Gavaskars have retired with test cricket and the Tendulkars with one-day cricket. Today is a T20 world. The silver screen heroes of the 60s and 70s enjoyed public adulation for several decades and their films ran for months together.  Today, the best among the lot stay for less than a decade and a two-week run is all that is needed to rake back the investment in the digital print era. Organized retail had a monopoly for close to a century, yet e-commerce could not sustain for even a few decades and has given up its paramountcy to m-commerce. Disintermediation and dematerialization are bringing new business models to the fore and disrupting existing businesses and their supply chains. Education has to cater to this sense of rapid transformation and yet keep the essentials intact.  

A good product at the right price with a credible promotion is exactly what the customer still wants. A supply chain that creates an end to end value is precisely the prescription for sound business. A tight middle line still gives a great bottom line. These home truths have never changed. But the gestalt of constructs through which these truths are created and delivered is rapidly getting redefined. In this new world of blended truth, we have computing that happens in the ethereal cloud space, a reality that is getting augmented by virtuality, accounting that is getting frozen in blockchains, internet that is binding machines into a billion node framework and finally machines that are getting into frenzied learning more. The world of the status quo is passé.  

It comes as no surprise that the current millennial is armed with a natural irreverence. He hasn’t seen anything that looks like standing the test of time (read it as one decade). The education system of today needs to be nimble. It needs to be agile to changing technology trends. It needs to understand the importance of the huge emerging world of self-service technologies. It needs to adapt to the paradigm of co-creation of value. It needs to align with the millennial’s world view. This new-age assertiveness can be summed up in another one-liner from one of my students. 

“I have no idea how much can I score in this exam but it was really fun giving the exam. It was a creative way to judge whether there is a marketer in me or not ….”  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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