The quality of education among India's business schools has not been able to keep up with their growth in recent years. But if each 'good' b-school mentors the faculty of five lower-rung b-schools in its local region with IIMs taking the lead, vast improvements can be made in the general quality of Indian b-schools, says Prof Suresh Ghai, Director of the KJ Somaiya Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai and former President, Bombay Management Association.
Management education is more than a hundred years old in the world. In India it took wing in the late 1950s and the first IIMs at Ahmedabad and Calcutta were established under mentorship with the Harvard Business School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Today we have 11 IIMs. Despite more than 50 years of existence and heavy support from government and their foreign partners, the IIMs have only now begun to find their names among the top 100 b-schools of the world. There could be many valid reasons for their exclusion, but the fact is that they are not on the high table. However, admissions to IIMs, especially to Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta is the most difficult in the world. They probably have the highest applications to admission ratio in the world.
Today there are almost 3,000 b-schools in the country, out of which about 2,500 are approved by AICTE and remaining (ranging from the prestigious ISB to the dubious IIPM) conduct unapproved programmes. All these Institutes produce about 200,000 management graduates per year.
Outside the IIMs, very few b-schools attract really good students, the most well known being the Indian School of Business (ISB), XLRI Jamshedpur, FMS Delhi, MDI Gurgaon, the IITs, NITIE Mumbai, IIFT Delhi, NMIMS Mumbai, KJ Somaiya, IMI Delhi, IMT Ghaziabad, TAPMI Manipal and perhaps some more.
It is common knowledge that quality standards of education differ significantly among Indian b-schools. If you looked beyond the IIMs and a few other institutes mentioned above, there is strong need for quality improvement in the more than 2,000 b-schools before they can come upto a reasonably acceptable level. Even among the different IIMs and the next level of b-schools, there is a wide quality gap. Shortage of qualified faculty, quality of curriculum and shortcuts for course completion are some of the ailments. Thanks to the government regulators, the availability and quality of infrastructure has considerably improved in the last few years.
As b-school Deans and Directors, we frequently discuss among each other as to why the Government supports only the IIMs. Can the 3,000 MBAs produced by the IIMs fulfill Indias aspirations of being a fully developed country in the next 20 years or so? Why is it that there isn't enough government or sectoral support to improve the standards of teaching (and we are not talking about research, which is much worse) in the next level of b-schools?
Stray efforts have been made by some of the IIMs, the regulators and others to train the faculty of other b-schools through long and short term faculty development programmes and quality improvement programmes. However this has not really helped much, as the number of faculty that such expensive and long term programmes at IIMs can accommodate has been limited. Though the AICTE provides some limited grants to b-schools for this purpose, most institutes are just unaware of it or find it too cumbersome and feel uncertain about the benefits of applying for these grants. Secondly, the trained faculty does not pass on the learning gained to their colleagues. The reading material, case studies, simulation games, videos, exercises and teaching methodology etc remain confined to a few. The problem gets compounded when faculty members with family commitments feel reluctant to be away for long periods for such faculty development programmes. B-schools too feel reluctant to let their faculty go to such training sessions as replacement faculty is not available in most cases, compounded by the acute faculty shortage faced by most institutes.
The author has been proposing a 'multi-level diffusion model' of mentoring Indian b-schools. I have suggested that each mature IIM should mentor the next level of 5 b-schools in their region. Non-IIM b-schools can send their faculty to the IIMs for a period of 2-10 weeks. The faculty will attend classes, may take some classes along with IIM faculty, interact with them and understand their practices and imbibe their teaching methodology and pedagogy. The salary of this faculty will continue to be paid by his/her mother institute. The IIMs may provide family guest accommodation to these trainees which will also be paid for by the source Institute along with all travel and local expenses. Similarly, the IIMs can send one or two faculty members to the interested / attached institute for a period of 2-10 weeks; the IIM faculty may teach a course or part of a course and interact and mentor local faculty in teaching methodology, case method, pedagogy, writing of research papers etc. The salary of the visiting IIM faculty will be paid by the local Institute and it will also make arrangements for lodging, boarding, travel and local transport. So the IIMs will have no financial obligation. In turn this non-IIM institute will mentor 5 institutes of next level and so on.
The advantage of this model is that there is no financial burden on host institutes or the IIMs and the arrangement is at their convenience. The learning is informal and widespread and can be diffused easily. It is expected that by this method at least 500 b-schools can improve their quality of teaching and research and stand a chance to compete in international rankings.
Cooperative localized learning
Local level Faculty Development Programmes at state capital level can be organized for a group of b-schools by a better group of b-schools having reputed and experienced faculty. This can be facilitated by local management associations, organizations like AIMA and its local management associations or chapters, AIMS and other regional and national forums of management schools. The local programmes will have the advantage of faculty not having to leave their family for long periods and lower costs. The costs for these programmes can be shared by the beneficiary b-schools.
The AICTE or its yet to be born avatar 'National Commission for Higher Education and Research' (NCHER) may give credit to institutes which mentor other institutes, and if possible fund these programmes.
I feel that such models can improve the quality of management education across a large number of b-schools in the next five years and improve the standing of Indian b-schools on a world stage.
Dr Suresh Ghai is the Director of Mumbai-based KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research and the immediate past President of the Bombay Management Association. He has been educated at IIT Roorkee, IIM Ahmedabad and Panjab University and has spent 28 years in the industry followed by 13 years as a management educator. The views expressed here are his own.
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