In Greek mythology, Mentor was the son of Alcimus who had a special relationship with Telemachus as elderly person and guided him. English language adopted this word, which refers to a senior person who imparts wisdom and shares his/her knowledge with inexperienced person.
Mentoring is a highly skillful job and is no child’s play. A student may not be performing academically to his caliber and his learning disability may be due to number of reasons like language problem, lack of verbal/written communication skill, etc. When you go to a doctor and say that you have headache, a good doctor diagnoses the exact cause of ailment and prescribes the appropriate medicine rather than prescribe a wide spectrum medicine. Similarly, a good mentor understands the learning disability of a student and recommends the exact method to overcome it.
Having seen how a good mentor should be, we come to the next question. A student has a choice/freedom in selecting his role model or favorite actor. But, he/she may not have the choice to select his mentor and vice versa in educational institutions. By the way, the element of compulsion defeats the nature of relationship between mentor and mentee. Well, there is not much choice for either of them. If the mentor system is to improve the performance of a mentee, this aspect needs to be looked into. The next question, which arises, is whether the appointed mentors are indeed given sufficient training to do this assignment. A handful of them may get this opportunity, but bulks of them have to fend for themselves.
The definition of mentor says the senior colleague shares knowledge with the junior colleague. Here we take it for granted that the faculty is elderly person and has vast experience. But in Management studies the students invariably have work experience and a good numbers are not all that young as compared to the mentor. Moreover, the qualification and experience of mentors are not uniform nor the problems faced by the mentees are alike.
The other dichotomy is that the management students, who are groomed to solve problems of others when they get into their profession, are taking others help to solve their own problems. This will curb the initiative and problem solving skill of the mentee.
To sum up, if the students are to be groomed as “jack of all trades and master of all of them” they should be given an opportunity to seek advice from experienced person of their choice. When it is inevitable to appoint mentors like that, then a group of mentors (having varying experience in variety of fields and who are a good mix of elders and youngsters) should be assigned to group of students so that the collective wisdom of the mentors can be utilized gainfully to the mutual benefits of both.
As long as the Mentors are in different age group rather than in indifferent age group it will serve the cause of mentoring well.
Col(retd) S Vijayaraghavan,