Management education in our part of the world, specifically Nepal, is a far cry from what real business needs. No wonder, both aspiring managers and potential employers find themselves on parallel tracks which never or, at best, rarely meet.
As a consequence, the nation’s managerial productivity remains abysmally low. Compared to other countries we cut a sorry figure. This also explains the abundant involvement of foreign consultants for most of our business and government projects.
Management education alone cannot be blamed for the present state of affairs. There is something basically rotten about our entire educational system, beginning from primary classes. However, this forum is appropriate to dissect and discuss the innards of our business and management education institutions only.
No Nepalese educational institution has ever figured in the Times (UK) Higher Education World University Ranking and the FT (Financial Times, UK) Top 100 Business Schools. These are the world’s most recognised and accepted rankings of educational institutions. In fact, none of our educational organisation finds a place in Asian or even sub-continental rankings. Though people are aware of the names of a couple of our older universities, our business schools continue to wallow in oblivion.
Indeed a strange and heartrending reality for the land of Gautam the Buddha, Himalayan rishis and munis and the closest neighbour of Kautilya Arthshastra’s renowned author Chanakya! For geo-political reasons, Nepal has been cosying up to China, an ancient land of wisdom. But the masters of our educational policy and administration have yet to understand, interpret and imbibe the tenets of the great master Confucius. Truth be stated: we are confused.
While Nepal has displayed intemperate eagerness to receive financial aid, grants and largesse from our neighbours and whosoever is in a charitable mood, we have been apathetic towards importing their knowledge systems. Myopically focussed on our daily needs, we have never cared to think of tapping the fountainhead of knowledge and education to create a brighter new generation and nation.
We remain all too happy sending our unskilled and semiskilled youth as lowest paid labour to distant lands where they get exploited as sub-humans and often perish. Their absence from our low population country has disrupted the social equilibrium as well.
But the powers that be remain happy as long as the remittances from our migrants contribute more than handsomely to our gross domestic product – 30% to be precise. How long will our fatigued and tormented youth continue to feed us with their sweat and toil? We are living on blood money.
Let us accept the fact and equip ourselves for the new world’s knowledge-driven economy. For that we need to overhaul our educational system, bottom above.
But I need to revert to the article’s focus on Nepal business and management education. The bane of the current system is its excessive or rather total dependence on bookish learning. If books alone could teach, then people could have become pilots and astronauts by reading the required books. Scientific innovation would have happened without toiling in the laboratories. Life-altering economic theories would have emerged without extensive and intensive field studies lasting years and decades. Management tools and systems would have been ours without scholars spending years on industrial shop floors. Or, at least, you could have learnt swimming without stepping into the water but by reading some book like ‘Ten steps to great championship swimming’.
Being in the epicentre of industry, business and commerce, I know how difficult it is to get even a good stenographer, secretary, assistant let alone a bright young manager. There is gross mismatch between B-school teaching and the real requirements of business and industry.
Why is it so? Alas, it is a big why.
One, Nepal just does not have the faculty to teach real business in classrooms. It is generally believed that teachers are appointed on the basis of their academic excellence. However, that is not usually the case as we are a country where ties, relationships and extraneous interests override core factors. But even if academic excellence is the touchstone, this does not guarantee good education.
Course toppers, who often achieve the feat by mugging notes and regurgitating the same in their answer sheets as is the custom in our educational system, do not always make the best teachers. Teaching is an art which, may I say, is a natural talent.
Two, a true academician is an indefatigable seeker of knowledge. He revels in backbreaking study and research and adds to the existing repository of knowledge. No wonder, the western world picks up the best minds from across the globe, provides them the best facilities and environment and creates new knowledge in diverse academic spheres, both pure and applied. That leads to new patents, sponsorship by business and industry and growth and prosperity for society and nation.
Research in Nepal is largely a cut-and-paste affair, thanks to the World Wide Web. It has scant practical utility. With little scrutiny and monitoring, these scraps of paper and a little string pulling, a national pastime, land one a university teaching job. You thus get saddled with a teacher who will ruin students’ lives for more than three decades.
There, even bright and dedicated scholars with love and ability for teaching manage to get little exposure to the hurly burly of real business and management. Only few have participated in any significant business activity. Unlike other countries, I have yet to come across any teaching faculty in Nepal whom the business community would like to engage as consultant.
Bookish knowledge, and that too half-baked, does not inspire any confidence among the employers. Our B-school students, therefore, emerge out of their classes like the blind led by the blind.
Four, this unfortunate situation could have been and can still be remedied to some extent if our management institutes try to expand and intensify their interaction with business houses or even government departments which are involved in social businesses and development activities.
Real life case studies are conspicuous by their absence. Elsewhere, they form the basic tool of instruction. The near absence of the stress on entrepreneurship in curricula produces seekers of safe and cushy jobs whereas Nepal today needs job and wealth creators.
Start-ups are the flavour of current business times, globally,but are unheard of in our B-schools who train students for safe desk jobs. The world’s top billionaires today were toiling, repeatedly fumbling and rising again in dingy rooms and garages till just a few decades ago. And the glorious tradition is continuing. Thanks to IT-enabled technology, the start-up trend is spreading like wild fire in the developing world also. Our B-schools need to produce venturesome pupils.
Even established business conglomerates are today looking out for management students who are imbued with ‘intrapreneurial’ spirit – the fire and the ability to lead and run departments or units within the conglomerate or company with a sense of ownership, driven by innovation and ethical governance. Such managers are known to have created miracles and changed the face of business houses.
Now the last yet not the least important point: who will create these miraculous management institutes in Nepal? One may be prompted to come up with names of known academicians and scholars. But nothing could be farther from reality. It is a known fact that our academic institutions are among the worst administered. Most of them are financial disasters and survive on government doles. In turn, the heads of these institutions are at the beck and call of their political and bureaucratic masters.
Nepal’s management education needs visionary institution builders who are also equipped with proven administrative and managerial ability. Institution building and academic leadership is notches above writing research papers, lecturing students, creating time tables, organizing seminars, conducting convocations and the like.
The world has found that the functional heads of leading universities are not always professors. Nepal needs practitioners. They profess less and practice more.
Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. (firstname.lastname@example.org)