With nearly two-thirds of its population under the age of 35, India packs boundless potential in its demography. Every year, India belts out an army of graduates, who are equipped with degrees but not the skills that make them employable. The impact of rote-learning on the freshly-minted workforce feels more pronounced than ever, given how technology is reorienting the industry every six months, and they struggle to keep up. How does one begin to address this huge problem?
Let’s look at how students of medicine, owing to their training, are able to do so well, both in terms of learning outcomes and employability. Situated inside a hospital, a medical college has practising doctors teaching the students, and the classes are all essentially internships. Students work with their hands, right from day one, and treat real patients rather than solve obscure problem sets, making their education truly hands-on.
What if the pedagogical approach of a medical school could be brought into a management programme? I recently had the chance to explore the Masters’ Union School of Business, which is trying out something very similar through its flagship Post Graduate Programme in Technology and Business Management (PGP-TBM) and here is what I found.
Masters’ Union is focussed on building a hands-on learning experience for its students. To begin with, the teachers here are not career academics who themselves have never stepped into a boardroom or a business office, but real practitioners — CXOs, managers, managing directors and board members — who have spent years solving complex problems for the corporate world, and showing the path for others in the industry to follow. These practitioners bring their rich experience to the classroom, telling authentic stories of successfully tackling real challenges.
Moreover, they provide one-on-one mentorship to students, and run ‘shadow’ programs, where students follow them into their original work environment and watch them in action. The founders of the programme have managed to get several such dynamic practitioners on board, who have a passion for teaching and are keen to give back.
A key advantage of having teachers from the industry is that they design classes using a very practical approach. They help the students learn by doing, bringing in real consulting projects from their parent companies as assignments. For instance, a course on Marketing involved designing a marketing campaign for a credit card company under the guidance of its Chief Marketing Officer.
Similarly, some courses take students to company locations so that they learn about their operational model firsthand. For instance, students learn about supply chain management through an immersive visit to the Reliance Refinery in Jamnagar, Gujarat. This engagement with veteran practitioners is likely to bring coveted employment opportunities to the students.
The PGP-TBM grooms students to understand how new technology is impacting the operational models of modern businesses. All corporate or business-oriented jobs today require a sound technical aptitude. So, the curriculum provides a functional understanding of upcoming technologies like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and how they can be used to bring innovative business ideas to life.
Masters’ Union also has a few research centres that try to fuse technology and business, with guidance from industry experts. The best research emerging from these centres will enrich the perspective of the students, keeping them aware and future-ready.
The PGP-TBM is located in the very heart of Gurugram’s business district, among several global companies — all part of the elite Fortune 500 club — and not tucked 50 miles away from Delhi. This major locational advantage provides the scope for cross-pollination of ideas. Students get to sit in for guest lectures or focussed mentoring sessions by corporate stalwarts, working out of the same building. Eventually, if the students strategize well, that life-changing internship or their dream job could end up being just a short elevator ride away!
Masters’ Union seems to be ably addressing the challenges in India’s higher education sector. It’s a small start towards an ambitious goal, and its success could take a diverse range of programmes and disciplines towards a hands-on, experiential approach which may build yet another army of graduates, but one that can make sense of the future as it unfolds and are competent to take charge of it. We owe this to our youth and the world.
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