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Industry interface is important for faculty

Industry interface is important for faculty
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First Published: Sun, Jun 01 2008. 10 20 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Jun 01 2008. 10 20 PM IST
It’s the summer internship period or “summers”.
Some business schools use this time for faculty development. Even the All India Council for Technical Education, or AICTE, has come with an innovative concept of summer camps to train faculty.
Such programmes no doubt help in competence building of faculty but there are two important issues that need to be addressed. The first is about the competence of instructors. And the second, whether faculty training is followed up or reinforced by strong industry interface in their institutes. Training of faculty is incomplete if they are not enabled to interact with industry on a regular basis.
Last week, advertisements released by AICTE came as a surprise to me. For a change, it behaved like a facilitator for improving the quality of education. The advertisements were about summer schools. The idea is to use the faculty of top institutes who don’t have teaching loads during the summers to train faculty of lower-rung institutes.
On face of it, it’s a good idea. But whether it will be effective or not depends a lot on who the instructors are and what they are going to teach. I have gone through the list of the instructors and it’s not impressive, especially for management teachers.
If AICTE wants to make the summer school programme a success, it has to make an effort in identifying good instructors. Some of the faculty who attended similar programmes, and whom I have interacted with, have given negative feedback about the competence of the instructors.
It’s not only the premier institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Management, or IIMs, that can be the source of good instructors.
In fact, in some private business schools, because of better pay scales, the competence of the faculty is even better than some of the IIMs.
For example, the University of Petroleum Energy and Studies, Dehradun, has roped in S.R. Singhvi to train its faculty in case method teaching and also in writing cases. Singhvi is currently a professor with the International Management Institute, New Delhi. He is known for excellent case teaching and he himself got trained from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
The training that management teachers need the most in our country is in reorienting their mindsets away from the lecture method and into multiple pedagogical tools, which involve not only the cognitive part but also the attitude, values and behaviour part of the students.
Besides the case method of teaching, there are now other methods such as role plays, simulation, theatre in education, etc., which are fast becoming popular. All these make the process of learning much more interesting compared with the lecture method, as students are not passive assimilator of knowledge disseminated by faculty. They become active participants in the process of learning and are constantly challenged to generate ideas.
Of all the tools, however, the case method is the most popular. Pioneered by Harvard Business School faculty in the 1920s, where more than 80% of classes are built on this method, it has now become a selling point of many business schools.
Unfortunately, many faculty members, even of some top B-schools, are themselves not well versed in the case method of teaching. If a faculty member authors a case, he or she can be more effective as a teacher of case method. In management education, it is often said that a teacher who teaches from books is a few years behind the teacher who teaches from field experience.
The faculty should author cases by interacting with industry. Most of the cases written by Indian B-school professors are arm-chair cases and not field cases. This does not lead to competence building of the teachers.
There are exceptions such as the Management Development Institute (MDI), based in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, which at present is developing cases on leadership and organization building in India. The MDI faculty is interacting with five different business groups—the Aditya Birla Group, Larsen and Toubro Ltd, ICICI group, Bharti Enterprises and Jindal Steel Works. In each organization, they are interviewing 25 top executives who report directly to the chief executive officer. In all, they are interviewing more than 100 executives in every organization. This kind of effort is needed in developing genuine field cases.
Industry should also cooperate with B-schools in sharing their data and giving them time. Lack of cooperation from industry is often the complaint that one gets to hear from B-schools.
This is surprising as industry is ultimately going to benefit from such interface; not only by getting better human resources but also by the creation of new knowledge. Business schools on their part should be more proactive and take the lead in interacting with industry. If industry doesn’t come to them, they should go to it.
They can make a beginning by organizing seminars and workshops and gradually graduate to conducting management development programmes, authoring cases, doing joint research projects and taking consultancy assignments. This symbiotic relation between institute and industry is a must for the growth of the faculty.
Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting & Research (C-fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools. Comments are welcome at businesscase@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Jun 01 2008. 10 20 PM IST