India education

Here comes the MBA

In many countries, people debate the professional merits of an MBA. But in India, people are doing MBAs not just to up their chances in the competitive job market but also to make themselves more eligible in the even-more-gruelling marriage market.

Is that because these qualifications are exclusive and well respected in the country – a sign of economic and social status? Quite the opposite. It is ‘qualification inflation’ that makes the business degree an essential for any would-be bride or groom. 

This week Indian-born Satya Nadella (pictured) became the third chief executive in the history of the world’s largest software maker, Microsoft.It’s a major win for Nadella. It could be a win for Microsoft.

But apparently, it’s also a win for India.

 

Massive open online courses, also known as Moocs, are a relatively new phenomenon in education, allowing people to take free classes from some of the world’s most eminent professors on their laptops anywhere in the world.

Excitement over these programmes reached a peak last year with the western media delirious at the idea of accessible, quality education for all. Bu where should Mooc platforms head for their next phase of growth? EMs, of course. 

Investors may not look at school attainment rates very often but perhaps they ought to. Study the indicators and you see that – in terms of education at least – Sri Lanka far outshines the rest of south Asia.

The country is far from paradise. Sri Lankans hunger for a lasting peace after a long and painful civil war; sections of the Tamil minority still complain of repression. But the country’s record in education at least holds out some hope. 

Indian education desperately needs improvement. As the government is looking to raise the pupil-teacher ratio in government schools (as part of the Right to Education Act), even the poor are sending their children to fee-paying schools.

Perhaps India can get better value for money out of their teachers? A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that low cost, untrained contract teachers are no less productive that the formal option. Is there a solution here for a debt-laden public sector? 

During school holidays children in India are traditionally looked after close to home and at minimal cost. It’s one advantage of living in an extended family with a never-ending supply of aunties, eager to spend a day pinching the cheeks of your children and keeping them well fed.

But as the country develops, that seems to be changing. Parents are increasingly keen to get their children out of the house and into productive activities. India’s summer camp industry is expected to be worth Rs10bn ($179.9m) by the 2017-2018 year, up from Rs4bn today, according to Assocham, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. 

A visitor recently put it succinctly: “Why does everyone here want to be an engineer?”

It was an unwittingly incisive observation. Engineering is traditionally considered a “respectable” degree in India – a route out of poverty and into a well-paid job. But there may be fewer of those jobs to go round. 

What do Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys, Rajat Gupta, the disgraced former chief executive of McKinsey, and Arvind Kejriwal, leader of India’s Aam Aadmi Party, have in common?

They all graduated from the renowned Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). But would these men have reached positions of power without an IIT education? And could they have enrolled if IIT’s tuition fees were significantly higher? 

Indian students sitting down to take the Common Entrance Exam that may grant them entry to one of the country’s top MBA programmes this autumn will likely find themselves surrounded by far fewer fellow test takers. The number taking the test has fallen nearly 28 per cent since 2008, to around 200,000 this year, according to Mint newspaper.

In 2009, as the global financial crisis caught up with India, and management degrees became less attractive than a steady job, the number of students appearing for the test began dropping, and for the past two years, it has remained just over 200,000. This despite the fact that there are now 13 prestigious Indian Institutes of Management, as opposed to seven.