Home > Career, Organizational Culture > What’s the message from the Top?

What’s the message from the Top?

Is there space for values, merit and good practices in public life and corporate life in our country?

There are tens of thousands of youngsters being thrown into the job market by all sorts of educational institutions, who claim to be shaping their wards for the future that exists beyond the campus. Talking to Business Owners, HR Managers and HR Consultants I get a totally different picture. This isn’t Breaking News for many of you but everyone I asked tell me that most of the students are not worth employing – they are not aware of even the basics and they come with a baggage of misplaced expectations.

Two illustrations:

My friend Ramesh (not his real name) works for an educational institution with pan-India presence. He teaches Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility, both subjects being credit earning courses in the MBA Program.  The institution is run by a high-profile businessman (Yes, I said Businessman, not Educationist) who spends more on marketing and his public persona than in the quality of the courses run by his institute. The students who pass out from his college don’t make the cut in spite of spending lakhs on the course – but he is beyond caring. Education is not his business, money-making is! I wonder whether Ramesh’s efforts are necessary in this college and should he by working in this institution?

Sundaresh is another associate who runs a HR Consultancy. Recently he tried to sell the idea of an international standard professional studies college to a senior Government official. The Minister heard my friend’s pitch with utmost interest and said that it won’t work – Sundaresh was asking for land and support from the Government, but no matter how hard he tried the minister seemed lukewarm and non-receptive  The reason for the disinterest dawned on him long after the meeting – the “benefit” for the Minister had not been factored into the package, or mentioned during the discussion.

Social Good, boost to the economy, promotion of talent are terms reserved for speeches – they are not to be practiced. Money is the basis for all business; purpose, value and merit are either not seen as an essential or they are at best peripheral issues. It’s as simple as that!

A movie I watched this afternoon had this comment by the hero – “It’s economics, not emotions, that drives people!”

During the conversation with Sundaresh I mentioned the college where Ramesh works and my consultant friend said – “I wonder why so many Indian parents are damning their own children by sending them to such institutions. They spend their hard-earned money on courses that aren’t worth half the fee charged and the children come out of college frustrated and disillusioned. They have just one thought in mind – “How do I recover the amount invested in this program?” Pursing dreams or a career and contributing to the community are long forgotten ideals.”

What prompts businessmen and community leaders do this? It’s simple. Making money is seen as smart, no matter how. And the sooner you are able to whiz by in an S-class Mercedes or a 7-series BMW the more awe-inspiring you become. Getting rich fast is the yardstick of success in this country.

Unlike old fogies like me the young, fast-thinking students are very receptive and absorb the message quickly – Get rich quick!

And that is the lesson learnt in college, the only lesson – because the owner of the institution is fleecing the student, the teacher who instructs them in class is busy making money on the side conducting tuition – everyone is involved in this primal task of money-making. The kids go to college only to earn a degree, and nothing besides. Did anyone out there think that they went there to learn? Think again! When they appear for a job interview they can’t say much beyond the number they expect as salary – they do not know anything beyond that, because they have not been taught anything..

Who will provide them the lessons from the parallel world that exists – the world that everyone wishes to be a part of, but is afraid of entering. That of building careers, taking the tough road, going through the grind, learning the right lessons, relishing small successes, saving (instead of splurging), aspiring before achieving, performing before expecting accolades, contributing before looking for returns.

Is anyone up there listening? Am I asking for the impossible?

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  1. October 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    “It’s economics, not emotions, that drives people!” And that is a hell of an understatement. i don’t want to open the putrefying can of worms. No wonder the average Indian IQ is digging the gutters. Soon we will be the only ones providing the blue-collar support to the world.

    • JayadevM
      October 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Umashankar

      This one sparks all sorts of emotions, doesn’t it?

      I often wonder whether it worth all this fuss. Will anything change at all?

      And then again I am reminded of the Zen Master’s statement – “We act according to our true nature!” and do some more. 🙂

      • October 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm

        Words of enlightenment, Jayadev. You’d surely have heard about the sadhu and the scorpion. The scorpion was drowning and every time the sadhu tried to rescue it, it stung! There was a man watching the drama from ashore. ‘What a fool you are!’ he remarked to the sadhu. ‘But then no, my friend,’ the sadhu said, ‘The scorpion doesn’t know anything other than stinging!’

      • JayadevM
        October 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm

        Yes, great anecdote!

        Thank you for sharing it here.

        Wonder whether it is possible to change a person’s true nature? Just thinking out loud! Isn’t man said to be an intelligent creature?

      • October 29, 2012 at 3:53 am

        Precisely why we are writing blogs, or so we think!

      • JayadevM
        November 1, 2012 at 4:41 am

        🙂 True!!

  2. October 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Jayadev, is it the just the educational institutions that are to blame? They exist because there is a market for it. Our parents were very clear – it is up to us to get where we want to be, their support was not never ending, at least financially. And we knew exactly where the support extended to. Aren’t the parents also passing on the same message as these colleges? I will spend as much as you want, you better recoup it.
    Recently I heard, in northern Kerala dowry has taken another form. Girl’s father will get an admission for a doctor boy for his Masters in well known institutions. The current going rate is apparently 1 crore.
    The circle will go on until we each one of us decide that we will earn our life by ourselves. Unfortunately, it is a utopian dream!

    • JayadevM
      October 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      Hi Bindu

      I agree that parents too have a huge role to play in this terrible drama – but there is tremendous pressure from so many quarters, the lack of information for making the right decision and the tricks played by the institute (falsified data) to entice students / parents (I am visualizing a spider inviting an insect to its web for a treat).

      Yes, it’s frustrating and no answers in sight yet.

      Only by Creating awareness and though proper Education (the real thing) can this be changed.

      People need to temper expectations too.

  3. October 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    J…you’ve written about something that’s been vexing me for quite a while. I see no way out of this hopeless situation unless parents stop sending their children to such institutions. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and not merely as a way to earn quick bucks would help too. To be honest though, I don’t have much hope.

    • JayadevM
      October 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      Hi Raji

      Yes, before the kids its the parents who need to be educated.

      The path forward is a neutral Education Authority that creates awareness about the worth of each course using parameters to rate them.

      Parents need to put less pressure on the kids and institutions need to focus on development of the individual … will these remain just dreams?

  4. October 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Education is a business. That is why so many people (builders, politicians etc) are investing in schools and professional colleges. The students that professional colleges churn out are by and large unemployable, even for very low level entry jobs – receptionist, telemarketing, customer service. They lack the attitude and skills and the enhancement of these are not part of the curriculum.
    There is no point in blaming parents for sending their children to institutions that you have gives an example of. A vast majority of parents are ignorant of what is good education. Parents follow what society talks about.
    Herbert Spencer, English philosopher (1820 – 1903) quote on education has long been forgotten in India:
    “Education has for its object the formation of character. To curb restive propensities, to awaken dormant sentiments, to strengthen the perceptions, and cultivate the tastes, to encourage this feeling and repress that, so as finally to develop the child into a man of well proportioned and harmonious nature this is alike the aim of parent and teacher.”
    Educationists unfortunately do not have deep pockets to fund institutions and business men in education do not have the vision for development of society. There are however, people trying to make a difference. The Azim Premji University and Azim Premji Foundation are two institutions working to the larger objective of bringing about change by educating the people who can make a difference – the teachers.
    I wish them all success.

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 4:28 am

      Hi Satish

      A lot is rotten in the Education System we have in India. Parents and students don’t have enough information to take the right decisions. The enabling environment does not exist and most colleges put out incorrect information in the public realm. The college managements can easily get away with their ill-made rupees and poor infrastructure thanks to the corrupt system.

      And today, the desperate race to become a Doctor, Engineer and (the new status symbol) MBA is making education a fertile ground to reap the fast-buck.

      A lot needs to change.

  5. Kailash
    October 29, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    J the issue is starting at the grass roots only, My kido is in 1st std and in the school they are not teaching her phonics and other basic spelling making methods and when i raised the question in the parent-teacher meeting they bluntly says that shuruwat me to ratta marna padega. If kids are forced to so the simple way of memorizing than what happen in the future. This things grow messy as it goes up for higher education and many times we parents believe that we are paying so much money on educations and hence our kids are in safe hands but unfortunately it’s not always true.

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 4:53 am

      Too right, Kailash. It’s a frightening scenario. Millions of mentally maimed youngsters being thrown out of the educational system.

  6. October 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    You are absolutely right. People are paying money for a course hoping that they will be able to get a job. The main thing in their mind is job. Parents are forcing their kids to join some course, else it becomes their headache. Atleast they are relieved that their kids are studying somewhere.

    The top three money making ventures are Politics, Religion and Education. So all the businessmen are involved in these three types. Everybody needs a certificate and hope they can use that certificate to get a job. Unfortunate but true.

    People beat their kids and force them into certain streams which are supposed to help in getting jobs. Dreams are damned.

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 5:02 am

      Hi Sabyasachi

      Thank you for reading … and for the comments.

      It’s a terrible game … Parents who gamble with the future of their loved ones, students who are so caught up in the dream of the “big job” awaiting them at the end of the course that they fail to see the mess they are in and “educators” who are enjoying this season of rich harvests!

      Something’s got to give!

  7. Biju Krishnan
    October 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I think there are three or four ways in which we can help make this change happen. Raise the awareness on this subject; Support all those who are working towards this cause on the ground in whatever way we can. Be What you want the world to be and may be enter in to Politics or get on to the court and establish educational institutions.”When you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” – Quote from Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”

    • JayadevM
      October 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      That’s right, Biju! Those are valid ideas.

      A lot needs to change and someone’s got to take the first step.

      Believe – Act – Persist

      The Coelho quote is powerful message.

  8. Kutti
    October 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    There have been too many debates on this. Free market believers don’t worry about anything of this sort. They wait to meet the equilibrium, naturally will meet up. If the market doesn’t want quality but just stamp, then you will see those kinds of educational suppliers getting mushroomed in the market. Here the question also is who is the customer to an educational institute. Serious longer term players do consider ‘industry’ as their customers and students as raw materials and their role is that of a factory, where raw materials will be converted to finished products readily salable. Thus, the longer term players do appreciate the interrelationship between industry’s role in eventually building an aspiring brand. If you want to play the game for a shorter term, you still will be successful but only at the shorter term. Your brand is never going to take off as you missed this interrelationship. Now, let me tell the fact that 97% of the schools in India are not playing either by chance (lack of resources) or by choice. That is where you can see the real India. The ‘A’ category schools together produces only about 2% of MBAs, but Industry requires more MBAs every year. It is met from these ‘BCDEF…..Z’ schools. Working in an ‘A’ school is not so much fun!Things are so definite and you have huge resources available, unlike the other schools. Now think again! As a skilled conscientious individual where do you want to put your energies; at A or BCDE?… Cheers!!!

    • JayadevM
      October 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      Hi Kutti

      You make a strong point – but only as a marketer or as a cold analyst. The assessment isn’t wrong. Let the market find it’s level, isn’t it?

      See where market forces have taken the western world.

      I think it is not wrong to err a bit on the side of prudence and stop this free play of market forces. The “producer”, the “product” and the “user” need to benefit from this process.

      The “user” is crying about the desperate lack of talent and the “product” stumbles about in the dark while (at the current juncture) the “producer” is laughing all the way to the bank.

      There is a desperate need for checks and measures – like in the case of Stocks & Shares and Mutual Funds we need a regulator, with teeth and robust rating mechanism on the one hand and a user awareness campaign on the other.

      If everyone does not win in this process there is something rotten in the works – it isn’t education. Like many things in India this too looks like a scam.

      As for me, I want to create a A-category B-school that is fun to work and study at!

  9. kutti
    October 30, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I am sure it is a choice left to us as to what game we need to play on. Still holding on to free markets beliefs as a marketing instructor. Btw, I’ll support your dream.

  10. kutti
    October 30, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Just wanted to clarify a point. Educating the mind of a child (by defnition 6 -14 years) needs strict supervision and regulation unlike that of higher education for practice; here again we need to ensure that ‘we are not bringing in tough old authoritarians to bring up a bunch of lambs’, who are orderlies. Schooling is all about ‘blossoming the mind’. Higher education is more of an individual’s self selected choice in life and they already kind of figured out what they want to do in life. Another point is ask those reputed schools who is currently toughly monitored by those bunch of ‘tough authoritarians’ like the AICTE and the University systems, the schools don’t enjoy that much just like the students. Their monitoring systems (The checks and balances) are not market (industry as customer) oriented. It is the age old authoritarian regime, which none enjoy in this ‘Self selection based facebook economy’ of adults. Beware! A request: Please do not turn a brand new authoritarian when it comes to new launches. It’s time is over. Personally I can feel that everywhere.

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 4:39 am

      Hi Kutti

      There is a lot to discuss offline – this is a pet subject for you and for me.

      Just one point – I don’t think AICTE is an authoritarian organisation. It is more of a dead rubber-stamp organisation that puts its seal of approval when certain conditions are met. They have outdated stipulations that “educational institutions” need to follow; but beyond that they have no power or authority.

      AICTE does not pull up an institution for poor teaching and inadequate training of students, they just say how much books should be there in the library, how many teachers need to be employed and what subjects need to be taught. They do not assess quality of teachers, the upgradation of teachers and so many other critical parameters.

      We have to find ways to bring about change.

  11. October 30, 2012 at 11:56 am

    That’s a really tough question.

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 4:21 am

      Sure is … I wonder whether there is someone who can give a proper answer. We have very few Business Owners who play it straight and fewer are the ones who are willing to own up when they err.

  12. Jamy
    October 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Jay we briefly touched upon this topic sometime back; children are not given the right guidance or taught the values of education, their areas of interest are not monitored and they just caught up in this mad frenzy of accumulating wealth. There is also a major downside to all this – the ones who don’t make it become demoralised in life as well and that creates another whole host of social issues as well!

    • JayadevM
      November 1, 2012 at 4:51 am

      Hi Jamy

      A lot to change in the Indian Education System – more disappointments than successes here. It is a defunct machine that we have running here.

      I hope to initiate changes.

      Been a while since you visited the blog – thank you for the responses posted after each article you read. Best wishes!

  13. November 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

    nice article jayadev .. Its a very important topic and something should be done as early . I have met many students and they the “raw material ” are still nice but the bad influence on them is apalling and they are thoroughly confused …

    • JayadevM
      November 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      Hi Haroon,

      Missed your comment. Yes, so many confused kids exiting schools with unclear destinations. They need help and the Schools don’t care. School Managements believe that market forces will decide.

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