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Education: Business or responsibility?

Encouraging enterprising thought leaders from our schools and universities is the way forward - The Intelligent SMEWhat is the way forward to bringing out enterprising thought leaders from our schools and universities? Sandhya Divakaran finds out.

Every business has its own motive for operating. The same goes for education. There is no business like education that has been growing in leaps and bounds. In fact, according to Apollo Global, the global education market has consumed over US$2.3 trillion in spending early this decade. This does not include capital expenditures on private education.

Education, therefore, is always in demand. Furthermore, the business of education might have a more solid footing than most other businesses. Says Prof. Richard Gillingwater, dean at Cass Business School, London: “Nothing is recession proof, but the education sector is more solid than any other business as there is always a demand for it.”

"Prof. Christopher Abraham, head of SP Jain Centre of Global Management"

Prof. Christopher Abraham, head of SP Jain Centre of Global Management

Although this sector has a lot of demand, the continuation of this business is also predetermined by market trends. “Recession hits across industries and education is no different, it depends on the kind of programmes offered and the kind of institution that is in place,” offers Prof. Christopher Abraham, head of SP Jain Centre of Global Management.

Current demand

Trends in the global business environment have indeed given rise to specialised programmes that were not offered in institutions previously. Ten years ago, the curriculum for an MBA was very generalised. and this has now changed to diverse specialised programmes. “For example, in the UAE and Singapore there has been keen interest in marketing, finance and logistics and supply chain management owing to these regions being logistics hubs. Many logistics professionals are looking for specialised qualifications within that sphere due to the immense opportunities available,” adds Prof. Abraham.

“Dubai is now a magnet for many overseas students. Our graduation batch o

"Prof Richard Gillingwater, Dean at Cass Business School, London"

Prof Richard Gillingwater, Dean at Cass Business School, London

f students had 23 nationalities!” notes Prof. Gillingwater. There are two main reasons students flock to study in the Cass Business School in Dubai: one reason being the Islamic finance elective in the MBA curriculum, which is very popular. Secondly, students who are looking for a career change and join a company in the region would rather network first, and establish contacts here before relocating.

Quality of education

The quality of education has undergone a many changes particularly in the Middle East. Particularly in the UAE, private investors have joined hands with government bodies to revise standards that were perhaps in existence more than a decade ago. Primary schooling is also being regulated by quality assurance bodies such as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority by rating individual schools on the basis of set parameters.

"Dr. Vijayam Ravi"

Dr. Vijayam Ravi

In this regard, Dr. Vijayam Ravi, academician and educationist, believes that schools must go beyond traditional education methods to bring out holistic learning in children. “We want children to become leaders of tomorrow, and thereby equip them with the skills beyond textbook learning,” she emphasises. Dr. Ravi is a pioneer in the Indian education field, for creating a ‘single text book’ system in India. She believes children should be inculcated with values such as integrity, compassion, and conviction.

Among other responsibilities, Dr.Ravi today mentors IFFS, a unique co-ed boarding school in India that has declared that it will never have more than 360 students studying in the school. Dr.Ravi says that education is not a commodity. She adds that personalised attention is very important for creating leaders of tomorrow, and management of schools must focus on the teacher to student ratio to bring out the best in children.

As for higher education, clusters such as Dubai Academic City have their quality assurance bodies that ensure the quality of educational curriculums is maintained.

Raising the quality of education, upholstered by technology upgradation, requires a lot of investment, and, therefore, makes for an interesting opportunity for private organisations to jump in the bandwagon. “This business has immense potential. If you look at the schools of today, there is a lot of scope. The best schools are not able to fulfill the demand. If one has a good business plan, and can set up a good school that offers top class education, why not? However, education is sacred, there has to be commitment, dedication, long-term vision and growth while setting about this business,” Prof Abraham points out.

Adding to this sentiment is Ehsan Razdavideh, Dean of Cass Business School Dubai, who believes there are two kinds of education providers – a kind who believe in top notch quality, and another kind being training institutes that focus on the monetary aspect.

Over time, the quality of education provided has improved, although not up to global standards, nevertheless, not far behind. Thanks to the concerted efforts of the governments of Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai that have created the infrastructure and environment to attract some the best universities in the world. In the early days of its inception, Dubai Academic City was a centre for 2000 students. Currently, the campus caters to 8,000-9,000 students, according to latest figures. Parents now have the option of sending their children to good schools right here in Dubai.

The way forward

How can schools raise the bar when it comes to the standard of education provided? Integration with technology and a focus on entrepreneurship will be key inclusions. Many colleges are now focusing on entrepreneurship courses. “We have a good percentage of students who are now moving away from relying on jobs to set up a business on their own. In the future we will be looking at more intensive workshops on entrepreneurship, and collaborations with SME forums. We would like to nurture entrepreneurship in our students because of a two-fold gain: more job creation and economic development,” notes Prof. Abraham.

Colleges like Cass already have ongoing entrepreneurship programme in London that will be brought to the Dubai campus. “We’ve been building our approach towards encouraging entrepreneurship and to provide the right conditions for it. With regard to this region, it should encourage the SME culture, which is not as strong here as it could be. We’d like to play a part in producing MBA graduates who go out and build businesses. We have a fund set up in London for entrepreneurs, and which we hope to make available for students here too,” discloses Prof. Gillingwater.

Integrating technology to complement the existing on-campus learning is a way forward. Strategy simulations, mobile apps for case study discussions, and e-readers are a few of the innovations at SP Jain Centre for Global Management, at a time when top grade colleges like Harvard and MIT have launched online courses free of cost. What cannot be taught online is developing competencies and skills. “Schools and colleges must now focus on building holistic human beings who have not only the knowledge, but also the emotional, decision making, problem solving, innovative, and communication competencies. These are smart skills that can create world class global leaders,” says Prof. Abraham.

 

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