A few years prior to India’s independence, Rabindranath Tagore had said, “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time”. These words were heard and forgotten by the educators of our country. The modern Indian education system seems to have been founded on the premise that all Indians must educate themselves to earn their living.
It is unfortunate that the entire system was designed to create clerks and officers who are trained to follow instructions. The process of the discovery of one’s own likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses was crushed under the weight of examination systems that tested one’s endurance, skill and knowledge, to eliminate those who were not cut out to be employees. This is one of the reasons that stop students from excelling in various fields, including sports and research. The establishment always believed that it knew what was best for all and continue to flog the philosophy of one size fits all.
The winds of change brought in by the technology juggernaut have influenced the attitude of the millennials and is also creating friction between the old school of thought and the new aspirations. Personalised learning is becoming the dominant force in education. World over, curricula are adopting a liberal and flexible design permitting the learner to create and develop a learning pathway aligned with the learner’s aspirations.
Jobs vs security
The changing economic scenario is fast busting the long-lived myth that jobs provide security. The millennials are yearning to innovate, experiment and take risks and this has resulted in a rapidly growing start-up ecosystem. The education system has to transform itself to become ‘bespoke’. Tailored to fit the body has been the genesis of bespoke and it is time the education system adopts tailored curricula to fit the mind and soul.
Management education has not been an exception to the above thought. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) were created to develop the workforce for the public sector in India post liberalisation, but they soon turned to be the hunting grounds for multi-nationals who were lured by the market opportunity that India offered. Till date, IIMs continue to attract aspiring students who are seeking lucrative employment opportunities. Private management schools followed the example and developed curricula on the lines of the IIMs making them no different in their output. The output became a function, adding another demi-exam to our system namely the Common Admission Test (CAT). It is now becoming imminent for business schools to build differentiators in their curriculum and consider the needs of the millennials to exercise their individual choices.
A bespoke curriculum is one wherein a learner is allowed to choose a learning pathway that best suits the leaner’s individual aspirations. Such a curriculum has to necessarily provide the learner with opportunities to experience and experiment with real-world engagements. The curriculum has to provide a good blend of hands-on learning and has to facilitate the learner at every stage to apply his or her original thoughts and garner his or her individuality to solve the problems. The power of choice must be fuelled and not discouraged by the curriculum design. More importantly, a curriculum must be differentiated from the syllabus and should be the function of content, experience, pedagogy, rigour and assessment. The learner should be able to choose the pace, content, pedagogy, rigour and style of assessment.
Aspiration and capability
To assist the student in making the right choices, professional mentoring and coaching should be engrained in the curriculum design. Final transcripts of learners emerging successfully from such a curriculum will be an accurate reflection of the learner’s aspiration and capability, leading to a right fitment in the profession. For the learner, such success will boost the confidence and lead to innovation, experimentation and risk-taking. A curriculum such as this will surely make our graduating management students more resourceful and also more effective in shaping their own careers and building the economy of the nation, happily.
The greatest liberation and freedom that a human being has desired is the power of choice. This has been proven with the success of democratic systems. Education systems have to disband the old way and adopt the new ‘Bespoke way’. This was well understood by Abraham Lincoln who said, “You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.”