Why Assignments Make MBAs Dumber

Floyd Charles Fernandes
Published on: 4th Anniversary (20 Nov '15)
One of the most sought after courses, MBA, is losing its shine in India. Apart from the IIMs (Indian Institute of Management) most of the business colleges can’t boast about having students placed in top firms with average salaries above 15 lakhs per annum. Why is this happening? What’s eating up into the business education system?

A statistic reveals that apart from IIMs less than 10% of MBAs are employable. The number one reason for this is a traditional approach towards MBA. In India, importance is still given to assignments rather than research and practical knowledge. In a typical college out of a 50 marks subject paper, 45 marks are allotted to written examinations or tests, while 5 marks are allotted to notes completion and assignment submissions. This means, that in order to score a full 50 a student would have to allocate time to both studying for the written exam as well as completion of notes and submission of assignments.

Here’s why I think assignment submissions and completing notes are a huge waste of time:

1. Students spend an average of 2-3 hours per subject to complete notes/assignments.
2. Instead of putting their own effort into developing new answers, they simply use the copy paste method to save time and effort.
3. Although they’re getting 5 marks for this it doesn’t help develop their skillset and knowledge.
4. In the same time they spend to complete assignments and notes they could rather learn something new over the web.
Why Assignments Make MBAs Dumber
This is a complete waste of time, effort, paper and various other resources. In my humble opinion, notes and assignments of the above sort are more suited for school students, to instil a sense of discipline, hard work and time management in them. There is no such need for MBA students, as these qualities are already inculcated in them by the time they reach the MBA level of education (if these qualities are dormant in them then they shouldn’t be in an MBA).

Moreover, working on assignments and notes completion may encourage students to embrace the copy paste technique in not just their educational lives but also their corporate lives.

Assignments are given with a purpose of increasing one’s knowledge base and to encourage the process of self-thinking. In today’s day and age where technology plays such a vital role in a student’s life it is an inevitable truth that plagiarism has taken over the Indian MBA education system. We are no longer creating self-thinking individuals but rather robots who work for marks and not self-development.

It’s sad to see that the focus of MBA students today is to earn marks rather than merits. An MBA student is expected to possess a certain skillset, good communication skills being at the core of it and writing assignments and notes does not help achieve this objective in any way.

May I suggest a quick fix? Using printed and typed out notes can help save time and effort. Assignments should be digitally collected. Through this, MBA institutes can achieve multiple goals:

1. Students can maintain an archive of all assignments in one unified format.
2. It becomes easier to type and edit assignments in document editing software.
3. Plagiarism becomes easier to detect.
4. Comparative analysis is easier to perform.
This way instead of focusing on completing notes and assignments students can focus on their strengths and weaknesses and dedicate more time towards skillset development. The best assignments to give are the ones that add value to an MBA aspirant as well as his resume.

Take for example a student who can’t speak English properly, he could be given an assignment wherein he’s required to learn parts of the language and show improvement or progress every alternate day. Another example would be a student who has stage fright, his assignment could be, coming to the stage every day and speaking to the audience about any random topic. These type of assignments can help develop an individual in a holistic fashion. More time should be dedicated to team building, task based and management centric activities rather than submission of assignments and completion of notes.

But if MBA institutes spend more time in honing a students’ soft skills and skillset in general then when are they going to complete the syllabus? My take on that is: at an MBA level a professor’s prime duty is not to teach the students the a, b, c, d… but rather ask them to research and learn the letters of the alphabet on their own while assuring them that any doubts they face will always be cleared by the professor. To help the cause, relevant guidelines can be given to them so they don’t end up researching anything out of context. To keep track of students’ progress, to understand whether they are dedicating enough time and effort to studying the course plan contents or not, weekly tests can be conducted. Say for example, on Monday the professors can display topics to study for the week, with few important questions related to the topics and then announce the test on a Saturday. This gives the students the entire week to study the topics.

This way if a student is able to study more in less time he can dedicate the remainder of his time to doing something more productive for himself. Conversely, if a student requires more time to study a concept, then throughout the day the library is at his disposal where he can spend as much time as required to understand the topics for the week.

Here’s a list of things MBA institutes should focus on other than the course plan of the affiliating university:

1. Public speaking.
2. Group discussions.
3. Presentation skills.
4. Current affairs.
5. Case studies.
6. Industrial visits.
7. On field market research.
8. Documentation and reporting.
9. Cracking interviews.
10. Management centric games.
11. Confidence building activities.
12. Conferences and symposiums.
13. Mock business plan executions.
14. College and departmental fests.
15. Event management.
16. Online free and paid certificate courses.
17. Work from home style internships right from the first semester.
18. Creative software knowledge (e.g. Adobe suite).
19. Talent based classes conducted by the students, for the students.
20. Real time networking.
21. Individual entrepreneurship based guidance.
22. Current trend analysis.
23. Developing improvised business solutions to existing problems and presenting them to the respective companies.
24. Corporate Social Responsibility.
25. Office utility software knowledge and so on and so forth.
Instead of conducting 9 to 5 classes if an institute would instead say to its students “today you are free to go wherever you want. Your objective is to understand local businesses and their challenges. Target any business, be it rickshaws or bakery shops or cinema halls or your paani puri wala. Understand how they function and generate profits. Ask relevant questions and prepare a report and presentation in 2 days”, wouldn’t this be an MBA worthy assignment?

Such assignments not only add value to a student but also enrich his experience making him more job ready. In the end experience is the best teacher. It takes the test first and teaches the lesson later.

Written & Submitted by GIBS B-School Student.
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