As industries across the world throw up fresh challenges, an increasing number of B-schools emphasise continuous learning

From case studies to global master’s and ethical pledges, traditional MBA programmes have gone through significant changes in recent times. The latest focus, however, is on lifelong learning.

With emerging economies dominating the landscape of global business and new technology compressing geographical boundaries, B-schools are emphasising continuous learning to keep pace with the changing contexts of the world.

The primary objective of continuous education in the 21st century, says Ashok Banerjee, Dean (New Initiatives and External Relations), Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, is to enhance employability. “Working professionals, who could not do a formal MBA (full-time), find continuous education as a way to keep pace with the latest developments in their field in particular and in the field of management in general,” he says.

Also, with companies facing greater challenges in terms of competition, uncertainty and impact of geopolitical developments, a better understanding of these issues is important.

Continuous education provides that edge, Banerjee adds.

While lifelong learning gives one an edge, it also helps professionals make themselves relevant. With technological invasion and news ways of doing business, traditional skill-sets have either gone in for a makeover, or they have been replaced by a new set of skills.

As Chandrajit Banerjee, Director-General, CII, points out, continuous learning is required in today’s world because of a fast-changing work environment and culture. Advancements in science and technology and automation have changed work processes, he says, adding that skill sets which were in demand at one point of time may no longer be needed by the industry today.

“In such a scenario, it is essential to keep adapting and upgrading one’s skills. This is especially true for management education since the mores of conducting business keep changing with every cyclical upturn and downturn of the economy. For instance, ethics and integrity are being increasingly emphasised as a requirement by global organisations today. Upward mobility is easier for people with the required up-to-date knowledge from top gurus,” he reiterates.

Need to respond

While B-schools across the world are acknowledging the importance of lifelong learning, some institutes such as the IIM-C are offering a range of programmes. These include a two-year full-time PGP for pre-experience and for people with 1-5 years of work experience; a one-year full-time PGPEX for those with more than five years of experience; long duration programme (through satellite plus a few campus module) for working professionals and short-term MDPs for working professionals. The above, says Banerjee, offers options of lifelong learning in a postgraduate setting.

Cambridge Executive MBA has announced that it will offer lifelong learning to its graduates through a new annual electives initiative. After graduating from the 18-month programme, alumni can now return annually to update their knowledge and skills throughout their career.

They now have the chance to take elective courses alongside current EMBA students.

When asked why Cambridge decided to offer lifelong learning to its graduates, Joanne Bester, Cambridge Judge Business School Executive Director, EMBA, said the Executive MBA already keeps in close contact with its graduates throughout their careers. Offering a lifelong learning option was the next step, which gives the school the privilege of contributing to its graduates’ education throughout their career.

Ever-changing world

“The world has changed, people rarely stay in the same job or with the same company for more than a few years, so they need to constantly ‘up-skill.’ For those who do stay with the same organisation, it is often useful to acquire new skills as they are promoted to new roles within their businesses. There are also huge pressures from globalisation and technology, which make the global jobs market extremely competitive.

This makes it vital to keep refreshing and adding to our learning, to ensure we keep pace with the changes in a fast-moving marketplace,” Bester says.

Anil Sachdev, Founder and CEO, School of Inspired Leadership, Gurgaon, sums up to say that the world is facing new challenges. He adds that at a time when greed is getting the better of goodness and grave financial crises are emerging, most senior leaders are unable to grasp the complexity themselves. It is for this reason that people need to work across boundaries and mindsets to discover ways of continuously asking new questions.
- Tirna Ray, The Hundu, Business Line