Education should improve one’s attitude, prepare you for a great life ahead, and generally equip you for a career. If this is what a good MBA degree should do for you, question the degree real hard.

If you are planning to get an Engineering degree or a Management degree ask yourself why do you want that degree. If you are a parent ask yourself are you pushing your kid towards that degree because it is the ‘in’ thing? Because all your friends and colleagues are doing it?

If you are a kid are you trying to get a degree so that – a) your friends are getting it b) no other way how you will even get called for a job interview c) you are able to keep away the pressure to get married…or you genuinely feel that the degree will add some value to your life?

The MBA degree on offer in India currently (outside the top say 20 colleges in the country) is not of a great quality.

However everybody has a reason to do an MBA:

parents think this is the only way to get a good job

kids think they have a friend who is doing so they should also do

companies use this as the only way to recruit – so that they do not have to recruit plain graduates and train them.

However something seems to be wrong with the whole education system!

We have so many MBA colleges and not enough people to teach. Also even though the fees has gone up, teachers are still not paid well enough to make it a lucrative career. So largely the quality of teachers is poor.

The syllabus is too vast. Recently one kid was showing me the syllabus of about 2400 pages for a 2 year course. Now it is impossible for kids to be able to read this whole thing, understand it and use it practically in their lives. For example most MBA (finance) kids to know fundamental analysis, technical analysis, mergers and acquisition, etc. but the same kids cannot make a decent financial plan for a person who says…”I am 30 years of age how much should I invest in a mutual fund so that I can get a pension of Rs. 2 lakhs a month after 25 years”.

Simple applications are rarely taught! Why an MBA degree be so far away from what the kids are going to use in their day to day lives beats me!

Recently I met a kid who had joined a big company. At the interview he was asked…’You are in a remote location, and that place is flooded…and you are unable to come out…’ what will you do?

He thought for a minute and said “I will call my senior who was also posted in the same place…and ask him what he did. I will do the same thing.”

He got the job.

I asked him…why this reply..he said “I have done a cut and paste of what my seniors do for the past 2 years in college… why should I think I will do something different?”.

Sad, but true.

Also no clue how many of these MBA students get a feeling that ‘accounting’ is a low end job, but finance is a high end job…’sales’ is a low end job, but ‘marketing strategy’ and ‘brand management’ are high end jobs…

Also too many of them expect to reach the ‘top job’ by travelling in a helicopter – nobody wants to take the hard grind up.

One MBA I know NEVER reaches a meeting on time – and he is just starting his life. I told him that there is a person named Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. He has been playing cricket for the past 21 years.

Even today when he is told that the ‘nets’ are at 9am…he reaches the ground at 8.30am..does how warm up, wears his pads, is COMPLETELY ready to receive the ball at 9am. Most others REACH at 9am or later.

And this man SRT did not have to go to an MBA college to ‘learn’ attitude.

Sad, but an MBA degree is just a degree, attitude has to be learnt on one’s own – it cannot be taught.

 

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  1. I happened to read what Buffett spoke to a group of students recently:

    “The best education you can get is investing is investing in yourself. But this doesn’t always mean college or university. I have two degrees but I don’t have them on my wall, in fact I don’t even know where they are .Thus I don’t think college is for everyone, one benefit is that it gives you a button. In fact none of my three kids graduated from college…. It’s always about consistent improvement of your abilities.

    First and foremost I look for individuals who are humble and in general good human being. Neither the grades nor the names of the school the potential hires went to are important in my hiring decisions. I am very keen in knowing potential hires background, family and motivation. Interest in finance and value investing is good; however someone with intellectual curiosity can learn the profession.”

    (Source: http://www.bengrahaminvesting.ca/Outreach/2012%20Conference/2012_Buffett_Notes.pdf)

  2. Hi Subra,

    2400 pages in 2 years is true. But the crux of the whole program is fast learning and application in real life. Thrust on case studies helps a lot. Most of the kids I know give importance on exams and grades, but key take away should be the learning. This is what professors keep on stressing on.

    But sad part as you said is that kids do for the sake of better job and money. Copy/paste is classic example of the same.

    BTW turned 40 today and still feels young!

    Cheers

    Atul

  3. Subra,
    Loved this article. Yes, what you have written is so true. Nowhere the apptitude and passion a part of decision making.

    Muthu,
    I find that most people – Buffet or Narayan Murthy rarely practice what they preach. Infact my rule is – whatever a person or a company speaks and harps about the most – is the one thing they do not do! And it has worked well for me. All the gyanbaazi is only for public consumption and an image building excercise.Sad but true!

  4. Subra Sir,

    While reading your article, i was trying to draw analogy to 3 idiot Movie. I can say i liked the movie. If i was to derive my take away is from this article would be :

    Kamiyaab Nahii Kabil Banoo…. (“Not Successful but Capable”). Our education system should teach more practical stuffs than what is written in books. yes books is good for basics but one needs to go beyond that.

    In today’s world commonsense is not so common.

    P.S : My take away could be quite different than what you intend to convey. All that i wanted to say is nice article and did touch the right nerve.

  5. Subra,

    My take from your article : Attitude can never be taught in (B)-school.

    You’re right with 2 things here, colleges are making MBA as amoney minting machine and parents attitude have only helped college authorities.

    Copying your lines: I was associated with one of the top notch Engg college which offered MBA, had given them few suggestions regarding infrastructre as well as Books to be kept and how to handle student-teacher relation….a 4 page report with detailed analysis never saw the light of th day 🙂 that was when I had discussed it with one of the ‘Trustees’ of that institute 🙂

    I just felt bad for the students…

  6. Sam- as a policy I’ve stopped getting into debate since 2011. I post my comments usually only here and Moneylife, very rarely on other portals. I’ve lot of both personal and professional regards for Mr.Subra, Mr.Debashis Basu and Ms.Sucheta Dalal. I get emails or comments challenging my views and opinions asking me to get into debate or discussion. Mostly I ignore them. If I feel the writer is sincere, I just send a one liner stating that he is entitled to his views and I’m not ready for any debate.

    I just felt like clarifying and I would not respond for any counter point:-)

  7. Subra Sir,

    What you have written is absolute truth however the harsh reality is corporates too know that but still demand for an MBA of some type.

    Being an engineer & with more than decade of experience in operations, there is a ceiling we hit without a MBA. Then the run starts for getting a part time MBA which everybody knows doesn’t help much but is needed to move up the ladder.

  8. Sir, something about the difference between ‘attitude’ and the ‘right attitude’? Also suggest we may use the word ‘learning’ instead of ‘education’ since our system is usually only a memory test at best.

  9. I was remembering those widgets that I struggled with in first year mba some twenty odd years ago. never in my professional life have I had to use these wizardly techniques.
    the syllabus needs ironing and basics of finance must be taught from school itself.
    solid post, subrabhai.
    anyway.

  10. Sanjay Singhaniya

    In large scale organizations, there are processes. Nobody wants to go against the processes because in future there is slight possibility of finger pointing. So everybody wants to play safe. So it is obvious that there will be trend of hiring MBA where a graduate would do.

  11. Technical Point — Indian education system is creating Hard drives…tons of gigabytes…but not even single CPU. We are very good workers but not good managers. When it comes for new innovation we are lagging as COPY/PASTE mentality prevails everywhere. Education system need serious reforms.

  12. If you see new products in computers field like search engine, social media sites, cloud….all were done by college kids in USA. So definitely US colleges have some crux that makes their students learn/think/innovate but similar thinking is rarely found in Indian Engg colleges.

  13. pooja ramakrishnan

    Wow bang on! So many people who come to teach…come with ‘what can these people do’ attitude also. Yes some profs and some visiting faculties are good, but many come for a ‘feel good’ or ‘I am doing something for society’ kinda attitude…and it sucks.

    Many girls are of course searching for a life partner, and some girls are avoiding marriage by doing an MBa (or postponing marriage by 3 years)…

    Did anybody say life is easy for kids? OMG no. I am about 25 and confused…and know that at 52 my dad is not sure if his career choice is right. I liked this article because you did not attempt ageism and say ‘I am older I know better’ – that is as much shit as sexism.

  14. Excellent,

    Wonderful article. You have enlighten some pin pointed part of MBA system.
    It is not just limited to MBA, the same is true in case of other college degrees. Vast amount students are going in direction where their collegeous are going.

    Education is not enaugh, but “VALUE Education” is important.

    Students are not touch in a way that they can explore their interested area.

  15. Sanjay Singhaniya

    @Sachin,
    I agree, US colleges are at the frontiers of technology. Same thing about US market. what US market sees today, Indian market will see after 5 years. When google was launched, I am sure you had not heard about “internet” itself. Correct me if I am wrong.

    But I also want to point out that you have “survivor bias”. Google survived and made it big. Behind one successful company there are 1000 failed companies.

    Would you let your son try 2 years in a startup? I may.

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