Monday, November 30, 2009 New Delhi
Give children the freedom to learn Our schools need to instil the true spirit of learning in students that should last a lifetime
VijayaSubramaniam POST-Independence, we have progressed from ‘teacher-driven’ methods to ‘learnercentred’ classroom techniques and ‘learning-centred’ pedagogy. We cannot say we have not kept up with the changing needs of education. However, as civil society, we still seem tobehighlydissatisfied with our educational system. Most of us feel that it has failed to meet the demands of our fast-changing society. What explainsthiscontradiction?Onereasoncouldbe that adventurous initiatives and innovative practicesaretakingplace,butinisolatedpockets andnotinthecountryasawhole.Thesepractices are being adopted only in the classroom and not inthewholeeducationalsystem. Without going into the bureaucratic and political angles of the educational system, the one absolutelynon-negotiableaspectof education,I think, is the ‘freedom to learn’. When there is a nurturing atmosphere in the classroom, where children can express their joy and excitement, anxietyandfear,whereachildcanchoosefroma widerangeof options,wheretheteacherandthe children experience the wonder of discovery,
where the teacher is more of a facilitator, there will be more meaningful and long-lasting learning. To teach has always been easy, but the ‘let learn’aspectisnotsoeasy.
Cautionary tale An old cautionary tale illustrates this point. A sheep found a hole in the fence and crept through it. He wandered far and could not find his way back. Then he realised that a wolf was following him. He ran and ran but the wolf kept chasing him until the shepherd rescued him back to the fold. Everyone told the shepherd to cover up the hole in the fence. They talked about the safety inside and the dangers outside. They also told the shepherd how convenient it would be to look after the sheep when they wouldn’t be allowed to cross the fence. But the shepherd refusedtofixtheholeinthefence. This story brings up lessons for the teaching profession.The primary task of the teacher is to ‘permit the student to learn’, to help the students ‘learn how to learn’. Formal education begins and ends at a certain point, but learning goes on untilourlastbreath.By‘learning’,onedefinitely doesnotmeantherotelearningof factsand gathering information about meaningless, trivial stuff, memorised for the purposes of clearing examinations, but the insatiable curiosity that motivatesastudentwhowouldsay‘Iamdiscovering new things on my own’. When this ‘eureka’ feeling is experienced, the gleam in the eyes of the student is a reward in itself for any good teacher.
We need caring and nurturing classrooms and full-blooded, not lifeless, teachers. We also need exciting textbooks that open new worlds to be explored and discovered. We need opportunities to freely express one’s views, discuss and arrive at one’s own conclusions, make and learn from one’smistakes,learnbyhelpingothers,takedecisions and accept responsibility for those deci-
sions, and to experiment without being obsessed aboutbeingrightallthetime. This is a very natural way of learning. Why is it then difficult for us to follow it in our schools andcolleges? Let us look all around. There is cut-throat competition everywhere. It begins very early with ‘baby shows’ in pre-primary schools—‘my
child has to win’. When literacy begins, and it is ‘my child has to come first’. Then, it’s time for extra-curricular activities both in and out of the school—‘my child goes for swimming, mine goes for karate and mine to dance classes’. Add the reality shows on offer on TV, and the list is endless. Then, it’s the entrance tests for various’prestigious’ courses. We want super kids! How fair is all these on our children? Do we adults have the right to rob our children of theirchildhood? It’stime forallof ustowakeupandreturnthe rightful joys of childhood and growing up to eachchild.Otherwisewetoomaycarryaburden on our souls like Zorba, the protagonist of the novel Zorba, the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis, after he tried to hurry the natural process of a butterflyemergingfromitscocoon: “Itneededtobehatchedoutpatientlyandthe unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperatelyand,afewsecondslater,diedinthepalmof my hand.That little body is, I believe, the greatestweightIhaveonmyconscience. ForIrealise today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.” The author is former vice principal, Sardar PatelVidyalaya,NewDelhi
CAMPUS OF THE WEEK INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT, INDORE THEME OF THE WEEK ARE WE TOO BUDGET-CENTRIC IN FRAMING POLICIES IN COMPANY BOARDROOMS?
While budget remains an important factor, many Indian companies have gone ahead with their expansion plans and are acquiring foreign companies to compete globally Tarun Kumar Jain
fe@campus,acollaborative, comprehensiveandcynosure initiativestartedbyTheFinancial Expressinsyncwithavarietyof highereducationinstitutes representingtoday’syouth, providesstudentsanopportunity topentheirviewsontrendsand trendsetterswithintheworldof business.Ourthemesforthispage aredecidedkeepinginmindthis objectiveandforthisweekweput forththetopic:‘Arewetoobudgetcentricinframingpoliciesin companyboardrooms?’Studentsof IndianInstituteof Management Indorefilledwithchutzpahsentus theiressays.Herearetwoof the bestfromacreativegroup of students.
Too much attention on budget is actually skewing the vision of organisations in the way they chart out their growth policies Siddhartha Sinha WHAT does the annual budgetary exercise mean to a company? Put simply, by means of this exercise, every company tracks its income, expenditure, profits and projects the resultant set of numbers for a year. Apart from being a sales forecast, the budget also lists the capital requirement to meet the numbers and create further growth. It tells the company how it is expected to do in the future. In due course of time, these expectations can be compared with the company’s actual performance. That comparison shows the management and other stakeholders how the company is performing and whether or not the goals are being met.
All this is good. But does the budgeting activity, as we see widely today, actually serve the strategic objectives of theorganisationandhelpintheirrealisation? Many think that this may not necessarily be the case. There is a pervasive belief that too much attention on the budget is actually skewing the vision of organisations in the way they chart out their growth policies. Jeremy Hope, founder and research programme director of the Beyond Budgeting Round Table, in his book Beyond Budgeting: How Managers Can Break Free from the Annual Performance Trap (Harvard Business School Press, 2003) marks the ‘fixed-performance contract’ nature of budgeting as the key culprit in making the whole
budgetary exercise counterproductive to the strategic objectives of an organisation. The budget-centric approach compels managers to spend the entire ration of their allocated budgetary quota, failing which they have strong chances of getting lesser allocation the next year. So, instead of ‘project potential’ and ‘business growth’ driving the budget, it is the budget that starts running the business. A contextual case in point would be how budgetary compulsions put restrictions in the way companies deal with a financial downturn. No matter how justified a ‘cost growth’ may be, a greater emphasis on meeting the targets set by a budget that responds by tightening expenses makes it virtually impossible to defend a cost growth even when it fits well with the larger business strategy of an organisation. So,arethereanyalternativemechanisms or approaches that may serve the purpose of performance plan-
ning? A stronger emphasis on clearly defined long-term performance benchmarking, coupled with more regularly spaced review of business performance, would make targeting budget numbers less relevant. Jeremy Hopewrites:“CFOsneedtoreplaceannual planning cycles with more regular business reviews that enable managers to see trends, patterns, and ‘breaks in the curve’ long before their competitors and thus improve the quality of decision making.” Therefore, to address ‘conventional budgeting’ becoming a hurdle to the strategic management objective, it becomes pertinent that planning review be done more frequently, while ensuring that organisational resources intended to power business don’t become hostage to policies that look little beyond the short term. The author is from the 2009-11MBA batch at IIM Indore and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
IF Indian companies were asked this question before 2007, the answer wouldhavebeen‘yes’.However,things have changed considerably since then. On January 31,2007, Tata Steel acquired Corus for around $12 billion. Corus was four times bigger than Tata Steel in terms of size and, of course, beyond Tata Steel’s internal budget and resources. The deal depicted the renewed face of Indian economy and emphasised the strength and confidence of Indian companies to acquire targets overseas, thus making ‘policy decisions’ not just based on budgets but also based on the ability to turnaround business and following the aspirations of stakeholders and management to compete on global benchmarks. The subsequent $6.4 billion acquisition of Novelis by the Birlas confirmed that Tata’s acquisition was not a one-off case and Indian companies are thinking beyond their budgets and national boundaries to expand globally. P Chidambaram, the then finance minister, remarked: “Indian industry today has the confidence to bid for business abroad, raise resources, purchase and manage enterprises.” Before these acquisitions, it is not thatIndiancompanieswerenotacquiring, but most of the acquisitions were constrained bybudgets.Infact,the policy of most companies were framed by this constraint. However, investment policydecisionschangedconsiderably and company boards started approvingglobalmergers&acquisitionforincreased global operation, and to gain synergiesanddomainknowledgefrom foreignpartners.Notonlybigconglomerates but also small & medium enterprises started ‘abolishing the constraint of budget’ over ‘aspiration and abilities’ and firms like Amtek Au-
to, Sundaram Fasteners, etc, also startedacquiringoverseas. Budget constraints started losing their effect in all major policy decisions of corporate boards. One of the reasons in case of Indian companies was ‘easing of capital norms’ and ‘availability of low-cost credit’ in the global market. External commercial borrowings, ADRs/ GDRs (American/global depository receipts) and foreign currency convertible bonds were the preferred routes to meet theseexpansionplans. However, things turned topsyturvy with the global financial crisis in 2008 and credit has become expensive. Companies had to borrow at very high interest rates and consequently, the budget again started playingamajorroleintheir decisions. Major expansion plans and hiring were stalled and companies started taking short-term measures like lay-offs and cost-cutting to sustain. However, companies that continued to make capacity expansion plans and started hiring early to prepare for the recovery will stand apart. Other important thing to note is that even when global companies like GM, Citibank and Lehman were crumbling, Tata Steel and Hindalco managed to weather the crisis considerably well even when the cost of borrowingwashigh. While the budget remains an importantfactorforcompaniesintaking policy decisions, companies that have gone ahead with their expansion plans and are acquiring business enterprises abroad to compete globally will emerge as winners in the long run. Theauthorisfromthe2008-10MBA batchatIIMIndoreand canbereachedat email@example.com
CAMPUS ROUNDUP SOIL adds marketing leadership programme to its programme portfolio starting 2010-11 School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL), a b-school led by a consortium of 30 leading companies across sectors including Johnson & Johnson, Asian Paints, Larsen & Toubro, Max New York Life which are responsible for areas such as curriculum design and mentorship of students, has added a full-time one-year programme in ‘marketing leadership’. It is scheduled to start from July 2010 in addition to its one-year ‘business leadership’ and ‘HR leadership’ programmes. Programme costs range from Rs 7-10 lakh. Approximately, 60 students will be inducted per programme on an admission criteria based on the holistic and psychometric Caliper test that gives insight into the
● Clark University, Massachusetts
applicants creative intelligence and execution quotient. There are 180 students who are a mix of fresh graduates with up to three years experience. While the business leadership programme focuses on transforming ‘competitive professionals to inspired leaders’, the marketing leadership programme will focus on ‘marketing and branding excellence’.
IMI opens campus in Bhubhaneshwar International Management Institute (IMI), which was established in 1981 in Delhi, will open, subject to getting AICTE approval, its Bhubaneshwar campus. The campus will commence its first two-year postgraduate diploma in management programme in July
2010, inducting 60 students. The new campus, spread across 16 acres, is adjacent to IIIT Bhubaneshwar. Expansion within the institute would include centres for research in areas such as public policy and executive education focusing on entrepreurship development. The institute has ten full-time faculty in place for Bhubaneshwar and fees for the
Amount: Clark University is
two-year programme including boarding and tuition are Rs 10 lakh.
We invite colleges and universities to send in information, for this section, on new faculty and courses, international alliances, industry projects and other current events to fecampusroundup@expressindia. com
offering scholarships and assistantships to international students. For Fulbright applicants, there is a guaranteed 50% cost share. For non-Fulbright applicants, the amount of aid varies considerably depending on the strength of the applicant. Eligibility: The graduate school of management at Clark University has launched a unique MBA in social change programme. Through a new collaboration with Clark's highly respected international development, community, and environment department, MBA students will learn to use modern technology and advanced analysis to creatively address environmental and development problems and promote social justice. Application
open for the Spring and Fall 2010 semester. GMAT and GRE scores considered. Opportunity for emerging professionals, work experience is not essential. Contact/ Website:
POroszko@clarku.edu/ www. Clarku.edu/ gsom ● Montana State University,
Amount: Montana State University has a huge budget for
scholarships and awards to nonresident freshmen who apply for admission for the fall of 2010. Eligibility: To be eligible, freshman applicants must complete as soon as possible their application for admission to Montana State University available at http://www.montana.edu/internat ional/isss/apply.htm and have their official ACT and/or SAT test scores sent to the university directly from the testing company. Scholarships and awards will be available for a limited time. Website: : http://www.montana.edu/admiss ions/scholarshipsnonres.shtml
Source: www.educationusa.state.gov For information on higher education in the US visit http://www.usief.org.in