Following the financial crisis, there has been a reconsideration of the manner in which business schools have been imparting education. Questions are being raised as to whether alternate methods of business education could have modified some of the ethical and behavioural traits that may have fuelled the crisis. In this scenario, an article in the New York Times provides an interesting perspective, showing how business schools are moving towards a liberal arts type of curriculum. The following is what it calls a “radical idea in business education” in order to broaden horizons:
… that students needed to learn how to think critically and creatively every bit as much as they needed to learn finance or accounting. More specifically, they needed to learn how to approach problems from many perspectives and to combine various approaches to find innovative solutions.
Here is a flavour of the changes occurring:
As a result, a number of prominent business schools have re-evaluated and, in some cases, redesigned their M.B.A. programs in the last few years. And while few talk explicitly about taking a liberal arts approach to business, many of the changes are moving business schools into territory more traditionally associated with the liberal arts: multidisciplinary approaches, an understanding of global and historical context and perspectives, a greater focus on leadership and social responsibility and, yes, learning how to think critically.
Another notable example is the increased focus on corporate social responsibility among business educators.
Nevertheless, not all are optimistic about the impact such moves can make:
Will any of these changes have a big role in preventing future economic crises? Opinions here are more mixed. If businesses’ pay systems keep rewarding short-term, high-risk or narrowly focused behavior, many say, what business programs teach is unlikely to have much impact.
Beyond business education is a related effort – a recent newsreport points to the effort by Global Business Oath, an initiative of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, that has drafted a pledge to be taken by business school graduates and entrepreneurs in order to instill moral and ethical values in the conduct of business. Although it may be criticised as being purely symbolic, it nevertheless represents a change in mindset.
As far as legal education is concerned, it already takes into account a liberal arts approach. Moreover, legal ethics is usually mandated in the curriculum. Although many of the issues discussed above do not directly impact legal education, there are certainly lessons to be learned as far as corporate and business laws are concerned. Fortunately, legal education too seems to have caught up with this trend with increasing visibility on issues such as corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Even though these are yet to be firmly embedded in the Indian law school curricula, it is only a matter of time before that happens.