Pic: AP.

Are western management ideas crippling Asian business education? asks Asia Sentinel’s Murray Hunter

In today’s rapidly urbanizing Southeast Asia, upward career mobility requires a diploma, degree, and some form of post-graduate qualifications, particularly within desirable publicly listed companies.

However, closer scrutiny of what is taught at these business schools shows a lingering a colonial hangover and psychological dependence on western ideas, an irony in a region where most governments publicly tout their own national values. Business schools stick steadfastly to occidental business curricula.

Business, entrepreneurship, and management courses are the fastest growing areas in Southeast Asian education. Along with ICT, these are the most popular areas within both the private and public higher education sectors. The relatively low overhead and operational cost is a financial windfall for colleges and universities. Business education has become the cash cow of colleges and universities.

(READ MORE: Leading business schools for Asian students)

What makes these courses financially lucrative is the relatively low cost of teaching resources for basic courses compared to other disciplines. Very little infrastructure aside from classrooms and lecture theatres is required. A great number of business schools develop curriculum around an array of international-edition US sourced textbooks on offer by major educational publishers strongly competing for business.

Consequently many regional business schools are bureaucratic diploma factories based upon single-textbook unit courses, oriented around exams that at best measure memory and retention rather than creativity and the potential of the student to be innovative. To cap it all off, these schools are burdened with quality assurance processes at administrative and teaching levels. Given the high time commitment needed to adhere to these processes, mediocrity is ensured.

The leaders and teaching staffs have a preference for the imported hype of management gurus who are popular in the media, even if these positivist instruments are not directly suited to the different contexts and varied business situations within the local environment. Local academics educated in the western paradigm locally or abroad are mesmerized by international management gurus.

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