Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Teaching - A "noble" profession nobody wants to get into

A society can often be judged by the professions it eulogises. What are the professions that are aspirational ? What do people want to be ?

Its a sad fact of our times that in no nation would the teacher figure at the top of the list. Very few people really want to be teachers anymore. If the best minds are not working at the schools, colleges and universities, how is a knowledge society like ours going to be sustained.

This is true of business education as well, With all respect to my academic friends, the best minds in the business world are not at the business schools.

Why ?

The obvious answer is that there is little money in academic life. It is a well known fact that an outstanding professor with a lifetime of experience would earn less than a green horn passing out of business school on his first day at the job. So why would anybody, other than those laudable souls who do it out of passion, ever aspire to an academic career.

But its not only money. Business schools often do not practice what they preach. The working environment in the business school is not great. Its a culture that breeds "satisfactory under performance". The best minds are not challenged to work there. More of this tomorrow.

Business schools also suffer from the extreme stratification that happens in say the sports field. The stars are feted like gods. In business schools the top 5% are world renowned - they get the plum consultancies, sit on Boards of companies, get invited to speak everywhere and are treated like rock stars. The balance 95% see nothing. This is not so stark in the business world. 50% may be toilers, but the other 50% can reach places.

But, at the end, its the value society places on the teaching profession. In many ways their position is similar to the nursing profession. If you ask somebody to rank the most "noble" of professions , teaching and nursing would come at the top and a businessman would appear close to the bottom. And yet, do we want to become teachers and nurses. No.

Yes, it does boil down to money. We must pay our teachers 5 or 10 times more. Some of the best minds in the world must get into academics. Its an investment societies have to make.

With apologies to the Duke of Wellington, "The battles of business are won on the corridors of Harvard". Little wonder that the business world is where it is today !