Critics of the MBA claim that it is too academic and does not impart useful business skills. It seems that the qualification is often (unjustly, in my opinion) blamed for unethical behaviour. I believe that doing an MBA is but one season in an individual’s life journey; a time of additional growth, and although the growth trajectory in this season is steep, it still does not equate to a total makeover.
Students enter the MBA programme as adults with an already established set of skills, values, behaviours and experiences. Participation in the programme is designed to enhance and shape thinking, reasoning and acting and challenges preconditioned paradigms. Although properly structured, learning is still mainly self-directed. In other words, students get from the programme what they themselves put into it. Business schools act primarily to create an environment conducive to optimal learning in which the student remains the principle player in the teaching-learning transaction.
Finally, the graduate does not stop growing after completion of the MBA programme. A new season commences in which the individual is neither static nor unreceptive to further influences, growth and developments. Having an MBA does not mean the individual has 'arrived' or has achieved the pinnacle of human existence, nor has the institution that offers an MBA. We journey, we explore, we discover, we improve, we grow, we aspire, we reposition and realign.
Perhaps the critics are expecting too much from an MBA? It can never be expected to be the ‘magic potion’ to fix everything, or be regarded as the main cause of the mess the world is in. Although not able to quantify it in absolute terms, I argue (from an auto-ethnographic perspective in the South African context) that the MBA is not too academic, that it does provide what the business world needs, that it imparts useful business skills, and that it does prepare leaders. In other words, it is relevant and practical. Can the critics unequivocally prove otherwise?
I don’t see how discrediting and questioning the value of the MBA helps the cause for making the world a better place. Perhaps we should aim rather at revealing the motives and politics involved in the arguing for or against the value of the MBA. This could facilitate an awareness of the qualities and shortcomings of each and enable the inception of informed debate. Though I doubt whether this debate will ever be settled, it will allow for the correction of bias and the inclusion of minorities within the debate.
The Milpark MBA is available part-time through contact leaning in the evenings and over weekends at the Melville campus or through distance learning. Applications for the second semester are now open and close on 24 July 2012.
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