Participants to the second Horasis Asia Meeting, held at Kolkata in eastern India on November 26 and 27, discussed among other things the need for quality education for professionals, with many of the opinion that education from top business and tech schools in the globe are not a guarantee of a business-ready workforce. While education is the key to building a new generation of leaders, the need for practical experience cannot be undermined, they surmised. 

While discussing the need to maintain a balance between quality and quality of information in a world that is largely getting dependent on social media, panellists looked at the ways of ‘valuing knowledge as public good’. From Cod Satrusayang, managing editor of Asian News Network, to Indrajit Gupta, co-founder and director of Founding Fuel Publishing of India, all agreed that Asian students were showing a growing preference for Western education, even though that did not mean they acquired the necessary skills to function outside the classroom. 

As Peggy Choi, Founder and CEO of Honk Kong-based Lynk, admitted that Asian business owners showed a reference for choosing employees with degrees from Western schools like Harvard, MIT and Yale, instead of from regional institutes, Satrusayang and Gupta believed that it was more important to select candidates with more practical knowledge than just degrees from top schools. The ANN managing editor said that he chose journalists based on the news clippings they provided instead of looking at their degrees. 

Eddie Thai, partner with 500 Startups, one of the leading global VC firms, based out of Silicon Valley in the US, cited his own example of how he spent “the exorbitant sum of $160,000” when he graduated from a top American university a decade back. “Asia can change things by not mirroring the US format,” he said, pointing out that with top schools like Harvard, Yale and MIT, all having their course material available online, Asian institutes could take the best from both words and create a format of their own. 

Geoffrey Clements, Chairman of Commonwealth Infrastructure Partners, who also teaches at a top business school in India as a visiting professor, believed the need of the hour for Asian education institutes was to improvise curriculum according to regional needs, instead of importing education structure from the West. Thai said that the focus should be on “developing a better system” to provide free, online education, utilizing the material from top schools already available. 

Gupta pointed out that while “all the best knowledge is accessible”, people “do not value” knowledge as public good. “Knowledge needs to be decentralized and that’s already happening. We need to work on changing the attitude of people towards free knowledge,” he said. Shamit Khemka, Founder and managing director of software development firm, Synapse India, cited the example of certifications Microsoft provides to professionals. “Microsoft has seen an 18 percent drop in enrollment to their certification course. This has happened because employers feel candidates with such certifications have either stopped learning or will not learn on the job,” he explained. 

By Drimi Chaudhuri/Kolkata