The conundrum of Business Communication skills and English Language Skills
In order to get fairly good idea of how the future gets shaped, one needs to delve into the past.
The Past and the present:
From my first encounter with business management 42 years back as a student, to date, there is one subject that Business Schools continue to teach - Business Communication. The importance of the subject is underscored by the fact that it is taught in the 1st semester. The curriculum has kept pace with the changes resulting from businesses using new communication technologies and their impact on the way business enterprises communicate. The communication skills acquired by a student plays a crucial role in her/his professional success, when he/she starts working. In spite of its essential nature, management students don’t show much interest in the subject.
Over the years B-Schools failed to recognize that a fundamental issue is facing the majority of these students (excluding those from the so-called Ivey league B-schools) which is more basic; that is lack of English language skills. They do not have fluency in written and/or spoken English, even though English is a medium of instruction in many schools and/or is taught as a second language.
Business Schools in India continue to teach the 7 Cs of communication, Email writing, report writing, etc. without effectively addressing this fundamental issue. Consequently, it becomes an exercise in futility, as the students don’t possess adequate English language skills.
English is a business language and can only be ignored at their own peril. This was very well enunciated by Mr. Narayan Murthy, founder of “Infosys” in an interview given to “Money control” recently . He said “It is time we accept English as an Indian Language and encourage it as any other Indian language”. He further said that “graduates who lack proficiency in the language lose out in the job market. Mobility of labor at a higher level is only possible, if we focus on improving our English.”
In order to get a clear picture, let us consider the problem, the solution and the advantages again.
In any region in India, people speak a hybrid language that is a mixture of mother tongue plus English. They are effective in using this hybrid language, as we are at least bilingual. Very many faculty members of B-schools tend to use this hybrid language. The focus of the student shifts from English to the chosen subject area like science, commerce, humanities, etc., from 10th standard onward. His/her learning of English language has practically stopped after 9th standard.
Business Schools should hone the English language skills of students before they are taught Business Communication as a subject. This requires a paradigm shift in the thinking and approach of Business Schools by accepting that a challenge exists here. The Government (Union or State) will not intervene and make it mandatory for students aspiring to join B-schools to pass an English language proficiency test, as it is a politically sensitive issue.
B-schools will be able to make their students more employable and thereby attract more students. It can also be looked at from a societal perspective. There is a huge untapped human potential in India, who are underemployed or unemployed. This human resource can be tapped, made employable, and thus contribute to economic growth of the nation.
Let B-schools introduce a bridge course in English, before the main course starts, with a course outcome such as “at the end of the course the student will be able to use the language skill effectively”
Dr. Durgamohan Musunuri is an academician with an experience of 40 years in the industry and academics. He focuses on outcome-based education and dovetailing employability skills into the curriculum. He teaches subjects in the domain of International Business, apart from Business communication, content writing, and critical thinking.
Presently he works as Director, Bhavan’s Usha & Lakshmi Mittal Institute of Management, New Delhi and is also a visiting faculty at University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule Vorarlberg), Dornbirn, Vorarlberg, Austria. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and on his Linkedin profile.