The pertinent issue is whether present day business schools are manufacturing managers programmed to make better business decisions from ethical lens as well. Ethics, sometimes known as moral philosophy, is an abstract subject and filled with grey areas. Different people interpret it differently, at times in a manner that suits them.
From business school perspective, this is the study of moral values and judgments. It is about learning to spot and think through ethical dilemmas through the eyes of others. Plato the great Greek philosopher said, “But if you ask what is the good of education in general. The answer is easy that education makes good men, and that good men act nobly”.
The dilemma is—business schools stress too much on imparting conceptual knowledge as well as how to apply knowledge in real life setting. But do little to prepare students on ethical aspects of life. Students are often made to believe that in business world all that matters is hitting the numbers. Also, their mindset is steered to think that to succeed in a hypercompetitive and fast paced market place, embracing give and take policy works.
From these pressures comes temptation, and resultant unethical behaviour. Changing student career objectives, cost-benefit approach, focus of curriculum, and environment at campuses are factors bringing ethical in-discipline.
In the past students joined courses with the explicit objective of acquiring knowledge that not only provided them the opportunity to seek decent jobs, but also equipped them to meet the challenges.
However, developing ethical mindset is no more a priority. More and more students perceive business schools as a platform for placement with high pay packages. Higher education is becoming less academic, and more businesslike. Schools charge high fee and view students as consumers of education. They in turn tend to perceive unfair and unethical means, as acceptable and nothing to do with morality.
Courses are increasingly being designed with undue focus on practical aspects, not to say it is not required. But that encourage deeper understandings of the human condition. Fast pace of academic and extra co-curricular activities does not allow sufficient time for reflection and the contemplation of big questions about the meaning of life.
Evidence of change in educational focus can be seen in everyday schedule. Experts wonder if business schools are really developing students to be good human beings or merely producing sophisticated operators, labelled as future managers. They believe that new generations of business professionals need ethical thinking to develop better solutions for handling major corporate situations.
Studying importance of ethics within business, both in theory and practice will enable to learn about real-world challenges business. Samuel Johnson aptly stated that integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.
The writer is a senior professor in finance, FORE School of Management, New Delhi