Why Indian business schools will soon teach about karma, Mahabharata
Ethics and morals have arrived at India's business schools. Source: Shutterstock

Business schools in India are set for a revamp of their curriculum, which will see the introduction of a new course on Indian ethics and concepts.

Beyond the usual lessons on finance, marketing, accounting and economics, business students in India can expect to learn about, among others, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, an ancient treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy, according to Hindustan Times. It’s part of the government’s plan to instil “good values” in the country’s future CEOs and CMD.

“The scandals of Satyam, NSEL crisis, Sahara fiasco, and increasing trend of wilful loan defaulters to banks, huge deposits made by a few business firms/individuals during demonetisation exposes the weak foundations of ethics and values in Indian business scenarios,” the course outline says.

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the regulator for technical institutes and business schools in the country, had drawn up the revised curriculum, which is mandatory for all business schools, excluding Indian Institutes for Management.

Starting this year, the “Indian ethos and business ethics” mandatory course will teach the “gurukul” system of learning as well as karma, the ancient Hindu spiritual principle of cause and effect, where what one intends and does will affect his or her future.

Management lessons will also be extracted from the religious holy books, such as the Vedas, the Mahabharata, the Bible and the Quran.

Indian business schools aren’t alone in revising their curriculum to address the challenges of its time.

At the Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, US, professor Tim Vargus includes Uber and its “bro culture” in his syllabus. Classroom debate centres around the start-up’s sensational business success and rampant corporate misbehaviour.

“Something has changed,” said Ed Soule, a professor at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business.

“I would be kidding you if I told you there wasn’t a different vibe in the classroom.”

For assignments in Soule’s class, students are tasked to discuss sexual harassment at Uber, the social justice protests by National Football League players and how companies like Amazon respond when attacked by US President Trump.

“There’s a turning point in what’s expected from business leaders,” said Leanne Meyer, co-director of a new leadership department at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business.

“Up until now, business leaders were largely responsible for delivering products. Now, shareholders are looking to corporate leaders to make statements on what would traditionally have been social justice or moral issues.”

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