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The present status of Liberal Commerce Education and Management


Focused Business Education: A study of the North Eastern Region of India
Jatindra Nath Saikia

Introduction: The status of Business Education of a country or of a region depends upon the business
activities that take place in the country or the region. More the amount of business activities that take place
in a region the better would be the status of business education in the region since business education needs
some practical exposures to create human resources for the business world. Though the history of business
education in India is not very long, India is one of the largest producers of MBAs at present. Every year
about 75,000 MBAs are produced in India apart from other degrees and diplomas relating to business
education. Because of the liberalization policy adopted by Indian Government since 1991 so far as the
business education market is concerned a large number of private business schools-foreign as well as
Indian- have been imparting business education in the country. It is noteworthy that the business education
of India has been following the American curricula and other pedagogical aspects in imparting business
education. However our discussion will remain incomplete if we do not examine the history of business
education in India.
History of Business Education in India: Business education was started in India as a vocational
course in order to meet the requirement of different lower grade jobs in business, industry and in different
government departments (Chattopadhya, 1987). As early as 1886, the first commercial school was setup in
Chennai by the Trustees of Pachiappa’s Charities (Mehrotra, 1987). The British government started a
school of commerce in Calicut (Kerela) in 1895. After that in 1903, commerce classes were started in the
Presidency College, Kolkata (Mehrotra, 1987). Different commercial institutions were set up in Mumbai
and Delhi between 1903 and 1912 which provided facilities to learn Type Writing, Short Hand, commercial
Correspondence and Business Method (Mehrotra, 1987). Commerce education received the status of formal
university level course after the establishment of Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in
Mumbai in 1913.
Chattapadhya (1987) stated that the objectives of commerce courses remained unclear till
independence. After twelve years of independence the Indian National Government appointed the Special
Committee for Commerce Education under the chairmanship of Dr. V.K.R.V. Rao, then Director of the
Institute of economic Growth, Delhi in 1985. The committee emphasized mainly on three points so far as
Commerce education is concerned. Firstly, Commerce courses of different Universities had to provide the
infrastructure of professional education in Accountancy and cost accountancy etc. but also to pave the way
for specialization in different disciplines included in the courses. Secondly, Commerce education imparted
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by the universities was not to be regarded as the competitor of professional courses, its role was
complementary. Thirdly, commerce education and management education should be considered on discrete
plans.
From the Rao Committee’s recommendations, it has been revealed that no effort was made to
professionalize the commerce education rather it was regarded as the facilitator of different professional
courses. Most universities believed at that time that professional education conducted by the Indian
Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and the Institutes of Cost and Works Accountants of India were
equivalent to BCom only, not MCom. The special Committee for Commerce Education stressed that
students should study post graduate course of commerce for further academic pursuits as well as for
diversion into professional courses. That committee also emphasized that in MCom course the students
should be able to pursue research as well as to fill up the post of commerce teachers in different colleges
and universities. Since then the commerce education has been remaining as a traditional education for
which a separate branch named as Business education emerged.
Commerce Education Vs Business Education:
Though some writers want to regard commerce education as a part of business education, but there
is clear difference between the two so far as the approach of the course curriculum is concerned. A number
of Management teachers like Dey (1996) has mentioned as “however, it should be clear that the
management education and Commerce Education are nothing but the two branches of business education.”
Parida and Parida (1996) have rightly hinted that the approach of commerce education and business
education is different from each other. They have clearly stated as “the priory, for the Indian economy is to
go for Excellency in business education. We have IIMs and private management institutes for imparting
same.” Some writers like Sikidar and Das (2006) want to state as “the term ‘Commerce’ and ‘business’
education is used synomously in many countries and often they are used interchangeably”
In this regard some obvious questions will clarify the confusion. Why have some other branches
like management education and other professional courses emerged despite having a full-fledged
commerce education being imparted by universities? Why did Indian Institute of Social science start
India’s first management programme in 1948 and stated as “:intended to systematically train manpower,
create and spread the knowledge required for managing industrial enterprises in India? Why was Xavier
Labour Relations Institute set up at Jamshedpur in the city of TISCO? It is also noteworthy that the
University of Calcutta initiated in setting up of the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business
Management, India’s first official management institute. Now obviously a question will arise. Whether the
Commerce education that was being imparted in that university was not sufficient to meet the requirement
of the business houses? Why did Government of India apply to the Ford Foundation in 1961 to launch two
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Indian Institutes of Management at Kolkata and Ahmedabad? The answer is that Commerce education
was totally traditional and theoretical and could not meet the requirements of the business houses. So there
was the need of setting up some institutes which could impart education as per the requirement of the
business houses.
From the above discussions, it can be concluded that the education which can fulfill the need of the
business houses can be regarded as business education and it is clearly distinct from Commerce education.
Business houses prefer MBAs to MComs, CAs and ICWAs to MComs for their managerial positions. It
means so far as the acceptability and popularity points of view the weight of business education is heavier
than the traditional Commerce Education.
In order to prepare this paper we have interviewed 200 students of TDC final year of different
commerce colleges studying commerce through schedules and almost 80% of them replied that they
would opt either for MBA or for other professional courses like CA, Company Secretariship etc. Out
of the rest 20% only 5% preferred MCom course as their desired destination. The study was
conducted among 200 students of Assam. When asked why they prefer other courses than post
graduate course of Commerce, they stated that they want to occupy some higher and prestigious
positions in companies with a fat salary.
The result of the above survey has revealed that commerce education has been facilitating to the
professional as well as business education partially. Partially because, to acquire business education e.g.
MBA, students of all the streams including engineering may get admitted if they can score good percentile
in the entrance tests. But Commerce education itself is not a Business Education to meet the requirements
of the increasing needs of business houses.
Nath Chimun K. (2006) has rightly said as “the contemporary business education scenario in the
advanced economies has a clear bias towards a close linkage between industry and business education.
Such a linkage would enable in identifying skill and manpower requirement. The content and delivery
system must be tailored to meet the specific needs of the target groups, for whom the course is designed As
a matter of fact, today the industry sector is also looking forward keenly to the business education to
provide pragmatic solution to their problems both long term and short term in the form of well trained and
adequately skilled human resources. However the commerce education has failed to offer relevant courses
to meet the requirement of the industry and make the product saleable.”
History of Commerce Education in Assam: Though traditional and liberal Commerce Education
was first introduced in 1944 in the Jaganath Baruah (JB) College, Jorhat, Assam, but the history of
Business Education is very recent for the North Eastern Region of India. However, let us see the status of
commerce education that prevailed in its early stage in the North Eastern Region of India. Goswami (1987)
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has stated that till 1944, Commerce Education in Assam was rudimentary. Initially, Assam follows
Calcutta university pattern so far as the intermediate level commerce course was concerned. Commercial
Geography with 200 marks and Commercial Arithmetic and Bookkeeping with 200 marks were introduced
in IA course. If a student takes these two subjects along with civics-200 marks, he was considered as a
student of IA (commerce) classes (Goswami, 1987). JB College was the first college in the North Eastern
Region of India to introduce these subjects (Goswami, 1987). But in 1944, JB College introduced full-
fledged BCom course consisted of 10 papers-8 compulsory and 2 optional. Advance Accountancy and
Auditing was the principal optional groups, besides Banking. Honours course was not introduced and the
students had to pass in all the 10 compulsory subjects and the division was awarded according to aggregate
mark obtained by the students. Gauhati University, Assam, the premier institute of higher education in the
North Eastern region of India introduced Commerce course in the Post graduate level in 1948. In the course
of time Commerce education has spread in the entire region and at present the Commerce Colleges situated
in different cities of the Region have failed to accommodate the students having more than 80%. But the
status of MCom course is not so much bright since almost all the brilliant students after completing BCom
join in different professional and management focused business education courses. It seemed that in some
universities e.g. Dibrugarh University, Assam, till 2009 the seats for MCom course were not filled in by the
students. But there is mad race to the Management focused business education among the students of
present time.
Why Mad Race to the Business Education: Our survey has revealed that the brilliant students are
crazy after the management focused business education. Both the domestic as well as the Multinational
Companies like to appoint Business Graduates only. Companies found that the skill of business graduates
from the commerce stream varied greatly across different colleges and fell considerably short of the
demands of the executive positions in a competitive world. In particular, Commerce Graduates had good
Accounting skills, but lacked requisite marketing, behavioural and operational skills. They had weak
grounding in oral and written communication skills, critical thinking and critical reading skills as well as in
Information Technology and team work skills that were becoming very relevant during the 1990s.
Consequently, given the cost of training Commerce Graduates, Companies offered huge premiums for
those with an MBA degree.
For the above mentioned reasons, the liberal commerce education has failed to attract the business
houses. Even. Nath Chimun K. (2006) has stated that in an apple to apple comparison made between the
commerce and other popular courses such as Medical, engineering and IT, it is seen the students of these
courses are able to secure a job-start such as Graduate Engineer/ Trainees, Microbiologists and so on with
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respectable remuneration. But a commerce graduate/post graduate fellow could get a job of either Account
Assistant or Clerical job with a thin salary.
There is not any doubt that the Commerce Graduates of top Commerce Colleges of India get
absorbed in different sectors of the economy. But the plight of Commerce graduates produced by the
colleges situated in small towns and rural areas is as pitiable as stated by. Nath Chimun K. Particularly
Commerce graduates of the North Eastern region of India are not so hot to be sold in the job market
because of a number of reasons and these are briefly mentioned below.
What Ails Commerce Education in the North Eastern Region of India: A lot of findings
regarding the ailment of commerce education have been published time and again by commerce teachers of
the country. A lot of seminars have also been organized in order to have a threadbare discussion.
Suggestions and recommendations have also been showered to develop the status of the stream. But till
today commerce education has remained as a liberal education facilitating candidates to different
professional as well as to management focused business education. So in this paper we are not going to
reiterate these aspects.
If commerce education has to be reshaped, it can be done by the teachers of commerce only. There
must be a special drive to train the teachers of commerce first. Particularly, the teachers of the sub-urban
and rural colleges of the North Eastern Region of India have to be given special training. First of all
teachers must develop a professional quality. With some exceptions, most of the commerce teachers of
different colleges of the region do not have up to-date knowledge of the existing corporate world. Without
this knowledge it will be foolish business to teach students about commerce from books only. Medium of
instruction should be only English since almost all the activities in the corporate world have been done
using English language. So commerce teachers must be fluent in English in order to teach students in that
language. But it is observed that this quality is lacking in most of the commerce teachers of this region and
the medium of teaching happens to be the vernacular language in most of the colleges. In each and every
class, involvement of students must be made compulsory in order to develop their communication ability.
An eloquent and competent teacher knows well how the students can be involved. There should be
provision of visiting business houses for the commerce teachers every year in order to acquire some
practical knowledge about the corporate world. Some practical problems of the real corporate world (Case
Study method) should be discussed in class room just like the IIMs, particularly IIMA. Students must also
be sent to acquire practical knowledge and the preparation of Projects should be made compulsory for all.
It is noteworthy that Dibrugarh University, Assam has introduced ‘Project preparation’ as a
compulsory work for the students of TDC Third year Commerce with 100 marks. In this regard, it is
observed that there is the dearth of competent teachers to guide the students in right direction in the
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colleges of Assam, particularly. Consequently, most of the students do not get any head or tail of the
project work. It is also observed that some of the students, due to the problems of proper guidance, resort to
the Internet and copy what is found there in the name of preparing project. So the concerned university
should impart a rigorous training to the commerce teachers in this regard and they should also be asked to
prepare a project on a subject of his/her interest to show proficiency to be a guide.
It is pathetic that a large number of commerce teachers of Assam do not know the application of
Computer-not to speak of using the internet. A commerce teacher without the knowledge of the application
of computer and without using internet source for the benefit of the students can not really be regarded as a
teacher of new generation students.
Before blaming anybody for the plight of the commerce education we the commerce teachers must
be well equipped with knowledge to be regarded as real commerce teachers of the new generation students.
It is really important who is teaching not what is being taught. A well equipped modern teacher would be
able to change the syllabus, deduct and add topics and he/she knows where to place the proposed changes
in order to get implemented.
Present status of Business Education in the North Eastern Region of India: The
emergence of management focused business education is of recent origin in the North Eastern Region of
India. But unlike the premier institutes of the country, imparting business education, the institutes situated
in the North Eastern Region of India have been far behind because of a number of reasons. In this paper we
are going to highlight the challenges that are being faced by the institutes imparting business education in
the region.
In Assam, four universities-Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University, Assam University and
Tezpur University offer management focused business education. These universities offer two year full
time MBA programme. Another institute-Assam Institute of Management-backed by the Government of
Assam offer two year full time post graduate programme in Business Management. North Eastern Regional
Institute of Management has also been offering different diploma courses relating to management focused
business education. Recently one IIM has also been set up in Shillong, Meghalaya. Apart from these, a
large number of private institutes opening their branch in the region have been offering MBA course.
Aridom Gautam (www.coolavenues.com) has rightly stated in one of his articles on General
Management as “Management is a practice oriented domain where the focus is on human capability and
learning weaving the class room experience to practice at work. In this regard, it has to be accepted that
management education in the North Eastern Region of India has not grown in an evolutionary manner. In
fact it would not be wrong to say that despite being relatively successful in placing the students the
institutes have certain lacuna which they have not been able to shed off.”
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Like the liberal commerce education, the management focused business education in the region
has also been facing a number of challenges. The region, being industrially backward, is not having a
corporate culture unlike other regions of the country. Due to the absence of sufficient business houses the
interaction between the institutes and business houses has been found to be insignificant. The Summer
Internship programme, which is one of the most important parts of every management curricula, has not
been implemented properly. The mushroom growth of private management institutes in the region has no
doubt created opportunities to acquire management knowledge for the students of the region. But these
private institutions do not have the required infrastructure. Even in some institutes, hostel facility for the
students is also not available. Such a management programme can not create managerial competency
among the learners where there is no scope for debate, interaction and discussion. Under such
circumstances, the critical thinking among the students can not be inculcated. It is observed that there are
not sufficient resource persons in the industry sector of the region who are willing to co-operate the
institutes. There is also dearth of competent teaching faculties for the institutes offering management
education. With some exception, the faculties are reluctant to conduct quality research. It seems, some
branches of different private management institutes situated in the region have been offering MBA without
having competent faculties. Consequently, these so called MBAs are either adding themselves in the list of
unemployed persons or getting settled with some low profile jobs.
Conclusions: In this paper it is stated that there are distinct differences between the commerce
education and management focused business education. Commerce education has been remaining as
traditional and liberal education whereas the business education has reached to a new paradigm. Commerce
course provides students for different professional as well as management focused business education.
Business education in India has been able to meet the requirement of the business houses. Business houses
prefer candidates from management focused business course in order to fill in their managerial positions.
We have clearly mentioned in this paper that if commerce teachers after being well equipped with required
knowledge teach the commerce students, the traditional and liberal course will get converted into a
professional one. For this, teacher’s mindset has to be changed and apart from books they should bring
different practical problems of the real business world to the class room. Committed teachers with changed
mindset will definitely be able to bring about changes in the course curriculum, which in turn would help in
converting the course into a professional one.
So far as the management focused business education prevailing in the North Eastern Region of
India is concerned, faculty development programmes must be adopted by the institutes. The management
institutes situated in this region should benchmark to the top business schools of India. Sub-standard
management institutes producing unemployable MBAs should be barred to continue in this region. After
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developing infrastructure the management institutes of the region should introduce some specialty group
relevant to the region.
It is worth mentioning that the entire North Eastern Region of India shares only 2% of its boundary
with India and the rest 98% with the South East Asian Countries of the world. The business schools
situated in this region should take care of this aspect and they should try to explore business opportunities
with these countries.
Reference:
Chattopadhya P. (1987), Commerce Education, Commerce Education in India, Edited by Devadas Bhorali.,
Deep& Deep Publications, New Delhi.
Dey, N.B.(1996), Globalization of Business Education in India, The Indian Journal of Commerce, Vol.
XLIX, Part-IV, No. 189, December, 1999, Edited by R.K.Jena.
Goswami P.C. (1987), Commerce Education: Objectives and reorganization, Commerce Education in
India, Edited by Devadas Bhorali., Deep& Deep Publications, New Delhi.
Gautam Arindam, www.coolavenues.com/know/ Accessed on 15th August, 2010.
Nath Chimun Kumar (2006), The Productivity Paradox of Professionalizaton of Commerce Education,
Professional Promoter, edited by Dr. Jatindra Nath Saikia and published by the Principal, Golaghat
Commerce College, Golaghat, Assam.
Parida and Parida (1906), Globalization: Prospective of Business Education in India, The Indian Journal of
Commerce, Vol. XLIX, Part-IV, No. 189, December, 1999, Edited by R.K.Jena.
Sikidar S.and Das D. (2006), Commerce Education: Professional Impulses, Professional Promoter, edited
by Dr. Jatindra Nath Saikia and published by the Principal, Golaghat Commerce College, Golaghat, Assam.

*Dr. Jatindra Nath Saikia is the Associate Professor, Department of Human Resource Management,
Golaghat Commerce College, Golaghat, PIN: 785 621, Assam. Email: jatin_saikia@yahoo.com

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