Business Education at Different Levels

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In a previous article, we surveyed the history of business education in the US, where it began, and its eventual migration to the European continent and then more recently to Asia. Thanks to our very close ties with the United States, the Philippines was the Asian pioneer in business education. During the American colonial period, trade schools for the preparation of bookkeepers, secretaries, and clerical staff for business organizations were established. Most of these eventually were transformed into colleges or schools of business after the country got independence in 1946. Today, after more than half of a century of constant experimentation and innovation in the design of business curricula, there is a plethora of business courses offered to the approximately 400,000 tertiary education students in the Philippines specializing in business-related studies.

I have been a participant in business education for more than half a century, first as an undergraduate major in accounting and later as a professor teaching economics to business students and business executives. I am offering some of my reflections on how to improve business education so as to prepare the appropriate human resources for business in the high-growth era that has begun during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III. Business schools can play a major role in improving the quality of the workforce for business, and especially that of managerial manpower.

We have to first distinguish business education in general and management education in particular. Business education includes programs for the training of skilled personnel in accounting, sales and marketing, finance, personnel management and other services in the carrying out of a business. It is much broader than management education which is oriented toward the provision of management skills at the supervisory, middle-management and top management levels of a business organization. As I have discussed in previous articles, the introduction of the K to 12 curriculum should be an opportunity to streamline post-secondary education so that a good number of our high school graduates can be encouraged to take courses that would require only one or at most two years for them to acquire technical skills that will be in great demand in a rapidly growing agro-industrial economy. Many of them should go to technical schools that train electro-mechanical workers, plumbers, electricians, butchers, etc. Those interested in business-related services such as accounting, computing, sales and marketing, retailing, etc. should enroll in trade schools that offer courses that last at most for two years, usually ending with an Associate in Arts degree. The last two years of senior high school would have imparted to these types of students the liberal arts training that would address their ability to engage in a lifetime process of improving their qualifications through on-the-job training, short courses, private study (especially online) and other continuing education programs.

What about those who realistically aspire for higher management positions in their long-term career path? They need not take a university course in business. Depending on their innate talents and interests, they should be encouraged to take courses in the liberal arts, physical sciences, social sciences, engineering, medicine, etc. From my personal experiences teaching in business programs, especially in the MBA program of one of the best schools in the world (IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain), I have come to the conclusion that the best undergraduate preparation for an MBA or an executive education program is a liberal arts course or courses steeped in the physical, social or health sciences. Those who studied physics, engineering, music, medicine and other fields unrelated to business usually perform better in MBA programs than those who majored in accounting, finance, marketing, or business administration in general. …