Academic journal article Journal of Business Administration

In Search of the Holy Grail: Reflections on the Internationalization of Business Education

Academic journal article Journal of Business Administration

In Search of the Holy Grail: Reflections on the Internationalization of Business Education

Article excerpt

As we approach the 21st Century, business enterprises are increasingly facing mounting pressures to achieve and sustain higher levels of industrial competitiveness in a rapidly changing global environment. Consider some trends: Between 1948 and 1953, world trade increased at an average of 6.7 percent per annum; between 1958 and 1963, this rate had increased to 7.4 percent; from 1963 to 1968, it had surged to 8.3 percent. By 1988, total world exports were four times greater than in 1960 (Dicken, 1992, p. 16). In the case of the United States, foreign trade as a percentage of GNP has accelerated from 5.2 percent in 1970 to 11.1 percent in 1980 to 16.1 percent in 1990; and foreign investments in the United States jumped from about $2.3 billion in 1960 to over $200 billion in 1989 (Economic Report of the President, 1991). Similar patterns of growth and development can also be seen in Canada. The conclusion for North American firms is inescapable: if firms are to survive and prosper in the international environment of the future, they must become more global in their strategic orientation and actions.

1.0 THE INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE TO BUSINESS EDUCATION

Just as business organizations are facing increased pressures to be productive and competitive in the global marketplace, so too are professional schools of business facing increased pressures to make their contribution to corporate competitiveness. No longer are business schools viewed as the repository of esoteric research and classical teaching. Today's dynamic environment requires such schools to be "relevant": to reflect the realities of the modern corporate world and to help train present and future managers who are capable of helping their employers achieve higher levels of performance. In particular, the challenge facing business schools (as well as entire universities) is to adequately prepare future business leaders to think critically about the forces and requirements that shape business operations in global markets and in different cross-cultural contexts. A critical path to achieving this objective is for business schools to internationalize their faculty and curriculum. We are increasingly - if belatedly - recognizing that the study of business invariably means international business. Thus, internationalization is essential if business schools aspire to remain current in their pedagogies, relevant to their constituencies, and competitive relative to their peers.

While the need for internationalized business education has been evident for several decades, mainstream business education in the U.S. and Canada has continued to focus on domestic issues and has kept itself relatively insulated from developments outside North America. Popular business periodicals such as Newsweek, Business Week, and Fortune have recently suggested that the erosion of North American competitiveness vis-a-vis Japan, Germany, and the NICs is due in part to the lack of an international mentality and a recognizable lack of international or cross-cultural skills. Such accusations, while perhaps overly simplistic, nonetheless are an indictment of much current thinking and functional parochialism frequently fostered in many business schools, especially in M.B.A. education.

Not surprisingly, recent exhortations to re-examine and reform our MBA programs have not always been well received. When the 1990 Nobel Laureate in Economics and University of Chicago Professor Merton Miller was recently asked to explain why U.S. competitiveness lagged behind Japan, he responded that serious concern over this problem was not warranted, since more and more Japanese students were beginning to study in American MBA programs. As a result, he concluded, it was just a matter of time before Japanese business performance would be dragged down to the U.S. level (Truitt, 1992). Even so, the urgency and tone of these appraisals do not eliminate the pedagogical, political, and institutional barriers to internationalization. …

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