The vast majority of good business schools are in the
"developed world” – what the World Bank calls "high-income countries”. However,
the fastest-growing demand for business education is in the "developing world," where an increasing number of business schools and on-line education providers
are struggling to meet that demand. The
question often comes up at conferences and other discussions whether curricula
and delivery mode existing in developed countries are appropriate to the
developing world. To paraphrase Gertrud Stein,
"is a business school a business school a business school?” or do
business schools serve different needs in the two worlds. The same question
arises for online business education providers.
Two sets of recent statistics shed light on the question,
the first about curricular content, and the second about delivery modes.
The most recent World Bank flagship publications, the "World
Development Report – 2014” just came out. It includes a table entitled
"Selected indicators related to risk management at the enterprise sector level”
(p. 306). Somewhat oddly, the table shows the relative importance of wage
employment in total employment. Persons who work for wages and salaries are
mostly part of the "formal sector” consisting of companies and government. In developed economies they represent 85
percent of total employment. Not so in the developing world. In the average Sub-Saharan
African country as well as in India, only 17 percent of employment is for wages
and salaries. What do the remaining 83
percent live on? They work as farmers or in petty services, and live off the
sale of the goods and services they produce. In other words, they are
independent small entrepreneurs.
Unsurprisingly, traditional business schools serve the
corporate world, helping students and other participants to find good jobs or
rise in the hierarchy. Business schools in the developing world also first and
foremost serve their respective countries’ corporations. However, these schools
face a huge need for basic entrepreneurship education. Consequently many
developing country schools and also a growing number of online courses are
focusing on self-employed small business owners, many at the "base of the
pyramid." Ability to pay is of course a major challenge, but innovative
low-cost solutions are being developed. The point here is that the needs for
business education in the developing world are quite different from those in
Access to technology is a second fundamental difference
between the two worlds. Fresh off-the-press data from the International
Telecommunications Union mirror the structural differences noted earlier. In
the "developed world," nearly 80 percent of households have Internet access at
home; in spite of rapid increases, the proportion in the developing is under 30
percent. The contrast sharpens even more when looking at broadband access. In
Europe and the United States, slightly under 30 percent of the population have
broadband subscriptions; in Africa, 0.3 percent; in India, 1.14 percent.
Conversely, 70 percent of the Indian population and 63 percent of the African have
mobile phone subscriptions. of whom one-sixth use smartphones.
The implication for business education is clear. While
online education solutions for developed world clients focuses almost entirely
on delivery by computers and tablets, scaling-up in the developing world also
requires research and development of courses that can be delivered on mobile
phones, only a minority of which are "smart."
Now if I were a business school professor, I would draw a 2
by 2 figure, but I believe that the message is clear: scaling-up business
education in the developing world requires curricular emphases and technologies
that are different in important
respects from those that serve the needs of the "developed world."
Our June Tunis conference focused on entrepreneurship
education for the developing world. GBSN and INSEAD’s forthcoming Singapore
event – "Tapping the Potential of Technology to Transform Management Education
for Emerging Markets” may advance a broader understanding of needs and innovative
Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder & CEO of the Global Business School Network.