Playing Catch-Up

Experts say M.B.A. programs in China are not yet on par with business-school programs in other countries. Ronnie Tan, vice president and managing director of Asian operations for Pittsburgh-based Development Dimensions International Inc., offers some insight into the reasons why.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006
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M.B.A. programs in China, which have really only begun to crop up in recent years, are still relatively few in number. The business-school programs that do exist there, experts say, are not producing graduates with the requisite leadership skills to lead others. Human Resource Executive asked Ronnie Tan, vice president and managing director of Asian operations for Pittsburgh-based Development Dimensions International Inc., about the type of education and experience M.B.A. students are getting in China.

Tan says it's not always easy to predict if graduates of M.B.A. programs in China have the required skills to lead others.

"It is harder to predict the leadership skill proficiency of an M.B.A. graduate in China ... than anywhere else in Western countries." He offers a few reasons why.

When selecting candidates, Tan says, the majority of Chinese business schools use selection criterion not correlated with leadership effectiveness. Rather, he says, schools focus on criteria such as math and politics, and rely on key selection tools "not designed for assessing leadership skills," such as written tests.

Another issue, he says, is that faculty and curriculum in Chinese business schools' focus on qualitative analysis over leadership development, and there is a tendency among most Chinese business schools to "impose tight management and control over M.B.A. students." Such practices, he says, hinder leadership skill-building among graduates. 

"Therefore," Tan concludes, "the leadership enrichment among Chinese M.B.A. graduates is not necessarily higher than that in an engineering university."

Tan says there is still work to be done to make Chinese M.B.A. programs more competitive. Specifically, he suggests a more "employer-driven selection process" in which prospective employers select candidates who apply for schools.

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To provide students with the diverse skills and experience multinationals demand, Tan says, Chinese business schools must also carefully consider appropriate staff and courses of study, Tan says.

How can M.B.A. programs in China continue to "catch up" to programs in similarly developed countries? According to Tan:

* Build an employer-driven selection process -- let future employers select candidates who apply for schools,

* Hire faculty staff with business experience and global acumen,

* Develop a case study and project-centered curriculum

* Put more focus on leadership and interpersonal skill-building, and

* Offer professional career-planning support and service to graduates.

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