After the series of corporate scandals in the U.S. which saw alumni of reputed business schools jailed for fraud, perjury, and insider trading, ethics courses have been incorporated in business schools in the U.S. Many schools have now courses which are compulsory in the areas of ethics and corporate governance. The linkage between the scandals and the lack of such courses in the past is yet to be established, however.
And, we all know that teaching ethics to business management students does not guarantee that business will be free of scandals. Why is it critical to teach ethics to students, we might ask. It is important to provide basic education on ethics and governance models, lest the business schools are blamed for the outcomes.
I was wondering whether it is important to teach ethics to secondary school students in India, in the context of the corruption scandals which have swept India in the recent past. It might be necessary to embed ethics teaching in the curriculum of the secondary students, because the impact or more critically, the non-impact of corruption, will be damaging in the long term for India. The future business and political leaders of India need to be exposed to issues involved in corruption and handling matters involving a combination of corruption, national security, and political funding.
It may be a bit too much when you look at the issues, and government might refuse permission to the educational boards such as the ICSE and CBSE to incorporate such courses, but it might be worthwhile to introduce such programs sooner than later. Teachers have to be trained as well, to ensure that the utility of the courses are fully imbibed by the students at the 10th and 11th grades. This will have a long-term implication for India, given that Indian democracy is inextricably intertwined with corruption, and future bureaucrats have to deal with politics anyway.
There may be resistance all around, but we have to push through. This is no indication that the government in power is corrupt, or trying to be corruption-free. This is required training for students who have to face the music when they venture out in this open, risky, and complicated world of ours, which is much unlike what one gets in the Western world, which encourages governance of a better quality. Notwithstanding that, one has seen the deterioration of public life in the West as well, especially in terms of taking the investing public to a nasty ride.
So, let us start thinking seriously about Ethics 101 for our budding entrepreneurs, bureaucrats, and politicians.
27th March 2011