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QS MBA Scholarship Winner: The Gap Between ‘Should Be’ and Reality

Pallav Jha, INSEAD

QS MBA scholarship winner Pallav Jha was working as commodity analyst for Whirlpool in India when he felt that something was missing in his life. “Everything was going well, and I was learning a lot, but it just didn’t feel like it was my calling.”

He was considering various other options – changing careers, going to do an MBA there and then, or even starting his own business – when he came across a full-page advertisement for a fellowship with a non-profit organization called Teach for India, which recruited high caliber graduates to the teaching profession in order to eliminate educational inequality.

Something about this captured Jha’s imagination. “I made some enquiries, reached out to some other Teach for India fellows. With every conversation, my enthusiasm grew.”

He signed up, and spent the next two years teaching at struggling schools in order to help solve some of the problems suffered by Indian education – for which he was awarded a QS Community MBA Scholarship.

“What is lacking in Indian education is quality, which is exactly what Teach for India is targeting. It’s early days to fully assess the impact it’s making, but even in two years you could see the change. Times this by five and you can expect a quantum leap over 10 years.”

Initially, he says, he found the experience startling: “The gap between the ‘should be’ and the reality is huge. But you build on that every day, and can see the kids growing up in front of you. You see changes in the way they talk, the way they express their ideas, the way they communicate.”

The Teach for India scheme gives these children a crucial sense of self-worth, he believes, which makes all the difference. “We let them exercise their thinking, and feel that their thoughts are important. These are the things by which we make sure their level of thinking keeps on improving.”

Getting an INSEAD MBA to Achieve His Vision

Jha has now enrolled to study an MBA at INSEAD Business School in France, via a brief stint at Stir Education – another non-profit organization. Why did he decide that business education was the way forward for him?

“I have grassroots experience in the education sector, but I’m not where I want to be to achieve my vision for myself. I think an MBA will help me with his, through the skills I’d gain, the experience I’d have and what I would learn from my peer group.”

Business, he feels, can play a huge role in the progress of education. “Through my experience I came to understand that the gap in quality was a consequence of a number of factors. Schools were unsure of the best pedagogical methods, how to organize calendars, how to make sure the administration was working effectively.”

Good business practice could solve these issues, in his opinion. “Business and social responsibility should not be treated as mutually exclusive – both can complement each other. My objective is to create a synergy between the two.”

One potential path he sees is to set up a consultancy to help educational organizations take care of these issues. “We can set up accountability systems, knowledge resource systems – to ensure the best results.”

So, why did the MBA scholarship winner opt for INSEAD? “I was lucky enough to be accepted to a couple of schools, but opted for INSEAD because it was the most international. All the different nationalities bring their own diverse experiences, and one of my main goals for my MBA is to learn from my peer group, to find the best steps towards achieving my vision.”

However, business school is a time of opportunity, and Jha is open to the fact that he may end his MBA on a different path to that on which he started. “INSEAD is a place where there are so many new ideas and opportunities, so of course I am open to these.” Returning to India in a development role outside of education is one potential option. “It all depends how my year at INSEAD goes.”

Education remains his passion though – and he believes that it is the only solution to many of India’s problems. “If a child is educated, he or she will grow up to be socially responsible. That child will then make sure his or her lineage is equally – if not more – responsible. If we take care of this, India’s problems are solved!”

Written by Mansoor Iqbal

Mansoor is a contributor to and former editor of TopMBA.com. He is a higher and business education specialist, who has been published in media outlets around the world. He studied English literature at BA and MA level and has a background in consumer journalism.

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