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Midweek Review

COVID-19: Some more discerning reflections

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By Dr. B. J. C. Perera
Specialist Consultant Paediatrician

In the setting of a major contagion COVID-19, caused by an entirely new organism which is causing absolute havoc all over the planet, there are many things that gradually come to light as the world staggers its way through the pandemic. It is true to say that the scenario is in a state of flux with many still unanswered questions. As things develop our knowledge base too gets extended, sometimes in considerable amounts and occasionally in leaps and bounds as well. Quite a few of the original thoughts on the subject have had to be either withdrawn, modified and even completely revised in the light of newer knowledge. This is something to be expected as it is the very nature of progress in science. When more information is available and some things have had to be revised, it is not a reason to cause aspersions to be levelled against the original pronouncements or the people who propagated those. The basic content which have then had to be revised had to be undertaken through necessity. It has to be acknowledged that, from a medical point of view, all necessary steps have indeed been taken in good faith.

Not all that long ago, the thinking was that this disease was primarily transmitted through droplet infections following sneezing, coughing and even talking by those affected by the virus and that it was the primary route for human to human spread of the disease. The aerosol droplets so created generally had a possible transmission distance of perhaps around one metre. The need for physical distancing of people for a separation of at least one metre originated from this argument. Additionally, in the face of that same contention, the wearing of face masks by those affected by the virus and good cough etiquette of the same group were also promoted as a means of controlling the spread of the disease.

However, one of the more recent developments that has made it necessary to change some of our practices is the accumulation of more and more evidence for the possibility of air-borne transmission of the disease. This means that very fine droplets containing the virus may be carried through the air, perhaps for distances greater than one metre, and worse still, they may remain suspended in air and be floating about for quite some time. Added to this is the information that the virus could survive on surfaces on which it is deposited for considerable periods of time, which per se increases the potential infectivity of the virus. All these bits of data that have come to light makes the proper wearing of face masks by everybody becoming quite a lot more significant and all that much more important. Although some of the face masks do not provide a fool-proof one hundred per cent guarantee of defence against infection by the virus, properly worn masks will be able to provide a certain degree of protection. For an enhanced degree of safety, one needs to resort to the wearing of specialised masks which are specifically designed to protect against even the viruses. It is pertinent to point out that in the light of the latest information, if and when the schools reopen, the wearing of face masks by students within the school, and for that matter even from the time they leave home, becomes a really necessary measure. The current stipulations by the health authorities regarding this, where they imply that wearing of masks in school is not all that necessary, will need to be changed accordingly and perhaps sooner rather than later. These newer bits of information also make, physical separation of individuals everywhere and stringent hand-washing wherever possible, as well as the use of hand sanitizers and antiseptic cleaning of surfaces, even more important than ever before.

It is well-known by now that the major brunt of the damage caused by the virus in COVID-19 is borne by the respiratory system, especially the lungs. Initially it was just thought to cause a severe pneumonia which is mainly an inflammation of the gas-exchanging components of the lungs. In very simple terms, the air exchanging components of the lung become solid due to the inflammation. However, there is emerging evidence, at least in some cases, of a major involvement of the blood vessels that supply the lungs as well. Of course, there are reports of many other organs being involved in a multi-system attack by the virus and the degree to which they are involved would be reflected by the general severity of the disease. Although a significant proportion of people who are infected by this coronavirus may remain without symptoms, extensive investigations such as special scanning techniques, have shown that even in some of them, there is evidence of lung involvement although they do not show any major symptoms. These newer findings have obvious implications for the management of even symptomless COVID-19 infected persons, who are prime candidates for dissemination of the virus as well.

Cough, breathlessness and reduction in the oxygen content of the blood are the important manifestations of lung involvement. When the blood oxygen levels fall, the increase in the rate of breathing, difficulty in breathing and increased work of breathing are the signs that are seen. Some compensatory mechanisms employed by the respiratory system lead to an increase in the rate and depth of breathing. External oxygen for breathing has to be provided for these patients and those who are severely affected may need mechanical ventilation where the entire process of inflation and deflation of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange is taken over by a machine. Some severely affected patients have needed mechanical ventilation for prolonged periods of time even extending on to several weeks. Early chest physiotherapy to facilitate breathing, maintenance of the patency of the airway tubes and lung expansion in the acute phase, are invaluable for recovery. These are the initial steps in the process of lung recuperation, pulmonary rehabilitation and restoration of the functional capacity of the respiratory system, which will be a prolonged process extending on to the times even after discharge from hospital. There is some suspicion that even after apparent recovery, some patients may show evidence of residual persistent lung damage and that they would really need protracted efforts to improve their lung functions. Many of those who recover would need training on specific breathing patterns and tailor-made physiotherapy manoeuvres. In addition to physiotherapy aimed at the respiratory system, they may have extreme muscle weakness and profound tiredness as well as several psychological disturbances. They would benefit from aerobic exercises, muscle strength improving resistance training and general physical training procedures.

There are some recent concerns regarding the ability of humans to mount a sustained level of immunity to the virus even following recovery from the situations where persons have been infected by the virus. The affected persons may be with or without symptoms but the degree to which their bodies can resist a second infection and protect them against a subsequent infection is the important component for immunological considerations. There is some evidence, at least from several recent studies, to suggest that the immunity acquired as a result of infection may wane off in a matter of a few weeks or months.

Even if the antibody levels go down, whether the already sensitised immune cells of the body would be able to mount an enhanced protective response when exposed to the virus again is the crucial matter for consideration and contemplation. What we do not know is whether these people who have recovered are either resistant to reinfection, or are even a little more susceptible to reinfection by any chance or are likely to develop a more severe illness if re-infected; the latter being reminiscent of what happens in some cases of dengue. Uncertainty regarding these aspects would cast doubts on the postulations on ‘herd immunity’ being a useful element in our efforts towards keeping the virus at bay. That type of general immunity in the population is the prospect of a sufficient proportion of the populace gaining a degree of immunity which prevents the virus from getting into the herd and producing an epidemic or a pandemic.

The immune profile of the virus also has some implications for the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 bug that causes COVID-19 as well. There is a keenly contested race on at the moment as several countries and a whole host of pharmaceutical companies are engaged in many endeavours to produce a successful vaccine against COVID-19. Any useful vaccine would need to maintain a high level of neutralising antibodies against the virus for a significant length of time. If, just like in the case of natural infection, the antibody response following vaccination is short lived, then one may need to administer several doses of the vaccine or it may need to be given repeatedly at pre-determined time intervals. An ideal vaccine would be one that will provide long-term protection following the administration of just one or two doses. Extensive clinical trials on volunteers of different age groups, with repeated measurement of antibodies would be required to determine the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of any future vaccines. It will be an expensive and labour-intensive protocol to test out such a vaccine in the forthcoming months and years. Yet for all that, it would be an absolutely essential undertaking before the usefulness of a future vaccine could be unequivocally established. It must also be clearly stated that an effective vaccine is a dire necessity and the companies or institutions that could produce such a vaccine is in line for absolutely massive financial benefits as a result of the discovery of an effective vaccine.

The next few months would be crucial in a quest towards improving and fine-tuning our knowledge about this little virus that has been able to induce even powerful nations to keel over and even be at the mercy of the bug without any respite in sight. This tiny bug has shown in no uncertain terms how much the human race is vulnerable, in spite of the degree to which nations and technology have advanced. We would need to keep on learning on very many different facets of the virus and of COVID-19 disease caused by the virus. Scientific collaboration among the best brains across all areas of the planet would be the need of the hour in a determined mission towards winning the war against this coronavirus. It will not be a venture beyond us if only we decide to put aside petty differences and concentrate on the matter at hand, as a committed global humanitarian initiative.

 

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Midweek Review

Pursuing political agendas at the expense of national security

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Yahapalana President Maithripala Sirisena recently contradicted former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando as regards the latter’s statements before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) probing 2019 April 21 Easter Sunday attacks.

It was, in fact, Sirisena who appointed the P CoI several weeks before the end of his term.

Without realising the possibility of being pulled up for contempt of the PCoI, in a statement issued on Sept 19, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Polonnaruwa District lawmaker, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) rejected Fernando’s damning accusations, pertaining to the former President’s culpability as regards his government’s failure to thwart the deadly attacks.

There had never been an instance of a former President having to contradict a Defence Secretary, he himself appointed.

Fernando, who had been President Sirisena’s Chief of Staff squarely, faulted the President for lapses, as well as a brazen bid to cover up the humiliating failure to prevent nearly simultaneous suicide attacks.

Referring to a meeting, he had with President Sirisena on April 24, 2019, Fernando alleged that the President attempted to bribe disgraced IGP Pujitha Jayasundara.

During Sirisena’s tenure, as the President, he appointed no less than five Secretaries to the Ministry of Defence. That too must be a record for any Sri Lankan President. Hemasiri Fernando had been the fourth to serve as Secretary Defence during the disastrous yahapalana rule, followed by retired Army Commander Shantha Kottegoda, who received the appointment in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. It would be pertinent to mention that President Sirisena held the defence portfolio by special arrangement, though his successor was to be deprived of the privilege in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Having won the 2015 January 8 presidential election, Sirisena named one-time environment and renewable energy Secretary B.M.U.D. Basnayake as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (11.01.2015-08.09.2015). Subsequently, Karunasena Hettiarachchi (09.09.2015-05.07.2015), Kapila Waidyaratne (06.07.2017-30.10.2018), Hemasiri Fernando (30.10.2018-25.04.2019) and Gen. Shantha Kottegoda (24.04.2019-19-11.2019) received appointment as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, amidst the massive turmoil caused by the Easter carnage.

 

Ex-top cop replaces ‘intel’ veteran

The yahapalana leaders also appointed a retired DIG as the Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) – a special post created by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in late 2006, on the advice of the then Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to oversee all intelligence services, including the SIS (State Intelligence Service).

The Rajapaksas created the post of CNI, by way of a cabinet paper, especially for Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendavitharana, in the wake of his retirement. Hendavitharana, who had been deeply involved in clandestine operations against terrorists, knew what was going on in the war zone, elimination of high profile LTTE targets, or overall attempts to intercept LTTE arms shipments on the high seas et al. Even after the successful conclusion of the war, in May 2009, the CNI continued to play a significant role in the previous Rajapaksa government’s security strategy.

An operation, involving the Office of the CNI, and the Navy, to seize an LTTE ship, anchored in a foreign harbour, as well as apprehending Prabhakaran’s successor Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias ‘KP’, in Malaysia, and whisking him back to Colombo, under a web of secrecy, were some of the notable operations undertaken by them.

The yahapalana lot came to power determined to dismantle the security apparatus. The Office of CNI was handed over to the retired DIG Sisira Mendis, an experienced investigator, though he lacked experience in running such a high profile operation. On top of that, the yahapalana administration, on its own, worked overtime to undermine the intelligence services. Even the new CNI lacked swift access to political leadership.

The yahapalana administration was bent on destroying the intelligence outfits. Selected officers were used in the yahapalana administration, much to the dismay of the armed forces. Senior security forces officers were harassed. Among those who had been targeted was the then Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake, who was recalled from overseas where he was taking part in a US-sponsored programme.

The SIS was brought under SSP Nilantha Jayawardena, in the first week of March 2015. The appointment was made by the then IGP N.K. Illangakoon, obviously on the instructions of the yahapalana grandees. Two years later, the National Police Commission cleared Jayawardena to hold the rank of DIG. The SIS Chief received the promotion, just a couple of weeks before the Easter Sunday carnage. In spite of him being implicated in the overall intelligence failure, rightly or wrongly, it did not prevent the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government in having Jayawardena as Senior DIG, in charge of the Eastern Range – a hot bed of Muslim extremism.

 

Geneva betrayal

The Defence Ministry, during Sirisena’s tenure as the President, simply turned a blind eye to what was going on with the political leadership, working overtime to haul up the war-winning Sri Lankan military before the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. The Geneva betrayal was far worse than the intelligence failure that allowed the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) to mount a coordinated terror campaign, in April 2019. The Defence Ministry conveniently refrained from representing the interests of the armed forces and the police. Instead, the Defence Ministry provided the backing required for the political leadership to proceed, with a despicable operation that finally led to President Sirisena’s government co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against one’s own country. In spite of President Sirisena, publicly blaming it on the UNP, on numerous occasions, he did nothing to reverse the Geneva process. The government failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks shouldn’t be examined in isolation. Instead, the Easter Sunday catastrophe should be studied as part of a comprehensive study on the Yahapalana government’s defence policy/strategy.

Perhaps, the P CoI should scrutinize the overall security failure to recognize what really went wrong on April 21, 2019. Having won the presidential election in January 2015, the UNP, in spite of not having 50 members in parliament, received the premiership. The badly shaken UPFA handed over parliamentary control to the UNP, while President Sirisena took over the SLFP.

The stage was set for the first mega Treasury bond scam, in late Feb 2015, after the dissolution of parliament, in late June 2015, and the general election, two months later. The June 2015 dissolution was meant to save the UNP from a massive embarrassment, in case the parliamentary watchdog committee, COPE, handed over its report on the first Treasury bond scam to parliament. President Sirisena delivered a stunning blow to his own party by declaring that Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t be appointed the Premier, even if they won the 2015 August general election.

The President’s contemptible announcement, almost on the eve of the election, obviously even discouraged some UPFA supporters from casting their vote. The President’s bid was meant to give the UNP an advantage over his own party. The treacherous move could be only compared with Sirisena switching allegiance to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Dec 2014, to bring an end to the Rajapaksa era.

Having won the general election, with rival leader Sirisena’s support, the UNP formed a coalition that betrayed the armed forces, in Geneva, a few weeks later, with the President conveniently looking the other way. The UNP-SLFP coalition should take the responsibility for the Geneva betrayal, though the SLFP always denied having a hand in it. Those who masterminded the Easter Sunday massacre must have taken the political situation into consideration in planning the terror project.

 

A role for the late Mano

The UNP-SLFP coalition created a special post for overseeing the Geneva operation. The late Mano Tittawella, in his capacity as the Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM), instructed Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, A. L. A. Azeez, in March 2019, to accept resolution 40/1 on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka.

Tittawella received his appointment, on March 29, 2016, around the time the UNP perpetrated the second and much bigger Treasury bond scam.

The UNP-UPFA coalition established the SCRM, under the Prime Minister’s Office in terms of a Cabinet decision, dated Dec 18, 2015.

The Secretary General reported directly to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Knowing Tittawella was carrying out Wickremesinghe’s directives, the President lambasted him publicly, but never challenged Wickremesinghe’s authority, granted by way of a cabinet decision. Addressing a public gathering at Meegahatenna, in late March 2019, President Sirisena accused Azeez of having betrayed the country and its armed forces.

The Oct 01, 2015 resolution had been endorsed by Ambassador Azeez’s predecessor, Ravinatha Aryasinha (our next Ambassador to Washington). Azeez took over the Geneva mission, in April 2018. Aryasinha signed the March 2017 resolution, which gave Sri Lanka two more years to fulfill its Geneva commitments.

Mangala Samaraweera functioned as the Foreign Minister (January 2015 to May 2017), followed by Ravi Karunanayake (May 2017 to August 2017), Tilak Marapana PC (Aug 2017 to Oct 2018), Dr. Sarath Amunugama (Oct 2018 to Dec 2018) and Minister Marapana took over again before the change of government, in Nov 2019.

Both Defence and Foreign Ministries actively contributed to the campaign against the war-winning armed forces. By the time NTJ mounted its deadly operations, the State security apparatus was in chaos. In late January 2019, Defence Secretary Fernando caused quite a controversy when he called for Tamil Diaspora to cooperate with government investigations into alleged war crimes, as well as other high profile cases, such as the disappearance of 11 Tamils, blamed on the Navy. Fernando, an old boy of Nalanda College, called for Tamil Diaspora support at an event organized by the Nalanda College Ranaviru Society to felicitate him. Thereby, the former Volunteer Navy officer reiterated the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government policy as regards the post-war accountability issues though, by then, the yahapalana arrangement was in tatters.

 

A Defence Secy. before LLRC

Hemasiri Fernando’s accusations, directed at former President Sirisena, reminded the writer of one of Fernando’s predecessors, Austin Fernando, appearing before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), in August 2010. One time top civil servant, Austin Fernando, acknowledged that there hadn’t been proper consultations between the government and the military before the finalization of Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). Testifying before LLRC, headed by one-time Attorney General C.R. de Silva, Austin Fernando claimed in spite of him being the Secretary Ministry of Defence he didn’t enjoy the authority to intervene, though the CFA dealt with national security matters. Fernando also denied having a hand in preparing the CFA. Fernando took up the position that, in spite of serious concerns expressed by the top brass, the UNF government of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe went ahead with the Norwegian hatched project regardless of the consequences.

The writer covered the LLRC throughout its sittings at the Kadirgamar Institute. At one point when Fernando claimed that he hadn’t been involved in drafting the CFA, LLRC Chairman shot back “no Sri Lankan was involved in the process.” Austin Fernando also blamed the Norwegians and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) for failing to implement the CFA properly (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission: Now ex-Defence Secy slams CFA – The Island, August 19, 2010).

The UNP proceeded with the CFA agreement, at the expense of national security, and jeopardising the country’s fate. The government bent backwards to appease the LTTE, following the signing of the CFA. The government, on March 31, 2002, closed down ‘Wanni Sevaya’ which was in operation for the benefit of the armed forces and the police, while allowing the LTTE to import state-of-the-art equipment to expand its radio.

When Security Forces Commander, Jaffna Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka strongly opposed the reduction of high security zones in the north, without the required security guarantees, from the LTTE, the government engaged a retired Indian General to review the ground situation in the Jaffna peninsula. The government move drew widespread condemnation though Wickremesinghe blindly pushed ahead with it, believing the self-appointed international community.

 

Merril G on security fiasco

The UNP took national security lightly. The party played politics with vital security issues. The handling of matters, related to the CFA et al, was quite knowledgeably discussed by retired Senior DIG Merril Gunaratne, who had also functioned as the Director General of Intelligence during his long police career. Gunaratne’s ‘COP IN THE CROSSFIRE’ first launched in 2011, expertly dealt with the perilous way the UNP handled national security matters. The Chapter titled ‘On the Ministry of Defence with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’ described the Premier’s response to security matters. Gunaratne should send a copy of ‘COP IN THE CROSSFIRE’ to the P CoI. Perusing Gunaratne’s work would certainly help those interested in knowing the truth or understanding the ground situation at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, as well as the UNP thinking. The writer focused on the Premier and the Secretary Defence.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government refused to take action against extremist Muslim groups for political reasons, between the 2015 and 2019 period, leading to the massive Easter Sunday attacks.

Similarly, Wickremesinghe, at the onset of the CFA, declined to act on information provided by his own intelligence services. Gunaratne explained how the Premier dismissed their assessment as regards the rapid LTTE build-up on the basis of what the Indian Intelligence told him. Gunaratne quoted Wickremesinghe as having told a special security meeting; “even the Indians think the numbers were highly exaggerated.”

Gunaratne criticized Wickremesinghe over leaking of intelligence reports by way of a weekly column in the ‘Sunday Observer’ as well as opening up regular sensitive intelligence meetings, to a foreigner, at the expense of national security. The situation during the periods 2002 to 2003 (UNF) and 2015 to 2019 (yahapalana) administrations, can be easily compared. During the Oslo-run CFA, the UNP was seriously scared of the LTTE quitting the negotiating table. Wickremesinghe believed the success of his political future depended on having the LTTE at the negotiating table, at any cost. The UNP felt comfortable even after the LTTE forced the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi-led Tamil National Alliance to recognize them as the sole representative of Tamils. Although the TULF later pulled out of the coalition, it remained loyal to the LTTE until the group’s annihilation militarily on the Vanni east front.

 

Athaulla’s warning

During the yahapalana fiasco, the UNP, and even President Sirisena, didn’t want to do anything to ruffle the feathers of Muslim political parties, as well as those outside parliament, but wielded immense power. National Congress leader A.L.M. Athaulla’s somewhat controversial assertion that those who had a hand in engineering Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat, at the 2015 presidential, were also responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks, should be carefully examined. Western powers are alleged to have pushed for Rajapaksa’s ouster, in 2015, as part of their efforts to counter the growing Chinese influence in Colombo. Addressing the media last Sunday, lawmaker Athaulla explained how violence, directed at the Muslim community, in June 2014, transformed the Muslim community into an anti-Rajapaksa movement. Perhaps, the post-Easter Sunday situation should be examined, taking into consideration the ‘Mission Impossible’ type internal and external engineering, by hidden forces, that may have contributed to an explosive situation – causing unprecedented chaos, a decade after the conclusion of the war.

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Midweek Review

Which MBA?

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Some pointers to consider in selecting an MBA

It is but natural that when there is a glut in the market, that is, when supply of a commodity is much in excess of the demand, the customer will, obviously, have a wider choice to select. At the same time, he will be bemused in the choice of a quality product from the rest. This phenomenon has become true in the case of selecting an MBA course, by young graduates, as…

i. they will not be that clear as to why they do an MBA, as they continue to possess the basic-degree mentality, and / or

ii. they will not know the objectives of doing an MBA, and what qualities a good MBA should have, and, therefore,

iii. they will face a daunting challenge in selecting an MBA that will…

(a) suit their aspirations, and

(b) bring about the desired skills, competencies, attitudinal and behavioural changes in them.

 

By K. A. I. Kalyanaratne
Consultant-Publications
The Postgraduate Institute of Management

 

An MBA is an extremely popular Master’s degree programme locally as well, which has a high demand in the country. The attraction to do an MBA comes from two factors, namely:

(a) job limitations for those possessing only a basic degree, and

(b) many a job holder being driven by the aspiration to possess an MBA, inter alia, to go up in his/her career.

 

How an MBA differs from a basic degree?

They are at two different levels of education. The broad objectives of an undergraduate programme are to provide students an excellent academic experience, and to equip them with the ability to solve a broad range of problems in our rapidly changing technological, economic and social environment. As there’s a wide range of basic degrees, the student can select a particular degree programme if he/she wishes to tread on a specialized field. Moreover, in an undergraduate programme, the candidate has the option of selecting either a general degree, wherein he/she needs to study several subjects, during a specific period of time, or specialize in a single subject. Both these options provide a candidate with relevant knowledge that will make him/her possess a relatively broad perspective of the subjects/subject offered. Further, the basic degree lays the initial foundation for a candidate to proceed further in the selected professional field, in which he/she becomes a master of it. This is precisely the objective of an MBA. A basic degree being an entry point for furtherance of a specialized subject/an area of study, anyone wishing to enter a job at this point would need to undergo job-centred specific training depending on the specialty of the job. It is due to this reason that the government finds it difficult to absorb those with a basic degree into the cadres, sans an attuning-process/ training.

Based on this backdrop, an MBA is more business-centred and career-oriented. One of the most common reasons for doing an MBA is that, for many people, it can lead to the next step in their careers. Sometimes, after working for some period of time, people find that they’ve reached a certain level in their careers, and they need something else to get to management-level positions. An MBA adds the specific business skills higher management positions demand to one’s toolkit, such as leadership or strategic thinking, that will help getting them into the management-level positions.

 

Basics for an MBA programme

An MBA being a graduate course of study, MBA aspirants must initially have completed his/her studies with an acceptable/recognized bachelor’s degree before being able to enter an MBA programme. Although the bachelor’s degree may not be directly related to the business world, an ideal candidate is one who would possess sufficient executive exposure. As regards executive exposure, institutes of higher learning/universities have their own stipulations regarding the period and the nature of executive exposure. Insistence on this requirement is considered a necessity as executives, having a view of the overall organizational profile and its objectives, are better equipped to arrive at rational decisions. Decisions, in short, are planning and implementation-centred. Realizing the ultimate ‘why’ aspect of an organization is, therefore, a must in any decision-making process. In short, MBA aspirants need to be in that level of maturity to grasp the interconnectivity of the subjects they master in the programme.

 

MBA – Parameters and Purpose

Further, many an MBA aspirant does not know clearly what an MBA consists of, content-wise, and what purpose it serves. Unlike other postgraduate courses, which provide specialization in a specific field, the Master of Business Administration is interdisciplinary, and it prepares an aspirant for senior management roles by exposing and preparing him to be confident in the midst of all areas of business, including accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, business communication, business ethics and business law. A well structured MBA programme also provides candidates access to an extensive network of contacts that can help them boost their career. The future depends much on organization-wise and people-wise linkages as the future of any enterprise is almost entirely interdependent. The overall purpose of an MBA degree is thus to prepare candidates for managing an organization/enterprise in every way, or in other words, to train qualified executives who have gained an all-pervading vision for business.

 

MBA and the Level of Learning

When it comes to learning-levels, one would invariably take into consideration the Bloom’s Taxonomy, (origin in 1956 and revised in 2001) which provides a classification for learning outcomes. Herein the basic levels include (i) remembering (ii) understanding and (iii) applying. In these levels the elements of (iv) analysing (v) evaluating and (vi) creating are almost absent. To make it more elaborate, in the three higher levels, the following are emphasized and given more weightage:

Analysing:

Correlating, deconstructing, linking, organizing, appraising, probing, questioning, structuring, integrating, attributing, estimating and explaining.

Evaluating:

Arguing, validating testing, criticizing, commenting, debating, detecting, experimenting, measuring, hypothesizing, moderating, predicting, reflecting and reviewing.

Creating:

constructing, adapting, collaborating, directing, devising, programming, simulating, solving, facilitating, synthesizing, investigating, negotiating and leading.

It could thus be seen that all these three tiers demand a critical, probing as well as a researching approach; an approach that is constantly critical of the ‘status quo’. The automatic conclusion would thus be that an MBA demands a mature and a critical approach. These ingredients are lacking at the lower levels of the Bloom’s taxonomy.

 

Measurement of Impact: The Level of Transformation

Hence, any well structured MBA programme, designed and conducted/executed, so as to achieve these higher objectives demanded of by the current business world, should be able to transform an aspirant to a fully fledge MBA, at the conclusion of the programme. An MBA programme is, therefore, virtually a process of total transformation of a basic degree holder to an accomplished master of business administration, as per the true meaning of the title. To effectively carryout a process of authentic/true/genuine transformation, the following are musts among a host of other components that compose an MBA programme:

Effective Communication: Communication encapsulates all modes of conveyance of ideas and information. In fact, communication is the glue that binds all sectors of a business. It thus includes both oral and written communication. Additionally, mastering presentation skills is a must for a manager, as more often his functions revolve around coordination and conveyance of facts and information. Human resource management, team and relationship building, transparency, developing trust, linking with stakeholders, presentation of business-related information are a few major tasks that demand effective communication.

Business Communication: A specialized component of communication is an important integral part within overall communication skills in an MBA programme. Being able to communicate up, down and across is essential in any management position. Communications skills are an area employers have often found candidates lacking. Therefore, in an effective MBA programme, business communication is considered as an indispensable skillset. Business communication, in short, is fine-tuning of communication skills to achieve business objectives.

Analytical and Critical Thinking:

All the three stages of higher learning, namely, creating, evaluating and analyzing in the already discussed Bloom’s Taxonomy demand analytical and critical thinking. The basic element that promotes all these skills is the questioning-inquiring-probing mindset. Developing this mindset, which is a critical component, is one of the overall objectives of a well designed and structured MBA programme. In competitive and uncertain business environments, analytical and critical thinking help improve the quality of managerial decisions.

Strategic Thinking and Integration of Functional Areas of Business:

Issues, problems and challenges being the common-denominator in a business, a trained business-mind that thinks of issues strategically, taking into account all related factors, is a must, if one is to add value to the organization. Therefore, mastering strategic thinking skills is essential as they provide the bases for the generation and application of unique business insights and opportunities that create competitive advantage.

Ethical Leadership:

Organization being closely integrated to the social fabric they cannot function in isolation. This phenomenon demands that an MBA graduate needs to demonstrate knowledge of ethical frameworks for management decision-making and leadership. That’s why business law and business ethics form a part of an MBA course structure. Honesty, integrity, humaneness, value-driven decision-making, intolerance for ethical violations, being just and impartiality and exemplariness are further parameters to gauge a well-rounded MBA graduate.

Global Awareness:

‘Think globally and act locally’ is an axiom that established seats of higher learning would encourage and promote. It is essential for an MBA student to be aware of the global environment, and factors affecting the global economy and international business and to gain a comprehensive understanding of these in order to arrive at informed decision-making. The current developments that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic amply prove the need to be aware of the global environment.

 

Some Important Hallmarks of a Reputed Seat of Learning

A good library is considered as the heart of any seat of learning. A reputed seat of learning is supported by a library that is rich enough to support the research of the university faculty and student. The maturity of a seat of learning is also measured by the richness of its publications; richness by way of the volume, variety and depth of its publications as well as their linkages to socio-economic development. Richness of research is also a strong indicator that an institute is in constant pursuit of new knowledge, and not a mere passive reproducer of knowledge. The main teaching arm of an academic institute – the key to its education – is its Faculty. Especially in an MBA degree–business school, the Faculty should invariably be those who are industry-experienced. It is they who introduce the much valued practices and norms of business to the classroom as well as to the respective course-contents. Encouraging innovativeness and promoting entrepreneurship through business-incubators are other important hallmarks of a higher learning institute that is truly concerned with the ultimate product of transforming an MBA aspirant to a truly business-minded person.

 

The elements of Rigour and Disciplined Culture in Executing an Effective MBA Programme

Transformation being the central theme of an MBA programme, reputed seats of learning are in an on-going process of re-structuring their game-plans, by re-visiting every aspect that has a bearing on the final product, i.e., meeting the needs of the business community through their MBAs. In this endeavour, the element of rigour or rigorous learning experiences help the MBA aspirants to realize expectations that are academically, intellectually and personally challenging. Coupled with rigour is the culture of the organization. In its broadest sense, culture is cultivated behaviour; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behaviour through social learning. All reputed seats of learning maintain a disciplined atmosphere, conforming to procedural and quality systems. Opposite to bureaucracy, cultivated behaviour and set rules and procedures unleash the creativity and nimbleness that is required for growth of both personnel and organizations.

 

MBA – A Life-changing Programme that Transforms One’s Future

The above revelations would sufficiently convince that a well structured and strategically executed MBA is a life-changing programme that transforms a person through experiential learning. Such a programme will strengthen both, one’s business and leadership skills and his critical and strategic thinking. Moreover, the creative problem-solving abilities, new knowledge, and tools gained through the programme will, for sure, be a key to success in one’s personal and professional transformation. In other words, MBA is a process that re-invents a person to be a full-fledged professional. In reaching these goals, there are no shortcuts or compromises.

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Midweek Review

The Book’s Hold

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By Lynn Ockersz

It’s not at all a bad thing – This mesmeric hold of the book,And the Isle’s doing the right thing,

By allowing itself to be carried away,On the wave of boundless delight,Book Month without fail brings,

Though the durance of such joy is all too brief,But the wish of she who thinks,Is that this magical pull of the book,

Will be a life-long thing,And that those who noisily warm their seats,In the House by the ‘Oya’ of esteem,Would make of reading a sacred undertaking,For, a measure of grey matter is very much in need.

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