The rural-urban divide in India is not as wide as it used to be at the time of independence. The state and union governments, industrial bodies and most importantly, social entrepreneurs have been doing appreciable work at the grass-roots level. The rapidly growing urbanization and penetration of technology are playing a crucial role in rural development. Unfortunately, the transition is slow. There is a lot more to be done to improve the quality of rural life and the standard of living of the people there. Inclusion of the Rural Immersion program in PGDM has the potential to turn things around.
The young generation has to come forward with new ideas and innovation for the development of rural India. This clearly indicates that we need to sensitize young minds and create awareness about rural development and how can we go about it effectively and efficiently.
Management schools can contribute significantly to changing the career mindset of their students. Most mainstream management schools offer programs that can help their students secure well-paying jobs in urban cities. The need of the hour is to offer education programs and courses that can equip students to deal with the challenges of rural India and empower them to use their educational qualifications for rural upliftment. Management schools need to focus more on producing managers with social development mindset and skills.
Why include Rural Immersion in PGDM curriculum?
The universal objective of education is to have a better world, and it is also a privilege which only a specific section of the society has access to. So, the integration of the Rural Immersion Program in PGDM programs envisions a stronger tomorrow with empowered individuals who recognize the importance of empowering other individuals and take positive actions towards the same.
To enliven this vision of ameliorating the rural life of the country with holistic development, it is imperative that the youth of the country is aware of the rural problems and the progress of development, this is where education plays a chief role. When the young minds of the country receive proper education about the rural life of the country, they acquire skills that can help them brainstorm and come up with more effective solutions. With the introduction of such Rural Immersion program in PGDM and MBA, this aim comes to life and finds hope for fruition.
There are a number of reasons why management schools should consider incorporating the Rural Immersion Program in their curriculum.
Enhancing Success rate of Government policies
The Government of India initiates various developmental policies to aid rural development on a regular basis. The Rural Immersion program helps management students to familiarise themselves with different government schemes for their effective planning, execution, monitoring, and evaluation.
Making businesses Rural-inclusive
A number of FMCG, banking, finance, manufacturing, agricultural business, retail, healthcare, energy, infrastructure, and e-commerce companies are now targetting rural consumers to sell their products and services. Some companies are also promoting rural development under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. However, there are also companies that have not yet tapped the rural market due to lack of professional expertise and understanding of the demand-consumption pattern of rural consumers. Management students with rural immersion background can drive a big business change to create social impact.
Creating Social Entrepreneurs
Along with rural managers, there is a growing need for social entrepreneurs who can solve problems in the social sphere. Management students who have been exposed to Rural Immersion programs during their academic years can come up with new and innovative business ideas to address various rural issues. They can leverage their skills and knowledge to develop business models, products, and services that can fill the socio-economic gaps and uplift the rural population.
Promote professionalism in the Rural sector
The Indian rural sector is vast but largely unorganized. It forms the dominant share of the informal economy of India. There are various private companies, non-profit organizations, foundations, individuals and grassroots-level associations doing notable work towards the betterment of the rural sector. While they have first-hand knowledge about general rural issues, they need someone who can professionally help them pool resources and build useful networks. Management students can bring much-needed professionalism, strengthen rural-urban linkages and accelerate rural development.
Participatory Learning and Action with Rural Immersion
Participatory learning takes place by direct contact with people in the rural areas and by listening to them the students get to know and understand the realities, issues, problems, local knowledge, and traditional practices of the people of that region. They also learn how to address people with a social conscience, along with an academic approach.
Villagers are generally hesitant to talk to strangers. Making them comfortable becomes essential to understand rural realties. This conversational barrier can be broken successfully with a little preparation and genuine efforts of the student. Once the rapport is built, the villagers or the local people will feel free to talk, share their views, and show interest in taking part in the exercises which are taken up by the study group.
Listening and learning through interaction is the most important principle of Participatory Learning and Action (PLA). The local people are in possession of enormous indigenous knowledge, experience, skills, culture, views, and ideas. They are capable of identifying their problems, priorities, and preferences. At best, PLA techniques enable the students to learn and collect information about the community by listening and observing.
PLA involves a using set of principles, a process of communication, and a variety of methods for seeking villagers’ participation in putting forward their viewpoints on various issues. A PLA Report is written by each student sub-group. Then, each of these reports is put together to get a resourceful final report. PLA involves both learning and putting into action at ground levels.
Steps for Participatory Learning and Action (PLA)
- Entry Point: PLA starts the moment you enter the village.
- Observation: Observe and then start sizing up the village conditions, socio-economic parameters, and attitudes and start creating your own dynamic approaches.
- Contact: This step involves approaching the villagers without making them apprehensive in the first approach itself.
- Penetration: This is the break-through point where you have gained their confidence. Now you can start using your methodologies to interact with different sections of the population.
- Stimulate Participation: Arouse villagers’ interest and stimulate them to participate for your cause by making them get together, either in small groups or the whole village for PLA exercises.
- Raising Issues: In this step, students have to encourage villagers to talk about the issues that bother them the most and cause hindrance in their everyday life.
- Identify Problems: Make the villagers come up with issues, identify them and become vocal on them.
- Suggest Solutions: You can then suggest solutions and if multiple solutions emerge, help the participants zero-in on the most amicable, acceptable and pragmatic solution that is also cost-effective.
- Formulate an Action Plan: Now you can put forth a formidable action plan without imposing on them. The action plan might be an outcome of your own PLA findings and it should be realistic and practical.
- Full Implementation: The implementation of the action plan can be left to the district administration or any other responsible authority, after proper appraisal.
The power to create equal socio-economic opportunities for rural India lies in the hands of the young generation. Management schools can definitely sensitize and empower young minds through a Rural Immersion program. Rural Immersion Programs must definitely be a part of all management curriculums whether it is a PGDM course or an MBA because the students passing out of these courses hold positions that have the responsibility and power to create a significant positive impact in society.