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Education – a strategic sector also interesting to emerging countries

Current events give me the opportunity to return to a subject that is dear to me, higher education in emerging countries. The GBSN- Global Business School Network conference in Manila from the 4th to the 6th November, at which I was present, my trip to Iran, all the regional AACSB or EFMD conferences, the EDAF – EFMD GN Deans Across Frontiers (EFMD) program participate in this spirit of openness. Since these countries are now actors in the worldwide educational ecosystem, since their leaders are exerting incredible energy, I offer my convictions on the subject.

« The world is not enough »

To paraphrase the title of this James Bond film from 1999 – still relevant and geopolitical par excellence! – I campaign for a specific strategy towards emerging or developing countries. Our world and « their » world have become one. Higher education cannot escape this. Why should we become involved in both a pragmatic and disinterested manner?

  • To supply locally the talents and skills needed by our global companies. We know that they no longer want (or are able to) go abroad. It is our job to find solutions to respond to this demand from French companies operating in these countries. I have already frequently given my opinion this subject; it is still a burning issue!
  • To develop specific content (case studies, good practice) to enable our students to work on specific and local situations with solutions adapted by the professors from these countries. It is essential for our students. We cannot « dump » our western visions on these regions, this will not work. The opposite is also true, schools in emerging countries should not apply our methods and principles too directly.EDAF logo15 LR
  • Because it is our responsibility to accompany the initiatives to help establishments to be better organised, to enter into a long-term quality process. Here I am thinking of the EDAF program proposed to Business schools by the EFMD.

For Grenoble Ecole de Management, it is also an opportunity to build interesting strategic alliances (see below, our program PAPTE).

  • Because they are also developing markets on which we must be present, like all the other nations. In certain countries, our presence is even eagerly awaited. Each country or zone deserves different consideration and approach. I was very pleasantly surprised by the presence of leading brands at the GBSN- Global Business School Network conference in Manila, notably American (MIT, Berkeley University), proof that attention is being paid to the emerging countries. It is enough to look at the list of members of GBSN to be convinced (see below)! Moreover one of the participants from an African country told me that he had been heavily courted by financial funds to invest in education.

Another parameter that must be taken into account: the Francophone zone, leading geopolitical stake.We have a strong hand to play. In 2050, certain studies (Observatoire de la langue française) show that 750 million French speakers will inhabit the planet. In 2015, they are estimated to be 274 million…

Another interesting figure, according to l’Observatoire international de la Francophonie, French, the 5th global language, is the 4th most used on social networks.

France is risking its credibility in relation to Francophone countries. It can legitimately exercise a soft power that the big international higher educational brands do not hesitate to use.

What are the challenges?
They are very numerous but the energy and desire that I was able to see in all the delegations offer real hope. Moreover certain challenges are identical to ours but with a much stronger degree of intensity:

  • Mass opening from a triple angle:demography, need for social ascension and willingness of women to study.

The appearance of a middle class in Africa or Brazil, for example, has changed things. Now the elites want to use their talents in their own countries. I have treated this question in one of my notes CLES de géopolitique.

  • A (too) strong presence of the public sector backed or not by the private sectoror denominational institutions. The cohabitation/cooperation varies depending on the country. It is quite good in Morocco or Senegal where the public sector lacks the means to absorb the rising volumes of students. It is much more problematic in other countries where the establishments proliferate.
  • A weaker degree of professionalization, one of the most shared themes during the WISE Summit 2014 and 2015.
  • The essential role of digital technology in the access to and diffusion of knowledge to the largest number, nevertheless still under developed. An EdTech model based on the rapid development of the mobile phone network in Africa or Asia lacking existing infrastructures?
  • A brain drain and proven educational expatriation with an effective grant system proposed by certain countries. But with students understanding that their future is now in their own country rather than abroad.
  • The importance of entrepreneurship to anchor the new economical elites in the region.
  • Strong international competition with the establishments of foreign establishments of very diverse forms.

What special features for business schools ?
They are still more subjected to international competition and/or have an anarchical development in the private sector. The profusion of establishments of different sizes and nature does not guarantee teaching quality with, for some, not very commendable practices. The consolidation of markets will pass through numerous closures of establishments like in Cameroon or Tunisia.

I have remarked this willingness of business schools to play both a social and economic role in the service of development of their country. It is interesting to note that the notion of impact – of all types – is developing strongly through the program of the United Nations -UNCTAD, Business schools for impact.

Quite a few institutions that I have visited have understood. Of course the ESCA Ecole de Management in Casablanca whose mission is « to contribute to the progression of an emerging economy and has its anchor in globalisation… It trains socially responsible managers, entrepreneurs, capable of accompanying company performance and their internationalisation » explains Imad-eddine HATIMI, Associate Dean at the ESCA.

This is also true for the ISM and the IAM in Senegal, the ISCAM in Madagascar, the AIM (what a work environment!) in the Philippines.

For Grenoble Ecole de Management and its partners, the project INSEAM – Campus Euro-African de Management – is emblematic of this willingness to be involved in the development of the African continent. It will be based in Casablanca and receive students from all over West Africa. It integrates within the dynamic supported by our PAPTE program which today covers, 11 countries linked by 18 partnership conventions.

This article has been reposted from the original blog post.