Thursday, December 08, 2011

XLRI brain to boost not-for-profit business - Professor Madhukar Shukla joins seven to co-author teaching manual on social entrepreneurship

From The Telegraph

A mentor in the steel city is leading the way to author a social entrepreneur’s bible in India.

XLRI professor Madhukar Shukla, who heads the institute’s Social Entrepreneurship Trust, will team up with seven academics from across the nation to produce a teaching handbook on social entrepreneurship to guide faculties and students alike.

Shukla, who was presented the Academic Contributor Award for 2011 by the Villgro Innovation Foundation and IIT-Madras’s Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, conceptualised the handbook that the group aims to pen within six months.

Shukla co-authors are Shambhu Prasad of Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar; Harish Hande of Faculty of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University; Sourav Mukherjee of IIM-Bangalore; Ankur Sarin (IIM-Ahmedabad); P.K. Biswas, Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal; Satyajit Majumdar, TISS, Mumbai, and Krishna Tanuku of Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.

He explained that few dealt with social entrepreneurship as a subject in India. “There are many who would like to take up social entrepreneurship as a subject or start a social venture. As most of them tend to get no support, the teaching handbook has been planned to streamline issues and topics in the area for their benefit,” said Shukla, a faculty member of organisational behaviour and strategic management.

The group of professors met at the Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship at ISB-Hyderabad to discuss the initiative in November.

The handbook will comprise guidelines for starters, besides an outline of related courses offered by institutes and professional bodies and classroom material such as case studies, articles, documentaries and research papers.

“We will upload it on the Internet. It may also be given the shape of a social networking site or website. We may later publish hard copies,” Shukla said.

The professor has been driving force at XLRI, which acts as a link between students and financial institutions to help them start their ventures.

Parichay, one of the businesses started by students on completing the social entrepreneurship course at XLRI, has been employing tribal artisans to churn out bamboo products in Jamshedpur.

The other ventures started by XLRI graduates are Dream4others, Samanvay and Green 4others.

“Social entrepreneurship is an exciting and active playground. However, to make a positive change you need to know what is happening in the sector,”said Payal Randhawa, director of Delhi-based Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation, which is eager to support the teaching handbook project.

“Academics are very important, as they know their field better and are connected with young minds. The handbook will be the first ladder in sharing ideas with the community of social entrepreneurs,” Randhawa added.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

XAT to be pen-based and a good XAT score not enough to secure admission


The XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur (XLRI) has decided to reduce cut-offs from the 90s to the 80s to attract a good mix of students. XLRI’s Admissions Chairperson Soumendra Bagchi told PaGaLGuY that to ensure an efficient admission process, the XAT (XLRI Admission Test) scores  are not shown to the panelists during GDPI. This means that a good XAT score may not be enough to secure admission at XLRI. Prof Bagchi answers a few more questions on the admission process, the cut-offs and the XAT paper.

Reduced cut-offs
XLRI experimented with reduced percentile cut-offs for calling candidates for the GD/PI process last year. The success of that experiment in getting a diverse pool of applicants – in terms of geographical diversity, as well as different work experiences –  has been encouraging. Based on this, there are plans to reduce the cut-offs to percentile scores of 80s from the 90s.

Is the GD/PI process really independent of the XAT score?
The group discussion/ interview process is independent of XAT. The XAT score is not informed to the panel and the panel refrains from asking about XAT scores. This is to ensure that the interview score is not biased by the XAT scores. The issue we face is that candidates often end up bringing their XAT scorecard to the interview in a bid to influence the panel. But this information is dis-regarded by the panel and the interview scores are based on the interview performance only.

That means a  candidate with a high XAT score can get eliminated in the GD/PI process?
While this is a very general statement, with exceptions, this highlights that a high XAT score is not enough to guarantee a place in the school. The interview process is carried out independent of the scores. The panel members ignore the data even when the candidates tries to bring it to their notice during the interview. Therefore we have found that high XAT scorers sometimes get eliminated in the interview process, if they perform poorly – candidates with lesser XAT scores can get selected if the interview process goes well.

Admission for XLRI programmes
The registration process for XLRI is separate from the registration process of XAT. XAT is the common examination, after which candidates have to register for institutes of their choice. This is determined by the candidates themselves based on their interests, location etc. Due to this we often see interesting situations. Last year,  the topper was a girl had a  B.Com background. Despite she being the topper, we could not take her as she had not applied to XLRI.This has happened earlier too. It is also possible that people underestimate their capabilities. On the day of examination, anything can happen, and good performers can lose out. The same happens for other students as well as every year we get requests after the XAT results are announced. By that time the registration process for XLRI is over. This year XLRI’s registration process is on till December 31, for people to decide.

Who are likely to do well in XAT?
The people who normally do well in XAT are a mix of two categories of people. The first category is the eccentric brilliant and the second category  - the steady performers. The analysis of XAT data as well as XLRI interview data indicates that majority of rank-holders in the merit list come from the second category of steady performers. This category of students is the one that holds its nerves on the day of examination, picks out the doable questions and score on them, without taking undue risks. In the interview as well as in the academic performance during the two years of MBA programme, generally it has been observed that the steady performers often perform better than the eccentric performers.

Preparation for XAT
Candidates should be well grounded in their basics. It is matter of practice which allows quick identification of scoring questions and which ones to leave. Further candidates need to score in a balanced manner across sections. This can only be achieved through practice. A high level of practise carried out in simulated exam-like conditions, would prepare them for the stress on the day of the examination. Since one of the advantages of paper-based examination is all candidates get exactly the same paper, there are no issues regarding tough and easy questions.. The candidates should also get into the habit of reading newspapers on a daily basis which helps them not only in the verbal and reading comprehensions, but also during the interview and group discussion stages.

XAT Pattern
All business schools are looking for people with well-rounded aptitude as well as personality. Further we have been observing that engineers/ people from the science background, who end up as high scorers in XAT often do so by the virtue of their quantitatively oriented courses in their graduation, and they may not be the persons who would score high in group discussion/ personal interview.
To ensure that we have candidates with well-rounded aptitude apart from just quantitative skills, this year’s XAT has been totally restructured with regard to the difficulty level. Apart from being different and being extremely do-able, this year’s XAT stresses more on a commonsensical approach rather than a pure formula-based approach. This restructuring has been done to ensure a far more level playing field, not only for the non-engineers, but also for the steady performers, without being biased towards/ against anybody.

Are there any advantages to  paper-based exams, considering that the world in going online?
1. It allows an equal playing field for people who do not have familiarity with computers vis-a-vis those who have a high level of comfort with computers.
2. The major issue of different levels of difficulty in different question paper sets. This problem can lead to good candidates losing out because they faced a tougher question paper.  The problem of normalisation is subject to statistical errors and XLRI, which has been conducting XAT for large number of years, feels that XAT scores should be free from such errors.
3.  Systems related problems – slow computer terminals etc., are eliminated to a large extent.
4.  XAT was the first to consistently have a written test as a part of its evaluation, and that is being followed by other big b-schools now – the use of managerial decision situations which had been introduced in XAT in 2007, is a section which other institutes have copied.

Further plans by XLRI
There are plans to award financial assistance to students joining in XLRI’s BM and HRM programmes, based on performance in the total selection process. The assistance  is planned to be in form of waiver of a certain percentage of first-year fees, for select number of students, based on the ranking in the final list. The exact details are still to be finalised but the broad plan is in place.

A few reputed schools  have stopped taking XAT, is the exam on the decline?
The number of schools taking XAT has increased to 100 plus this year and we had new institutes taking in XAT candidates. So your question does not actually hold as per the facts.

Can XAT answer sheets be seen by the candidates?
XAT question papers are taken back by the candidates in which the candidates usually mark what they have attempted. So candidates, de facto, have their answers with them. In case of any situation where a candidate disputes the scores and wants to see the OMR sheet, we keep the OMR sheets and they can be seen any time. However so far we have not faced any requests for wanting to have a copy of the OMR sheet.  This year we are moving away from pencil-based answering in OMR sheet to pen-based answering on OMR sheet. That will allow us to be more confident of the entire process. Though this process requires that candidate answer correctly the first time as no change is possible. Furthermore, the paper-based exam allows us to audit the question paper, individual questions or answer sheets any time we want. That way it is far more robust and transparent than the computer based test.


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