In China, a country that has undergone tremendous change during the last 40 years, an intergenerational perspective in the classroom takes on even more meaning.
“I don’t think there is any other country that has gone through such large and major changes,” says Bala Ramasamy, associate dean and program director of the Global EMBA Program at CEIBS. From reliance on technology to fundamental shifts in the economy to global outreach, these changes impacted the lives of the school’s prospective student pool.
“The kind of changes that have taken place are so dramatic that this intergenerational diversity has become more important,” says Ramasamy.
“If you are able to have the younger and older students – someone who is 30 and someone who is past 50 – you get both the historical point of view and at the same time a sense of the future.”In his economics class, for example, older students share their experiences with the economic reform of the late 1970s, while younger students only know of the time from textbooks. “You actually see that history alive in the classroom when you have intergenerational diversity.”
In addition to intergenerational diversity, the Global EMBA Program also strives for international diversity and attracts both students who work for multinationals and students from Chinese multinationals, who made up 30 percent of the last intake. Students from multinationals want to understand how Chinese companies work and Chinese companies want to understand how multinational companies work. “That desire to know what’s happening on the other side certainly makes this international program interesting,” says Ramasamy.
While the pandemic has made recruiting more difficult for the global program, Ramasamy hopes to see more students from Southeast and Central Asia, India, and Africa. “I really want to see that diversity, not just in terms of whether they are white, yellow, or black, but in terms of the various countries they come from.”
The classroom offers a safe place for students to understand others with different perspectives and narratives. During orientation, Ramasamy sets the stage for an open environment by telling students no matter their title, they are all students and equals in the classroom.
Malaysian by nationality, Indian by ethnicity, Ramasamy sees diversity as a basic reality, because the world is diverse. That also means different cultures view diversity in different ways. Bridging the gaps that can happen when people don’t understand one another requires the application of a fundamental value.
“To me, it’s about respecting each other. As a business school, I feel that’s one of those values that we need to share and teach our students. If the virtue of respect becomes ingrained within the program, within the school, I think that is what you probably need. Because if we truly respect each other, it doesn’t matter who we are. I think that’s when diversity comes natural to you.”