Qualitative vs. Quantitative Courses

I have pondering over this issue for last one year. (Okay, does not mean a great literature would come out of this pondering… There, sure, were other things I was doing too 🙂 ).

What makes more sense in a B-School? My opinion follows.

Quantitative Courses help you get a job. (Oh! Now you are writing like an MBA student, Jaya. You start off with “job”! :-D) Because usually you start at lower levels of management, where there aren’t many strategic decisions you make. Your intuition is not trusted upon and you must back your decisions with numbers (cook them up if you can’t find them. That’s what my internship experience says, but do not quote me on that :-D). So, they want quantitative skills in you. However, as discussed widely across the world, obsession with quantitative stuff can be disastrous. They are only tools and do not substitute managerial judgement (I know, by now, its a text-bookish stuff). And as you rise in the hierarchy, you intution and qualitative judgement start getting valued. Qualitative skills are not just a good-to-have asset then, but absolute requirement. Because for taking higher level decisions, you may not always have the kind of precise framework you have for lower level jobs.

But most important thing about quantitative courses, while you are a student, is that they can be learnt. Learnt irrespective of several things going wrong like having an incompetent instructor! Even if you do not have much aptitude, by working hard you can extract something from these courses. Qualitative courses on the other hand pose several problems in learning. Irrespective of the presence of several much touted pedagogical tools and techniques, they depend heavily on the quality of the instructor, aptitude of the student and the chemistry between the two. An inarticulate instructor may still manage to teach you a quantitative course, but for a qualitative one it is disastrous.

For qualitative courses I, personally, would want an instructor who has an individual appraoch towards problems. Now, this might seem to hinder ojectivity of teaching and learning, but my take is that trying to bring objectivity to qualitative courses makes them ridiculous. In trying to be objective, the course might get prescriptive. That would not only take away all the fun out of the course, it will also be disastrous for the students in future if they start using those prescriptions considering them to be the objective realities. So, what is important is to learn to take an approach instead of trying to get the ultimate answers. And best way to learn that is to observe a person who has an approach, and has the approach for a good reason. (This is where the aptitude of students come into picture – be able to diagnose instructor’s approach.). So, I would want an instructor who has an approach, and if that makes him/her biased, let it be so. But he/she should be aware of his/her biases and that is important; otherwise it would again become prescriptive (this time due to the instructor, not due to an attempt at objectivity).

Well, one big problem with qualitative courses is that by the time you shall be allowed to use them in an organization, you would have forgotten them all 😦

Do I make any sense?


3 thoughts on “Qualitative vs. Quantitative Courses

  1. Yes, I too am of the opinion that the instructor should not just facilitate, in the end he/she should have a view and a personal approach to solving a given problem.

    Also, IMO, if one enhances the preparation of case studies in more qualitative courses like marketing and strategy by recording what actually happened in the end (instead of leaving the whole thing wide open), that would give us a valuable take on what results a given action may lead to. This would also be ‘biased’, because the organization in question has already taken an approach and experienced the results. However, I personally would have liked that in marketing courses. Once you have done your part of the thinking and heard of other people’s views in class, you look at the actual situation and you may then like to give the case some fresh thought. It would be quite instructive.

  2. Don’t worry so much. At the end of the day it just matters who you know or if the person interviewing you likes you. (Assuming you have a general qualification for the job). Sad but in most jobs it works like that and especially the higher the position the more you need ‘connections’.
    Just study what you feel like and enjoy.

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