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Importance of balanced higher education for future corporate leaders

12 January 2016 03:14 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Quality in learning is what separates a good candidate from a great leader in the increasingly competitive job market today. 

In the rapidly evolving globalized economy, young professionals are no longer competing for employability with their local peers. They are now required to meet the steep global expectations and demands of a borderless work environment. At this juncture world-class education is mandatory to provide the diversity and complexity of skills needed to be included in this competition. 

Academic qualifications heavily scrutinized
In the recent past, we’ve seen the Asian market grow, with many regional executives being appointed to significant leadership positions in large global organizations such as Google and Microsoft. When seeking entry to this challenging landscape, the quality of academic qualifications is heavily scrutinized. It is of paramount importance in this context to gain a recognized, relevant and career focused academic qualification that is comprehensive. 

In the past decade, the higher education industry has grown exponentially in attempting to meet the 21st century skills demanded by industry. Presently, tertiary qualification is essential. However, in order to maximize employability and ensure academic enrichment, it is necessary to evaluate the merits of available avenues of study. 

Given that employability is a key expectation of obtaining a quality tertiary qualification, it is important to explore the key influences of employability.

Individuals who are resourceful and entrepreneurial, possessing a digitally apt, modern and technical skill portfolio are preferred by employers. In addition, top employers also place emphasis on communication, professionalism, interpersonal relationships, customer service and knowledge of relevant mechanics. The development of these competencies begins at primary levels of education and continues to develop at the stage of higher education. To this effect, tertiary education providers are required to incorporate tools and guidelines to refine these attributes among future graduates. 

Sri Lanka’s career readiness initiative
Sri Lanka will engage in such an educational landscape in providing high quality education that prepares students for the potential discovery of the future. This “career readiness” of a rigorous corporate sector has been a pressing challenge for Sri Lanka in the past. 

The curriculum and learning environment that fosters creativity and innovation is an environment that will surpass the expectations of students and society at large. Campuses have to be designed to promote attributes of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication and literacy of media, technology and information. This skillset is critical for securing, developing and retaining careers in the present digital-age. Through carefully outlined student engagement learning initiatives, education providers will have to provide students a risk-free platform for idea generation and presentation, as well as an 
opportunity to craft vital competencies such as planning, decision making, problem solving, strategy building and leadership. 

High quality mentorship and academic learning support need to be provided for students at all levels to prepare them for the successful dreams they pursue. Further, all students are typically nurtured in a participatory environment where they are encouraged to participate in regular extra-curricular activities, such as sport, culture, and the arts. 

Unfortunately, the importance of such activities is often not stressed by education providers in the region who place singular importance on classroom learning. In order to develop articulate, confident graduates who are able to interact and communicate effectively in traditional and non-traditional social environments, extracurricular programming is essential. 

Academic excellence and personal skill development
Student life is enriched and a healthy balance is projected between academic excellence and personal skill development through such activities. The opportunity to gain experiential learning, and engage in intercultural and intrapersonal communication, cultural exchange, athletics, scholastic competition and the discovery of art are important attributes of such a balanced learning experience. 

The interactive learning and development received through this holistic approach translates positively to the “whole individual” in the future workplace.

Students, who undergo this type of learning experience, typically showcase higher aptitudes and exceptional interpersonal skill development. This capacity to adapt to new challenges allows graduates to transition fluidly from the classroom and playground to the work place and social strata. 

Diversity is a core theme in the dynamic global corporate world. By placing students in a highly diversified atmosphere in their formative years, educational providers are able to foster the relevant and essential attributes of respect and collaboration among a diverse global student population. This ability to co-exist and demonstrate genuine human teamwork in harmony is a valuable life lesson that transcends the classroom and workplace. 

Consistent effort to produce graduates
A consistent effort to produce graduates who are not only able to confront the complexities of the workplace but are also able to lead and mentor their peers should be the new vision for quality and education providers. Consistent quality systems should be implemented at campuses to ensure facilitation of uncompromised and comprehensive growth of students. 

Producing graduates with tangible 21st Century Skills to redefine society and specifically the corporate sector, is what a quality education inspires. Sri Lankan professionals are in need of such holistic and diverse learning approaches, accentuating cultural tradition with future potential. This diversity of method, focusing on unique learner attributes is an essential imperative of superior global education. The objective for learning providers is to align local talent with the international market in theoretical knowledge, experiential learning; and local, regional and global application. The result of such diverse learning approaches fabricates global citizens that will benefit all stakeholders: the learner, social institutions, corporate organizations and the government sector. Everyone wins! 

(Dr. Damian Riviez is Group Director for International Development at EDULINK Consultants, Dubai, UAE. Dr. Riviez has over 25 years of experience in academia and industry – teaching, research, operations, training and consulting)
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