Students should be prepared for real-work situations, said Frank Edwards, Director of Workforce Development at Pearson — the world’s largest education company.
Speaking at a recent conference in Doha, Edwards presented research undertaken by Pearson into the skills and attributes developed by current education systems, and those that are required by employers.
The study, entitled ‘Effective Education for Employment’, involved over 2,000 stakeholders from 25 countries, and found there was a persistent gap around the globe, between the skills held by school and university leavers, and those required by employers.
This “skills gap” is causing problems for both developed and developing countries, said Edwards, who cited poor workplace productivity and decreasing standards of living as just some of the detrimental effects arising from this weakness seen in education systems around the world.
In GCC countries, this problem is particularly acute. Youth unemployment and underemployment levels in the Gulf region are some of the highest in the world, and employers consistently complain about the difficulty in finding employees who possess necessary workplace skills and behaviours.
“There is strong empirical evidence to support the fact that many learners, employees and graduates are not sufficiently developing their broader skills and attitudes to ensure employability and to maximise economic returns for the individual, employer or country. The time is right to address these issues and develop new content and assessment approaches to ensure the barriers to competitive potential are clearly identified, understood and addressed”.
He said more attention needs to be paid to instilling learners at all levels of the education system with the skills demanded by modern workplaces, such as 21st Century Skills, which include initiative and self-direction; leadership; negotiation; planning and organisation; problem solving and resourcefulness and adaptability. And these skills need to be taught from the beginning of a child’s education.
More focus also needs to be paid to technical and vocational education and training (TVET), which has been unpopular in the Gulf region.
There is a huge demand from industry for graduates who have a technical or vocational qualification, yet students are still shying away from undertaking this kind of course, in favour of more traditional, or formal educational programmes.