Empowering today’s youth with information and knowledge beyond their profession will be the primary role of universities moving forward.
Taylor’s University Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer, Professor Dr Pradeep Nair said that the role of the university will now be to not only prepare students for a particular job but also to broaden what they learn and give them the skills for self-learning.
Professor Dr Pradeep Nair, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer of Taylor’s University
According to Professor Dr Pradeep, the 4th Industrial Revolution will be characterised by high job mobility, among many things. It is believed that today’s youth will retire from the workforce after holding down 15-19 jobs and these jobs will cover a range of disciplines. It is also predicted that not all will be in the same country. The role of educators has now expanded tremendously- we now have to ensure that the knowledge that university goers attain today should be transdisciplinary; knowledge that transfers sectors and countries.
Taylor’s University has taken the necessary steps to ensure their students are equipped with the soft skills they need; including skills like critical thinking, people management, emotional intelligence, judgement with empathy, feeling for other people, being able to negotiate well, resilience, cognitive flexibility as well as life-long knowledge production and management. These skills are important to have as in the 4th Industrial Revolution, human-centered characteristics will become more important than task-based characteristics.
As an example, the current scope for an accountant includes ensuring the payment process requirements have been fulfilled. In order to do so, they first have to look at the PO, then look at the invoice; and then match it to the payment voucher. Then, the details have to be entered into the payment ledger and only then can the monthly accounts be tabulated. There are five tasks involved in the process.
“With the 4th IR, this could be taken on by a programme; freeing up the accountant’s time and allowing them to explore tasks outside the current definition of their job,” said Professor Dr Pradeep.
In the 4th IR, the convergence of man and machine will reduce the distance between humanities, social science and science and technology. With man and machine coming together in this manner, future degrees will be designed to provide students options beyond just the discipline.
It is predicted that students will not need to only study subjects that are related to their degree, as what is happening today. The degree of tomorrow will be flexible in its design – it could feature a bit of accounting and some psychology; a bit of business and IT; a bit of engineering and project management. It will be entirely up to the learner what they want to acquire while in university.
It is for that reason that Taylor’s University has overhauled the design of the degrees provided.
The University of the Future
The Taylor’s Curriculum Framework (TCF)* is a major initiative to transform the undergraduate degree curriculum so that the graduates of Taylor’s University will be “Future Ready”, and prepared to thrive in the 4th Industrial Revolution. The initiative aims to break the current structure of the curriculum, away from the traditional discipline centric approach to degrees that are broadbased, flexible and personalised. The change in the curriculum design will then influence the assessment and delivery of programmes, and maintain the stringent quality of programmes at Taylor’s.
The decision to invoke this change came after listening to multiple data sources that highlighted the need for universities to prepare their students with the skills to adapt to different jobs across different sectors.
“We decided to adopt this approach as people, companies and researches are telling us that the skills needed to survive in the 21st century and beyond are going to be different. We have to make sure our degrees provide those skills,” said Professor Pradeep.
By restructuring the degrees in this manner, students at Taylor’s University will be able to learn in a more progressive and dynamic way. It is imperative that the approach to education is relevant to these generations, who are engaged through mobile devices, and ensure that Taylor’s adapts to the changing needs in the sector. This will benefit students in many ways, including using technology as a way of learning.
At Taylor’s, shared Professor Dr Pradeep, learning is not just about the acquisition of academic knowledge, but how individuals look after themselves, how they manage their behavior and build up the life skills and ethical principles.
Co-curate Your Degree
With TCF, the main benefit to students is that they will be able to co-curate their education with Taylor’s University. The sky is the limit for students at Taylor’s – they can choose modules that pique their interest or go deeper in a specific area of interest within their discipline. Through this, Taylor’s students gain the opportunity to learn beyond their initial discipline. This flexibility will enable students to go deeper into their field, outside their field, go into many fields, or, in a second major, be good at two fields.
Professor Dr Pradeep highlighted that this flexibility will enable students to make choices on their own and feel responsible for it while also increasing the level of their commitment to what they select to study as part of their degree.
With this new approach to a degree at Taylor’s University, students will choose a primary major, and specialise. Students will need to do the university core, which focuses on the development of the individual and how they interact with others, which is especially crucial in the 4th IR. Their next step would be to choose to do either 5 to 7 free electives, or package the free electives and do a minor.
The Flexibility of Choice
Students can choose from 21 extensions, 53 minors, 11 second majors and an option of 203 free electives when they enrol with Taylor’s University. Free electives mean choosing one subject from IT, one culinary subject, one psychology subject. The idea is that Taylor’s University believes the students should choose according to their strengths, their career ambition, or their interest.
According to Professor Dr Pradeep, another form of flexibility available for their students is that they are now able to go beyond the borders of Taylor’s to study. For instance, if students want to go to overseas to do some subjects in a particular university, the electives and co-modules can be taken abroad during a long and short semester. As of February this year, Taylor’s has 172 partners in 32 countries that will accept their students for exchange for one semester while maintaining their fees here.
Educators Out to Make a Difference
One unique aspect of TCF is that all students will be required to take two modules; Life Skills for Success and Well-Being and Millennials in Malaysia: Team Dynamics and Relationship Management; that will allow them to focus on developing themselves and how to interact with others. The two modules will provide students with a very experiential, practical platform to discover more about themselves.
As part of these modules, students will need to undergo a personal SWOT analysis to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses and eventually, come up with their own personal mission statement and goals. Through this, the students will learn how to thrive in a team setting and how to give neutral responses and behave with people in teams because research has indicated that the one reality is that those in the workforce in the future will work across different teams, in different sectors and also spanning cultures.
Creating Future-Ready Graduates with Life Skills Modules
Today’s university students must be equipped with work skills – proficiencies and abilities that will make them thrive across different jobs, work settings and cultures. Taylor’s want to ensure that its students would be able to fully utilise their university experience and realise that it would be best to have a separate team look after the out of classroom skills they would need.
“As such, we appointed a specialised team, called the Life Skills Coaches/Facilitators. Among the 10 full time Life Skills Facilitators, who are purpose driven and passionate individuals, we have a humanitarian, a clinical psychologist, certified coaches, corporate trainers, a mindfulness expert, educators and a registered counsellor,” said Professor Pradeep.
These Life Skills Facilitators will deliver life skills modules; which gives all first-year students the opportunity to enter into a journey of self-discovery, catching foundational life skills, emotional intelligence and tools that will help with emotional well-being.
The formidable duo responsible for this group of passionate educators are Jagmohan Singh, formerly the Field HR Director for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Hong Kong Section and Subashini Thuraisingam, who holds a Masters of applied psychology in coaching and is a certified coach.
For Jagmohan, empowering youth has always been a personal aspiration. The calm natured man exudes cheer when talking about past experiences where he was able to motivate youth to excel in their lives.
“It has been my desire to be involved in initiatives that would help towards nation-building and I see this effort by Taylor’s as contributing towards growing the next generation of leaders and decision makers who are capable of steering the country towards greater governance,” said Jagmohan.
Subashini agreed, sharing that the end aspiration of the two core modules is to empower the next generation with the skills they would need to help towards taking Malaysia into its next phase.
Two months in, feedback about TCF has been positive among students and industry focus groups.
Students are excited that they will have a free hand to study subjects outside their discipline according to their interest, ambition or strengths. The industry feels that such broad-based curriculum will help produce more rounded and flexible individuals for a workplace that is constantly changing. Students also like the fact that they can design what they are going to study, where to study it and when to study it.
“Most importantly, the new curriculum recognises each student as distinct individuals with differing strengths and abilities, unlike the present system which tends to treat them all alike,” said Professor Dr Pradeep.
For more information about finding your distinctive strengths and discovering your full potential with Taylor’s University, visit university.taylors.edu.my.
Note: This article was written in partnership with Taylor’s University, one of the top private universities in Malaysia.