Interview: Ahmed Al Shaikh
How receptive are students to the rapidly changing role of technology in education?
AHMED AL SHAIKH: Technology is affecting us in two ways. On the one hand, focusing on finance, everything related to financial technology and cybersecurity is extremely important and this is what is driving the sector. As a training provider, we are doing our best to partner with people who can speak about specific areas and what we should look for. These concepts span sectors – like cybersecurity – that do not just affect IT people, but also the common man, regulators, compliance and so forth. This is very disruptive and financial institutions have realised this was happening with or without them. On the other hand, and more related to education, it affects us from a content standpoint concerning the learning experience in the classroom and how we plan to incorporate that. We are refining the development of online learning, putting all the sharia and Islamic finance standards online, making them accessible globally. That is a great example of the use of technology in making information available to people who do not necessarily have other means of access for cultural or physical reasons. On-demand learning is very popular globally and will continue to grow. Still, in the end, nothing replaces social interaction and networking. What technology does is create a level playing field in education that is still very important because not everyone can excel and be a resident at school. Is it ideal? No. But it is a way to bridge the gap that previously existed in access to knowledge.
What more needs to be done by institutions and the government at the policy level to tackle the challenge of hiring and retaining faculty?
AL SHAIKH: Faculty retention is very important for us and a lot of effort is put into recruiting faculty with the right real-world experience and education to be able to effectively create a market of qualified practitioners. Having a climate that reflects collegial values and supports the professional development of staff within different learning centres and at the institute as a whole is among the factors that contribute to the advancement and retention of faculty.
Achieving the current goals of recruitment, retention and advancement will require effective involvement and also leadership from the country’s entire educational and vocational system. Although policies concerning retention tend to be difficult to formalise and implement, there are certain practices that are serving to assist schools as well as departments in their efforts to both advance and retain a diverse and excellent faculty. Continuous training and development for human resources will help to improve faculty retention over time.
How are educational establishments working with the private sector to ensure graduates are well placed to compete?
AL SHAIKH: The market continues to give feedback that we need to do different things. In the financial services industry, risk and compliance are important areas and we are working directly with banks to offer customised programmes. Education still struggles to match market needs in part because those needs change quickly and it is very difficult to keep up. One of the things the market could do to make hiring easier is to be more flexible in their educational requirements. When people think education they think academic education and masters degrees. To be honest, those are the least flexible forms of education. If you want to have a real impact on your organisation you do not need to check that box. There are a number of professional certifications that, quite frankly, are more dynamic and more immediately relevant, like being a chartered accountant. Organisations brave enough to stop checking boxes are likely to find students who have more to offer.
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