26 April 2019
Education should be more than just preparing students for a degree and helping them land a job. Photo: HKEJ
Education should be more than just preparing students for a degree and helping them land a job. Photo: HKEJ

Equipping students with transversal competences

For any meaningful discussion on the way forward for education, academics and other stakeholders in society should ponder and come up with answers for the following fundamental questions:

What are our expectations for university graduates? What are the skills or qualities that students should have for life and work, as well as to achieve personal goals in the future? How can we build a competent, affluent and egalitarian society?

I have repeatedly pointed out that undergraduate education should never simply be feeding students with knowledge, awarding them with a degree, or preparing them for landing a job.

The aims should include instilling sound morals in the pupils, facilitating their love for knowledge, equipping them with the ability to think independently and ensuring that they always remain on a learning path to help them realize their personal goals.

We want the society’s future pillars be self-reflective, grateful and caring individuals.

Some prominent figures, meanwhile, have been calling for the incorporation of transversal or transferable competences through deeper learning in undergraduate education.

Transversal competences, dubbed as “21st century skills”, refer to a broad set of knowledge, skills, habits, and character traits that are crucial for youngsters to success in a fast-moving society.

The competences include civic and ethical literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication skills, global awareness, self-discipline, teamwork, etc.

Deeper learning, or education for the 21st century, is about the ability of learning to learn, from which students would be able to apply their knowledge and skills in new situations.

In the past decade, various educational organizations and institutes have listed out sets of desired graduate attributes, while governments have come up with their own definition and selection of knowledge, skills, and competencies.

At Hang Seng Management College, we aim to equip students with iGPS, i.e. Intellectual Competence (i), Generic skills (G), Personal development (P) and Social engagement (S).

According to the National Research Council of the United States, the three domains of competence are cognitive (ability to reason and to keep in memory), intrapersonal (ability for self-management) and interpersonal (ability to express ideas and interpret and respond to others’ messages).

Emerging evidence from research indicates that these competences can be taught in ways that promote effective transfer of skills. Educators can encourage questioning and discussion, as well as engage learners in challenging tasks with support and guidance, by outlining selected sets of examples and cases. Formative assessments should be adopted to provide feedback for learners.

At present, education in Hong Kong has largely been focused on cognitive competence, while intrapersonal and interpersonal competences are comparatively inadequate.

It is essential that we refocus our efforts and devote more time and resources if we are to have balanced development of the three domains of competences in students.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 26.

Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Principal of Hang Seng Management College

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