Setting standards

MODERN education built to deliver return on investment, regularly updated courses delivered by instructor-practitioners and a yearly audit of student outcomes are crucial in ensuring that training remains relevant in a fluid digitally-driven economy.

And these are the very factors that set General Assembly (GA) – a global training, staffing and career transition, pioneer – apart from other digital courses and training programmes that flood the market today.

Speaking to StarEdu, GA Asia Pacific managing director Ryan Meyer (pic) said industry practitioners are a crucial component of the curriculum development team. Tasked with reviewing the curriculum at intervals of six months or less, they ensure that the content of the programmes are ever-evolving in tandem with the market and employers’ needs.

“These industry-practitioners from across the globe bring different viewpoints and propose different changes to the curriculum.

“And the updated content is then refined and delivered by instructor-practitioners who bring their industry knowledge to classrooms.”

Regular reviews of the programmes allow the curriculum to evolve fast so GA graduates are always standing on the edge of innovation.

“This regular review process enables GA to tailor the curriculum depending on what is the most relevant to a particular country, company or individual.”

With transparency being a fundamental value, yearly audits of student outcome and progress are conducted and the findings published.

“The audit process keeps us honest and it creates transparency.”

GA, which has 30 campuses worldwide, made its mark in Malaysia with the setting up of Akademi GA in Kuala Lumpur. Akademi GA has acquired exclusive rights to offer GA digital skills courses in the country.

Partnering with the government, said Meyer, is one way to engineer the acceleration of the country’s prominence as a digital nation in the region. GA, he said, has identified the skills that are needed here.

Some of the gaps in the Malaysian workforce GA is looking to bridge include the ability to process large amounts of data, he said.

“Individuals who can draw insights and make future predictions from large amounts of data that governments and industries create, are in great demand.

“There is a deficit in data scientists, software engineers, digital marketers and user experience designers.

“The disciplines and areas our curriculum focus on are determined by what is needed around the world,” he said, adding that GA interacts with industries and the government to evolve the curriculum. This interaction ensures that it remains flexible and agile in meeting specific market demands.

GA has a network of 2,000 instructor-practitioners in the Asia-Pacific region alone, and these individuals have deep industry knowledge, a wealth of experience and most importantly, a real desire to give back to society.

Teaching is a powerful drawcard because it gives them a platform to not only share their expertise with the next generation but to also bring new talents into the fold.

GA, he explained, is not in competition with traditional educational institutions like universities and colleges.

“Education is a powerful, transformative force. GA capitalises on this to move people towards acquiring modern digital skillsets.

“We approach education with an instructor-practitioner model because we want to avoid the ‘ivory tower’ syndrome.

“This is where an individual is an expert in the theoretical underpinnings of a subject but when it comes to the practical application of it, they fall short.”

GA makes sure its instructor-practitioners are world-class by employing strict vetting procedures to recruit individuals who have delivered real life solutions to industry problems they themselves have encountered.

GA’s online contextual learning (MyGA), online assessments, short courses and immersive courses aim to add value to higher education graduates by allowing them to include digital skills to their credentials. To maintain a global standard in their programmes, students across all campuses are graded the same way.

“Our programmes give individuals – even those who did not embark on a tertiary education – access to modern economy skillsets,” he said, stressing that determination is a key factor in acquiring new skills regardless of one’s age.

Of GA’s 100,000 graduates, he said about 20% do not have a tertiary education.

“Our programmes look less at one’s background and more on their determination to succeed.

“Technology is a fantastic leveller of the economy, it breaks old norms.

“So if someone has the determination, a rational mind, and wants to get into software engineering for example, they will be successful.”

Lifelong learning, he said, has replaced the traditional mindset that one is set for life after graduating.

Acknowledging that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused uncertainties in every aspect of the global economy, Meyer however is optimistic that this is the best time for fresh graduates to pursue practical skills – which include the ability to adapt.

“To remain economically viable as an individual, one must pursue lifelong learning.

“If you do not have the skills to work remotely, as you previously worked in a job that physically required you to be somewhere, you will be stuck waiting for someone else to find a solution for you, rather than being enabled to problem solve on your own.

“If everyone stops growing and learning new things because they are afraid they’re not ready for it, we wouldn’t have a thriving global entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem.

“There’s a perspective that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But the other side of the coin is to encourage people who are still in a good working age group and have a long career ahead of them to change the trajectory of their vocation.

“Employers don’t want all their talents to be people fresh out of school with no management experience; you’d want a basket of talents with different perspectives.”

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