By Maricarmen Gonzalez and Erick Izaguirre
The Business Dictionary defines a professional as a “Person formally certified by a professional body or belonging to a particular profession by having completed a required course of studies and/or practice”. And whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards.”
The term professional is commonly used to refer to a person who holds a college degree. Reason why exist a marked distinction between the terms profession and occupation where the latter is associated to physical work and the former related to mental activity.
Being a professional has, for several decades, been considered a high-status position in society. However, more and more teenagers and young adults around the world, and especially in Latin America are starting to question the benefits of studying from four to five years in the university. “Should I really spend four or five years of study to become a professional? Is it worth it?” These are just some of the queries that have become increasingly common in realities like Latin America. Unemployment, Lack of job opportunities and well paid “professional” employments have led thousands of teenagers and young adults to choose technical careers instead of an undergraduate education.
Career technical education teaches a broad range of skills which apply to different jobs. Technical education entails learning solid academic skills that students can put to use in real life situations at work. According to SITEAL (2005), the percentages of students between the ages of 18 and 29 who finish their secondary education and continue to a higher education, to then drop out of college are alarming. This means that the option for vocational training open doors to employment.
These numbers clearly show a new trend in education that meets the needs of both, the employers and employees. Among the most attractive benefits of technical careers are a larger demand for technicians, higher earnings, and the service provided to the individuals and the country.
Today vocational and technical careers are in high demand. In fact, there are more job openings for technical careers than for undergraduate professionals, especially those that are related to accounting, business and health, among others. However, it has not always been so.
Towards the end of the twentieth century, a bachelor’s degree was a must if a student wanted to succeed or secure for a higher position within a company. The best grades and performance during the career reflected preparation and success, regardless of the hands-on training or real-life practice, the college graduate may have had. Technology and globalization changed the scene quite a bit, not only changing the skills required for a job but workplaces themselves. Modern workplaces are constantly changing, and those who will succeed should possess and develop a diverse set of competencies that will allow them to perform not one or two roles in the company, but take over any position needed to face the situations that companies nowadays do.
Technical education prepares students with the skills, competencies, and practice to deal with the present and future technology. Looking back in history, after World War II, higher education represented a standard of living. It represented a safe path to security and a brilliant future. Big businesses were in high demand of professionals to manage and increase production. During the late 80s, big companies changed to small businesses where many kinds of skills were required to execute diverse tasks. Such performance claimed for a different kind of education, more dynamic and diversified. Thus, technical education fulfilled these requirements in less time and reaching healthier and better wages.
According to Forbes, technical and vocational jobs are not only better paid but considerably growing and on high demand. Undoubtedly, the tech industry is among the best-paying ones, a crucial factor to take into consideration students, who find themselves in the currently so common dilemma of professional or technician, have become much more aware.
In addition to the great demand for technicians and the so attractive wages technical careers offer nowadays, people who study a vocational career can also find their realization in their significant impact on their society and their countries. Compared to the end of last century when health and social work were not valued; nowadays, jobs known as community and health services are essential for society’s growth and development. Thus, these occupations provide countries with a better level of life, adding competitiveness and productivity to the working sector. Workers in health and human services supply assistance in their areas which are helpful and valuable, and by helping their society, they help their country. Such services careers are an important vocation.
Even though the term professional has for so long been restricted to an exclusive list of occupations, usually related to college degrees, the emergence of so many highly-valued areas of work has sparked the debate on what a professional is. In his article “Traits that convey character also define a professional,” Peter Post beautifully lists and describes some of the characteristics that any person performing an occupation should possess so as to be considered professional. Among these traits, Post mentions consideration, respect, and honesty. Taking such characteristics and the benefits of studying a technical career herein previously mentioned and described into consideration, there is no trace of doubt that our modern society and the new economy are eagerly awaiting for a giant wave of brand new professionals, professionals in technical careers committed to constant learning and service who become experts in a specialized sector of any given industry.
SITEAL (2005). La educación superior en América Latina: acceso, permanencia y equidad. Datos destacados. Buenos Aires: IIEP-OEIUNESCO
“What Is Professional? Definition and Meaning.”BusinessDictionary.com. Web. 10 May 2017.
Post, Peter Globe Correspondent 2014 August “Just what does it mean to be a professional? – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. N.p., 17 Aug. 2014. Web. 10 May 2017.
M.A. Maria del Carmen Gonzalez
When teaching another language all the input, exposure, and practice that the students may get becomes priceless to their learning concerning exposure. Technology provides English language teachers with an endless source of tools and applications which can make their classes much more interactive and be engaging for learners. Instructors have the opportunity to communicate with other teachers, creating networks to share not only knowledge but also advice and tips for their classes. Such groups have formed communities where they can find everything and anything to make classes more enjoyable to students. Learners get in touch with authentic material and practice in real contexts, putting the language into use right from level one.
Thus, language instructors have a great responsibility once they open the gate of technology inside and outside their classrooms. Teachers have to train students on how to use technology effectively regarding ethics and responsibility. They cannot teach them how to use a particular tool, but on the contrary, a whole set of required skills to discriminate information, respect authorship, and develop competencies to use any tool, page or application as students, and later on, for their professional life as well. These measures will guaranty learners to move responsibly in the digital world, with or without a teacher by their side; in other words, they will unfold digital citizenship.
Technology opens a broad range of possibilities for students, as they can surf the web for any material, information, application or tool, as well as be a part of learning clubs or communities to exchange ideas or simply have a pen pal. Once trained into the elements of digital citizenship: literacy, access, security, etiquette, health and wellness, commerce, communications, law, rights and responsibilities, students will be protected to use technology and digital information safely, responsibly, and ethically.
Furthermore, technology provides the creative teacher with the occasion to create their material using faster and more efficient tools, save it for further use and even sell it to other teachers in pages set up for that purpose. Teachers can download a great variety of free material for their classes, saving time and effort; moreover, lesson plans and all kinds of games and worksheets, along with another large variety of online exercises and games.
There is no question about technology being part of our lives; the dilemma resides on the knowledge we have of its significance and effects on our existence. As teachers, we must become digital citizens, teaching by example, guiding and instructing our students on how to surf correctly on the web.
By Academic Committee
Changes in the workplace are necessary to match the 21st-century skills demands. Global citizens today agree that as time goes by the place of work changes, but the competencies that go along with it should too. We cannot deny that the skills required in the 21st-century gear towards factors such as competitiveness, innovation, and creativity.
Workers nowadays need an advanced mentality, open mind and disposition to unlearn and relearn putting into practice soft skills such as time management, leadership, resilience, and self-direction, among others.
Workplaces are changing. Many workers are still illiterate when it comes to succeeding in the involving work environment, taking into account that company’s know-how goes hand in hand with technology. The power of technology will promote modern devices and a more efficient communication network as the workplace setting improves. If a company wants to keep its quality and be competitive in its market, then workers will need to keep up with the latest technology trends and adapt rapidly to the changes that occur on a daily basis.
Companies have also seen the necessity to make adjustments in their infrastructure to promote spaces where workers can interact in different ways. Moreover, design places where creativity and innovation flourish. The need for spaces that nurture teamwork and discussion contribute to the development of creative solutions and distinct concepts gathering different opinions and points of view. Thus, generating change too.
As times change, society and minds also change. Back in the days having domain and knowledge in the core subjects at school were enough to be considered a successful person and prepared for the real world. Currently, this era takes much more skills than just being able to read, write and solve mathematical equations.
To gain success, we must now have a range of knowledge in diverse areas of expertise such as science, technology, and culture, as well as being creative, innovative, flexible, and possess the ability to work in teams, solve problems, think critically, and communicate effectively.
Assumptions regarding success in the workplace have also changed. It is not just about inventing a product that allures people because it is not costly and it works. Now it has to be original, significant and prepossessing. Moreover, many jobs are being delegated to other countries because they can save money by having other people do the same job for less pay. Technology in itself poses dichotomy as it advances, the workplace changes in a way where humans compete against it for the same job. However, if the personnel can adapt, learn and innovate it will outsmart computers and avoid a worker’s replacement since jobs now demand specialization.
Employees need to keep pace with competencies so that managers and directors can see that they possess the skills from the 21st century. They have to prove and make visible, making the right decisions, using the right information and tools, that they can do the job right, come up with the best solutions and produce the most incredible and rewarding product or service. Many professionals have already embarked in these skills adopting technology and software as essential to getting the job done making them a limited, yet valuable source due to the attitude rather than their expertise on the subject.
by Erick Mariano Izaguirre
“Why do I need to study this? What for do I need to know this? How is this going to help me in the future?” Do these questions sound familiar to you? If you are a teacher, you must have heard these questions dozens of times. Decontextualized new content usually leads students to this uncomfortable query.
Director and writer Spencer Cathcart, known for The Lie We Live (2015) claims: “We discover the world through a textbook. For years we sit and regurgitate what we’re told. Tested and graded like subjects in a lab. Raised not to make a difference in this world, raised to be no different. Smart enough to do our job but not to question why we do it.” His words seem to make much more sense now that the concept of “21st-century skills” is catching on.
Nowadays an increasing number of business people, politicians, and educators are sold to the idea that the new generations of students need the provision of “21st-century skills” to be able to succeed in our fast-evolving reality. Today we are experiencing such an incredible amount of changes that what students learn at schools is obsolete in a couple of years. The reason why teaching students competencies instead of content has become much more urgent now than any time before.
An article published by The Glossary of Education Reform in the year 2014 suggests that “21st-century skills can be applied in all academic subject areas, and in all educational, career, and civic settings throughout a student’s life.” It is of high relevance to highlight that some of the most common characteristics considered as 21st-century skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving, have been neglected for many years in our educational systems. Some claim this has been the result of deficient assessment tools since we have been immersed in evaluation methods that force students to learn the necessary content to pass an exam, thus leaving aside the sole purpose of education, learning for life.
In addition to critical thinking and problem solving, there is an extensive list of characteristics that companies around the world and the planet itself demand from every single citizen. Civic, ethical, and social justice literacy as well as, global awareness, multicultural literacy, humanitarianism, ecosystems understanding, and environmental and conservation literacy are just some of the skills we have not been able to master yet due to their lack of economic productivity. It is well-known that education systems will respond to the needs of those who fund them, especially now that education is a private and very lucrative business. However, understanding the extent of the situation is just the beginning. Now the big challenge is to come up with a way to tackle the problem we face in our educational systems.
Those who concern the most about this education crisis seem to be, as mentioned before, governments and large enterprises. But why has this become an issue in these times specifically? If education has always responded to the economic needs and productivity, and students have been trained to do their future jobs well, then we should wonder: Are they simply being taught how to earn a living, or how to live as well? It is evident that the economic needs grew much faster than our awareness on topics such as social justice, global issues, and humanitarianism.
Finland, for example, pursuits to become the first country in the world to get rid of all school subjects. The Finnish education system is considered one of the best in the world. It is common to always appear in the top ten rating. According to an article published by Bright side in November 2016, “Instead of individual subjects, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format.” The purpose of this is to empower students in making decisions about what phenomenon they want to learn more in detail about depending on their future professional interests. The suggested changes also contemplate the end of the old-fashioned way of teaching in which students just sit behind school desks waiting to be asked a question by the teacher and answering based on the content of a particular textbook or material. All this will surely provide society with a new generation of professionals who do not only know how to do the jobs they are hired for, but also can be active participants and decision makers in a world of ever accelerated transformations.
Once we become aware of the whole picture of how the economic, political, and educational system is intertwined and understand that the 21st century and the planet need more active participants rather than just followers, we will also be able to change the way we teach and learn. The actions we take after this will hopefully contribute to not having more students wondering what for they have to learn something.
Abbot, S., editor. “21st Century Skills Definition.” The Glossary of Education Reform, 25 Aug. 2016, edglossary.org/21st-century-skills/.
The Lie We Live: Information Clearing House – ICH.” The Lie We Live: Information Clearing House – ICH, Information Clearing House, 3 Mar. 2016, www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44357.htm.
Published in La Prensa Grafica,, El Salvador
October 17, 2016
Mathew Anderson, President of Keiser University Latin American Campus, motivates parents to inherit quality education to their children by choosing Keiser.
The Latin American Campus located in San Marcos, Carazo, Nicaragua has become a regional reference in higher education, especially because it offers Central American students an integrated education based on a North American model. One of the major impacts this prestigious institution has is the fostering of the English language not only in its curriculum but also as a tool that they have to master in all their aspects of life, and a key to the business world.
According to Mathew Anderson, English is the fastest growing language in the world, making it the language of business and bringing prosperity to the countries in the region. “93% of our graduates get a job, and whenever I travel, I receive requests from business people looking for our alumni due to the fact that they have studied a four-year major in a North American university and speak English rendering them into potential assets”, said Anderson.
LEADERS WHO IMPACT IN THE COMMUNITY
Keiser University has the mission of preparing the Central American future leaders who impact and change the environment where they perform. “Our main influence in the region is that we create leaders, people who work hard, are bilingual, and adapt to business scenarios”, indicated the university authority.
Likewise, Mathew Anderson stated that the quality of education of its graduates is characterized by innovation, hard work, and a high degree of work ethics leading them to give back to the community and to their countries of origin. Keiser University provides financial aid to those Central American citizens who cannot afford to enroll but show strong leadership skills, and strive for the best.
In addition to employing faculty with Master’s Degrees from prestigious U.S. Universities, Keiser University excels at offering an integral student life support in a safe campus and convenient location.
By Academic Committee
The new trend in companies now geared towards the 21st century focuses on technology and globalization. Millennials, today’s leaders, with easy access to the global market, and native to technological surroundings transform Startups to billion dollar companies overnight leaving their competitive advantage to Talent and Creativity.
Whereas, CEO’s are now enforced to redefine their recruitment process within the four pillars of Talent Management considering as a starting point the Millennial’s way of thinking, use of technology, and globalization.
I. The Recruitment process:
The recruitment process is the first step where changes need to occur. Before, CEO’s through Human Resources office scouted people that would perfectly match the position requirements. In today’s global market, the focus is on talent and adaptability. In the modern globalized economy, companies weigh employee’s ability to acquire new knowledge and collaborate. Also, gaining experience and developing individuals’ skill-sets becomes essential. Employers would now prefer to have energetic, malleable workforces who can learn on the job and help one another to innovate and create new solutions.
II. Learning Development
Today’s candidates are not looking for a career inside a company; they are looking for an experience. This immense change in the status quo of what people wanted at their workplace comes from the changes needs directly connecting to the economy. Thus agile workforce is required.
Millennials’ inherent values and life skills set imply hands-on the job and learning by doing. So, development of learning is shifting towards business leaders who progressively identify the lack of competence as a dominant obstacle to the implementation of their company’s strategies; thus, ensuring the need for creating opportunities and space for learning.
Millennials’ creative workforce considers of high added value the emphasis on continuous learning to the point that when they are not learning, they leave organizations. The key lies in creating conditions for learning to happen as part of their development aligned to the recruitment process and meeting the needs of the changing economy and its workforce.
III. Periodical Check-ins
Annual Reviews are a thing of the past; today proved ineffective and inefficient in fostering high performance. According to talent managers, Annual Reviews do not promote employee engagement or talent. Instead, valuing a year full of work and noticing changes that would require follow-ups until a new year comes and which results directly connects to compensation derives in demotivating collaborators. Millennials whose mindsets focuses towards learning and gaining experience that fosters talent and creativity need immediate input hence constant check-ins lead to direct real-time improvements.
Also, lifelong learning is the key to adjust performance through coaching and skills development rather than just evaluations. Today, Millennials value instant feedback given after direct performance if it is active and constructive. They feel the need to be geared towards their responsibilities and progress within the roles and duties they perform; hence their results drive the companies’ culture and employee’s engagement as they feel valued and take part of the system and for those that need improvement creating a support system that helps them grow. If leaders provide constant feedback on performance they are also building future leaders, coaches, and mentors who drive the economy and their responsibilities to fulfillment fostering teamwork; as a result creating new leaders. Also, instant check-ins goes hand in hand with clear objectives and results since they bring transparency and efficacy to the job performed which Millennials highly value.
IV. Career Development and Compensation
Unlike the traditional idea of career development which meant reaching the next step in the corporate ladder, the 21st Century economy places great importance on providing opportunities and support to middle-level operations to advance and create development opportunities for employees to meet the rapidly changing needs of the company. Talent Managers should focus on three primary drivers- purpose, autonomy, and mastery- to meet Millennials mindsets expectations for development. Ideally, employers should create opportunities for young, talented, creative minds to experience different functions, roles, and markets for them to gain experience and build adaptability to change in employees; from now on, creating a more stable job opportunity to the collaborator. This career development opportunity leads to a change in view and although Millennials are ambitious and strive for financial success, they also prefer a collaborative work culture environment and value transparency.
Millennials focus on collaboration and equality and draw towards projects that connect their strengths and abilities leading to career fulfillment since social networks are their essence, they expect an open culture without barriers of any levels; subsequently, they also favor leaders who create opportunities for training and development.
Millennials now connected to the world through technology; they embrace cultural diversity and change as essential to their environment. The creation of culturally diverse leadership teams and workforces with divergent backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas enables collaboration, inclusion and ensures equipped leaders for future challenges. Lastly, considering that new challenges lie ahead, a succession of employees is essential to the fulfillment of positions with great talents, creativity, and better-equipped life skills. Such replacements can fulfill the needs throughout the organization connected to the economy, and its global trends requiring an immediate change in the Talent Management process where Millennials are taking over.
Haak, Tom. “10 Talent Management Trends for 2016 | HR Trend Institute.” HR Trend Institute. HR Trend Institute, 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.
Martin, Jean. “How to Keep Your Top Talent.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School, May 2010. Web. Aug. 2016.
Mathew Anderson, President of Keiser University
August 21, 2016
Mathew Anderson, President of the Latin American Campus of Keiser University in San Marcos, Carazo, is a scholar of how the development of robotics will make easier the lives of many people, and cause the misfortune of those they replace.
He is also a ‘preacher’ of the importance of having a bilingual workforce, not only because he runs a training school in that language, but because of the proven correlation between the acquisition of English, and the growth of the employee’s income, and GDP of a country.
Immersed in the task of implementing the Global Scale English in the country and focusing on the expansion of the University to the northern triangle of Central America, Anderson spoke with Confidential about Keiser the educational project. The expert in International Education, specializing in the History of Philosophy, also referred to the effects of 3D printing on world trade, and the impact the ‘Trump effect’ would have on the national BPO industry if the Republicans win the U.S. presidency.
What is the current status of the teaching of English in Nicaragua?
The fastest way to help the country and contribute to the growth of its economy is to learn English. There is evidence and statistics show that states that have adopted the teaching of English as a priority, which is the lingua franca – have seen an increase in per capita income and the economy in general.
The English Proficiency Index serves to verify the data, which draws information in 60 countries, without exception, those countries with higher levels of English, were those who had the higher income.
Research showed that individuals who had higher levels of English had incomes 30% to 40% greater than average. Even countries like China are promoting English as the medium of communication at the corporate level.
Something singular to Nicaragua is that outsourcing companies (BPO or call centers) have a high demand for bilingual staff, but in Nicaragua, there is no critical mass in English.
Countries like Nicaragua might not be an attractive destination for BPO if Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency …
For these decisions to be active, Trump would have to be approved by the US Congress and negotiate with its members, and I do not consider they want to lay off 11 million people. Rather, Trump is emphasizing on the issue of wages, which have been stagnant for a long time in the same range.
Although, working in a call center is a solution for an immediate job, what other advantages does a bilingual worker have in a market like Nicaragua?
The call centers are only touching the surface. In fact, for middle managers and senior executives, it is a key element to have English proficiency.
Generally, between 30% and 50% of all businesses worldwide have to make cross-border communication, and in an increasingly global world, there is greater demand for such type of communication. Even small grocery stores in Nicaragua are working with suppliers who provide services from abroad.
How can Keiser improve the teaching of English in the country?
Keiser is adopting universal standards for the sake of BPO and corporate companies operating in Nicaragua. We have seen that if institutions let the open market, without measurement, it caters the selling of programs that have no measure or verification of their quality.
The English teaching programs of our International Language Institute are reviewed and evaluated by doctors in the field of teaching English. Second, we hire people with master’s degrees in the discipline of English. Third, Keiser has a requirement that all English teachers are certified.
When someone studies English at another institution, he or she receives one to two hours per day of class, but in Keiser its English day and night for four years. The one with more consistency in the learning process will lead to having better results in the future. Besides, I must say that when comparing with other English teaching institutions, our prices are competitive with the quality and diversification we offer.
Who certifies teachers?
We use an international standard, and we are adapting our programs to align with the international standards. The GSE is a global consensus of more than 6,000 teachers. It is vital to stress that it is not a person or company that promotes the guidelines, but by a consensus of experts worldwide who participated and contributed to the design of the descriptors.
I do not know if others are using it, but we are promoting them. Our expectation is that other institutions get involved and chooses to adopt it and that the government involvement serves not only to recommend it but also to align its programs with it.
An American university in Carazo
“Our system of online education allows students to choose from up to 100 different majors.”
What are the advantages of studying at the Keiser Latin American Campus?
Most of our teachers come from prestigious universities, including Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford. Also, we are an American university, accredited to the American system with a level 6 in SACS, which is the highest.
This institution is service oriented to students who are eligible for an exchange program in the U.S., and within six months, also in China. Our pedagogy emphasizes critical thinking rather than memorization. Also, all of our classes are in English. Finally, our online learning system allows our students to choose from up to 100 different majors.
What is the Keiser educational project for Nicaragua and Central America?
Keiser tries to recruit as students, potential leaders within the region. There are good universities in Nicaragua and Central America that focus on the masses. Our focus is on the future leaders of Central American nations. Through leadership, we look for people with firm ethical and moral values and teach our students to be self-learners in the learning process.
As we know, knowledge grows exponentially every day. By contributing to the education of our students, we want them to help and return that knowledge to their nations.
Does it matter for a US employer that the title has been issued here, and not in Florida or Shanghai?
Absolutely! There is no difference. Graduates receive an American diploma which is also valid and recognized by the CNU.
You serve careers as Business Administration, Accounting, Criminal Justice, Technology, Nursing, and Psychology. How would you define the profile of this university?
Traditionally, the Latin American Campus has focused on business administration, political science, and psychology. However, like any other traditional school in the U.S., we also offer a plethora of options: we do not target a particular area, but we have a range of choices: from Associate Degrees (two-year degrees) to doctorates (Ph. D.).
As we are an institution accredited by SACS, which is the Southern Association of Colleges, 99.9% of our teachers have at least master’s degrees or higher. For our masters or doctoral programs, it is required to have a doctorate. For bachelor’s degrees, 25% of the courses must be taught by Ph. D’s.
How do you define your mission, regarding the type of professionals graduating: people with an American title that stay and work in their countries, or that go to work in the United States?
One of our added values is that 90% of our graduates get a job within and outside the country, or they get accepted into graduate programs. 85% of graduates get a job within their field of study.
In practice, most students choose to return home, but I guess that between 15% and 20% go abroad for work. Our primary focus is to stay in the region to contribute to their nations.
Artificial intelligence and critical thinking
People have to invest in training focused on the development of creativity
You say that 65% of children now in elementary school will labor in jobs that do not exist yet. What do you rely on to make that claim?
Historically speaking, inventions make some jobs disappear while generating new jobs, but AI is replacing the thought process, and will eliminate more jobs than it will create.
The estimate is that within 30 to 50 years, Artificial Intelligence will oust the thinking process. In fact, there are already jobs as security and home care among others, which are starting to be replaced by robotics.
What will differentiate us in the process is how we are developing critical thinking and creative thinking. For example, within academia, there are computer programs that validate qualifications objectively, and may qualify the quality of a trial. There are also computer programs that write short news reports in the field of business.
What should education systems do?
Writing on paper is easy. The focus has to be towards engineering, liberal arts (believe it or not), mathematics, (we should be emphasizing in that discipline since students are very young) and everything that is related to creativity, because other professions are being eliminated, even at this time when we are talking about it.
As an example, McDonald’s is operating fully robotic restaurants in some cities in the U.S., and I know of a company that replaced all agricultural workers with robots.
As for international trade, a pending topic to address is that 3D printers will rectify the logistics process and production so that all you have to export is raw material for ‘printing’ what you need.
You mentioned several professions that are at risk of being replaced by intelligent machines or robots, including teachers of primary and secondary schools. Can it also happen to university professors? And to those who teach English?
I recently read an article that mentioned that technology would not replace teachers, but teachers who do not use technology. There are aspects that neither robotics nor artificial intelligence can handle because they are part of human nature, but there are computers that can play chess better than any human.
Right now, both artificial intelligence and robotics, come to assist us in different jobs, but perhaps in the future, within 50 to 100 years, they might come to replace us. Stephen Hawkins always says that jobs will disappear, but will have to wait for time to pass to know if that prediction comes true.
by Academic Committee
Managers, recruiters, and applicants are aware that English proficiency is a critical factor for the professional advancement of individuals in virtually every industry, especially in business and management. Not speaking the language hinders employees at all levels to develop themselves fully and excludes them from a wide array of opportunities inside and outside their companies. English has such importance that employees who do not speak it are left in a stagnant position and are relegated and eventually replaced. However, a bias against non-native English speakers in the business and entrepreneurial world has become a more pervasive problem that has created a glass ceiling for a valuable segment of the workforce, and a non-native accent is one of the most prominent ways in which this challenge manifests.
Non-native English speakers can face communication and cultural barriers that might be difficult to overcome depending on the attitude and level of immersion with the language and culture. These barriers provide some insights regarding the existence of this glass-ceiling. For instance, they can face difficulties in interpersonal relationships with vital people, in negotiations and preliminary talks, and selling themselves and their ideas, among others. However, the problem has a more intricate background. Even though the degree of globalization the world experiments nowadays both in academics and business has triggered a steep increase in the number of highly-qualified workers non-native of the English language, they still face difficulties being promoted, finding executive-level jobs, and even obtaining funding for entrepreneurial ventures. Hence, there are also other roots to this problem that transcend communication and cultural barriers and even performance. These are more related to an implicit, subtle discrimination towards foreigners, and they have deep psychological and evolutionary roots which affect the foreign labor force at a macro level.
Laura Huang et al., (2013) explain this phenomenon and states that companies and venture capitalists are shifting away their focus from the quality of entrepreneurs’ and workers’ ideas and knowledge to the quality of their English. However, she concludes that even though communication per se is not a significant factor causing the glass ceiling, political skill is. Ferris et al. (2005) define political skill as the ability of an individual to change his or her behavior according to the situational demands to influence or control other’s responses. An important aspect of political skill is that it expresses sincerity, which allows the person to hide ulterior motives. Furthermore, according to Ferris, it is independent of general mental ability but related to personality traits. Although a non-native accent can undermine opportunities for promotion, lower political skills provide a better explanation to the glass-ceiling problem since it is an essential skill for executives.
The existence of this bias against non-native English speakers poses some problems for the labor force, regulators, and also for companies. The most visible problem is the limited opportunities for professional advancement this segment of the population has despite their intelligence and performance. Moreover, regulators might have to establish stricter policies regarding the hiring of foreigners. Besides, due to the changing dynamics of the labor force, it creates tension for companies related to the recruitment of either national applicants with excellent political skills but lower expertise or foreign applicants with lower political skills but greater expertise. This tradeoff can significantly affect their organizational culture and profitability.
Professor Huang presents two possible solutions to this problem. The first one consists of training to help non-native English speakers develop an accent more in tune to the standard and requirements of their society, Nevertheless, this solution might not be as effective due to the difficulty in changing a person’s accent, especially at an older age. The other solution entails directly addressing this bias and the implicit assumptions related to it during interviews or job-seeking activities and taking advantage of opportunities to demonstrate high political skills despite a foreign accent.
The bias against non-native speakers, and the glass-ceiling it creates, poses difficult challenges for knowledgeable professionals, as well as for companies and regulators. This bias has deep roots beyond communication and performance issues, which makes it difficult to solve shortly. Political skill is one of the factors that best explain the problem. Hence, accent-reduction training and demonstration of political skills are possible solutions at a personal level to help mitigate the problem and increase professional opportunities within the labor force.
Ferris, G. R., Treadway, D. C., Kolodinsky, R. W., Hochwater, W. A., Kacmar, W. A., Douglas, C., & Frink, D. D. (2005). Development and Validation of the Political Skill Inventory. Journal of Management, 31(1), 126-152. doi:10.1177/0149206304271386
Huang, L., Frideger, M., & Pearce, J.L. (2013). Political Skill: Explaining the Effects of Nonnative Accent on Managerial Hiring and Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(6), 1005-1017. doi:10.1037/a0034125
By Research Committee, Keiser International Language Institute
Companies have always required human capital with a vast knowledge in diverse fields and people with a plethora of skills, but these requirements have evolved and have become more complex throughout time. These needs present a high degree of correlation with the changes in technology, globalization, economy, and easiness of access to information, which makes them highly dynamic. Nevertheless, the ability to speak English and, more importantly, be proficient in the language, is a particular skill that has gained strength throughout years and has shaped businesses and economies in a subtle yet powerful way. In Central America, the importance of the English-speaking labor force deserves particular attention due to its critical role in the countries’ development and the challenges governments face to foster this development.
Not so long ago, English proficiency meant a considerable advancement at a personal and professional level that gave individuals a significant advantage over the rest of the job seekers.. In fact, it enabled them to have access to a wider array of employment opportunities. Moreover, it allowed them to obtain better positions with higher salary ranges in their home countries and abroad. However, the effect of English has evolved and now companies in all countries where English is not the native language have steeply increased their demand for a labor force that masters the language, making it an indispensable requirement for employment. Business leaders and policymakers are aware of the fact that English has become a lingua franca in many fields and a critical factor in the growth of their companies as well as for the economic development of their countries.
Different strands of research conclude that there exists a direct relationship between English skills the population has developed and the economic growth of a country (McCormick). In countries where English proficiency has improved , the income per capita has increased as well. The great importance of English derives mainly from two aspects: information and key players. English represents access to information vital to decision-making, strategy creation, and policy making. Two cases worth mentioning include academic and practitioner-oriented literature, the vast majority of which and the most relevant ones are in English. Furthermore, English grants companies and countries access to key players necessary for their development, profitability, and growth. Countries with a large number of English-speakers combined with high levels of proficiency generate more negotiations and trade besides attracting more foreign investment.
The demand for people with specific language skills in a country and the companies within it directly relate to the number of countries and people outside it that speak its mother tongue. Moreover, demand for a particular language depends on the economic relevance of the countries with which a nation engages in negotiations and trades that speak the language in question.
These factors help explain the development of the English skills people in Central America develop. On the one hand, historically the trade of Central American countries has taken place with one another , which reduced the need of English in these countries. On the contrary, over the last decades, Central America has expanded its borders and has been increasingly trading with the U.S. and other developed countries. In other words, these countries are now highly dependent on developed countries, and the most direct method to bridge them is English. This has created a radical increase in the demand in Central America for a labor force that masters English.
Even though English represents such a crucial tool for companies and economies, Central American countries has been unable to leverage and fully exploit it because their respective populations lack a strong base of English skills; as a result, these nations face a shortage of workers who are highly proficient in English. . In its Globalization of English Report, McKinsey & Co., and Global English state that only 13 percent of graduates from emerging economies are suitable for employment in multinational corporations, and the number one reason is the lack of English skills (2). The English Proficiency Index 2015, a global ranking of English skills per country, serves as a useful indicator of the consequences that may ensue as a result of the lack of English skills in the Central American workforce. In this index, Venezuela and El Salvador rank in the Very Low Proficiency range; Costa Rica and Panama, in Low Proficiency, while Argentina ranks in High Proficiency, which correlates to their respective economic performances. Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras do not even appear in the ranking.
The core of the current state of English skills in Central America lies in the dynamics and difficulties the education systems in most of the countries have experienced , which has left the region with significant challenges to overcome. To begin with, historical events such as wars and political distress in the XX Century hindered the economic development of countries and hence access to quality education, especially knowledge and skills that went against the political priorities of the time. Even though countries have been able to overcome these issues at different levels and have implemented policies to promote education, they still lack sound strategies for the teaching of English; they face deficiencies in primary school, and they have scarce trainers regarding quantity and qualifications. Moreover, Central American countries have been unable to integrate adequately technologies in the teaching of English, which has hindered the effectiveness and reach of efforts in education of the language.
Furthermore, this type of Central American Dark Age left significant gaps in what has become today the top management of the most prominent companies. Only a small percentage of the generation of leading managers in most countries today can speak English, and a smaller percentage has an advanced level of proficiency. This means that organizations and economies are unable to achieve higher levels of growth and investment because they lack the human resources to get involved with the key players in the world economy and business world. Digging deeper it is possible to analyze some ramifications of the problem. Top management with insufficient English skills creates tension between themselves and the emerging graduates that up to some degree are entering the labor force with a higher level of English. At the same time, it is mostly the people with relatively high income who are capable of affording (quality) education in the language, which in the end widens socioeconomic gaps.
The lack of English skills raises another red flag for Central American countries as is the adequacy of English and technical skills or specific know-how and training. English helps individuals obtain better jobs within their scope of study. This fact poses issues whether these individuals are the best fit for these posts or if they possess the knowledge to outperform those competitors that do not speak English. Hence, this evidences a necessary tradeoff between English skills and specialized training that jeopardizes companies’ profitability and growth and the need for training that addresses both aspects.
Business leaders, policy makers, and educational institutions are confront with the difficult mission to fill the gaps and improve the education of English in the Central American region. By doing so, they will be able to achieve higher levels of development and investment. They should provide a foundation for elementary education, create effective strategies for the teaching of English that ensure the number and quality of trainers, as well as the integration of technologies. Also, stakeholders need to create training programs that prepare the labor force with the technical knowledge in specialized areas and the English skills to accompany it. This would mean a substantial enhancement of the labor force and, therefore, the development of the private and public sectors as well as the economy of the countries in the region.
Education First. “EF English Proficiency Index”. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
Global English. “The Globalization of English Report: Globalization Accelerates Need for Business English Communication Skills”. 2010. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
McCormick, Christopher. “Countries with Better English Have Better Economies”. Harvard Business Review, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
Adapted and condensed by James Cordonero
There is a growing number of teachers in different subjects trying to hone their pedagogical skills, and those who want to go the extra mile turn their eyes to other countries to find ideas about continuous professional development (CPD).
According to David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, we should keep track of what is taking place abroad in terms of professional development. However, he further states, “It takes a number of different levers to change what’s happening in a large complicated system, but professional development is going to be an important one.”
Bearing that in mind, the following is but a small sample of the world’s education success stories:
Languages: Malta and Sweden
The route to success in language teaching lies in a complex multitude of factors, from the curriculum to the culture and geography of a country. But, despite the caveats, teachers can still take ideas and inspiration from abroad.
In 2011, the European Survey on Language Competences highlighted Malta and Sweden as leaders in pupils’ foreign language achievements. The reason is simple: they speak the languages at home. In both countries, English is spoken by nearly 90% of the population and the media is in both native and foreign languages.
Nevertheless, it’s not all about home-schooling: effective teaching supports the multilingual culture. In Malta, for instance, language teachers report high levels of funding and, for pupils, it’s given prominence in the curriculum. Students’ attitudes may also make a difference to learning approaches: in Malta and Sweden, students say they find learning English easy – an attitude not found in other countries.
It is almost impossible to replicate the same level of language immersion that students in Sweden and Malta experience, but the techniques have nevertheless begun to emerge in the some countries such as the UK. In Bohunt School in Hampshire, for example, each new year a group is assigned a language, be it French, Spanish or Chinese. Then, lessons in ICT (Information and Communications Technology), art, PE, social studies and after-school activities are taught in that language.
Teacher’s professional development: Japan
Japan has become a notable case study for CPD, with a system that was a well-kept secret for decades. The Lesson Study scheme originated in the nineteenth century, and provides a structured program for peer-to-peer development.
Collaborating with a group of teachers, a lesson is planned, observed and analyzed. Together, the teachers learn from each other, and share insights into their pedagogy. The result is a more open and public forum for education, where there may be as many teachers as children in a classroom.
Critics say it creates an unnatural environment in schools, but the Japanese system has already been adopted by teachers across Asia and is quickly finding its feet in Europe.
Furthermore, the Lesson Study model has itself become internationally collaborative, as the system evolves in unique ways in each new country. Japan’s most important lesson is the importance of collaboration in professional development.
Along with other East Asian countries, Singapore has been hailed for its innovative maths education, producing world-class results.
In Singapore, learning times tables parrot fashion is frowned upon. Children are encouraged to develop core maths skills in creative, noisy classrooms, using props and diagrams to explain abstract concepts. The system, which was developed in the 1980s, couldn’t be more different from the traditional approach used in other countries where students s are still encouraged to do rote-learning without making sense out of how time tables work.
Singapore’s success has caught the attention of schools in the USA, where some have adopted the system and it has enjoyed rave reviews. As always though, teachers’ pedagogy is only part of the equation. A recent study, which highlighted Singapore’s success, also claimed: “An early start is crucial in shaping children’s numeracy skills.”
Social and emotional learning: Sweden and USA
A British scholar recently explored classrooms in the US and Sweden to find out how they approached social and emotional learning.
“The classrooms are full of mood meters and feelings charts as well as quiet areas that pupils can go to think, problem solve, reflect and resolve disputes using clearly-defined steps,” she writes about the US. “At the heart of the American school day is the importance of patriotism, national pride and the American flag.”
Although the approach stems from classroom culture, schools also use more formal frameworks to develop emotional learning, such as the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP). At the heart of the scheme is strong CPD, with a focus on teacher training and classroom management.
It’s a far cry from the freedom and autonomy found in Swedish schools. There, social and emotional learning is tied up with an emphasis on self-motivation. Pupils are encouraged to think independently, and have individualized guidance from teachers.