Friday, April 26

Building a future-ready workforce: From classrooms to boardrooms


HOW do we prepare for successful careers? This question has challenged our education systems for generations. It can be argued that, now more than ever, technological change has brought an unprecedented set of challenges that our youth have to contend with to be successful in today’s, and more importantly, tomorrow’s world.

Knowledge of traditional subjects are no longer an adequate marker of ability.

Not only are today’s students required to master skills in problem-solving, they must also demonstrate versatile and critical thinking skills for an increasingly virtual world.

Education systems around the world have often struggled to meet and anticipate future skills needs. More needs to be done to break down classroom walls and adequately prepare students to have multiple careers in the 21st Century.

The good news is that education systems are now being assessed on how well they prepare students for the future.


Future-ready graduates

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ‘2017 Educating for the Future Index’, educational systems around the world must find ways to produce graduates who are able to constantly anticipate and acclimatise to the changing demands of the global economy.

Specifically, the index highlights project-based learning, industry collaborations and the need for technology-based curricula as key areas in which education systems around the world must invest in.

The ‘Future Index’ provides a holistic perspective of education systems, by including measures on respective national education policy environments, teaching environments and socioeconomic environments.

These are critical factors that determine the ability of education systems and their institutions to produce resilient and work-ready graduates.

It is noteworthy that the ‘Future Index’ ranks New Zealand as the best education system overall, earning full marks for the curriculum framework for future skills, collaboration between education providers and industry, and cultural diversity and tolerance among other measures.

Indeed, these are the cornerstones upon which we have built our internationally recognised education system, and the reasons why 130,000 international students from more than 180 countries study in New Zealand every year.

New Zealand’s ‘Think New’ approach promotes inquisitive and project-based learning, provides flexible learning pathways for students, and is built upon a world-class education quality assurance system. These foundations, and well-targeted education subsidies, have enabled collaborations between education institutions and industry that provide students with formal education qualifications as well as industry-relevant skills.

Additionally, government investments in digital infrastructure has ensured that the next generation of New Zealand graduates are not just digitally savvy but are digital natives. According to the ‘Future Index’ report, 98 per cent of New Zealand institutions are connected to fast and uncapped broadband connections, making technology an enabler of education in New Zealand.

Such focused efforts have resulted in several New Zealand universities being included in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2017 list, which ranks 300 leading global institutions based on five key aspects of graduate employability.

To effectively prepare students for an increasingly connected world, education systems must also welcome global perspectives.

New Zealand has championed this cause, becoming a sought-after international education destination and being ranked as the safest English-speaking country in the world by the Global Peace Index for 10 years in a row. International education is now New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry.

How are these learnings relevant to Malaysia? New Zealand demonstrates that any education system can successfully prepare students when there is a coordinated and sustained effort by education leaders, teachers, parents, students, and government to raise education standards.

Today, more than 2,000 Malaysian students are in New Zealand pursuing an international education and preparing for a global career.

These students are following in the footsteps of prestigious Malaysian alumni such as astrophysicist Mazlan Othman and esteemed businessman Tan Sri Halim Saad. A large reason behind the recent growth in Malaysian students choosing New Zealand has been the future-focussed education system that New Zealand offers.

The great news is that today’s globally connected world enables us all to share these learnings. Not only are New Zealand universities and education ministries working on education capability-building contracts across Southeast Asia, we are welcoming more and more international students to our country to experience our education system.

As New Zealand celebrates 60 years of diplomatic relations with Malaysia this year, we are as excited as ever to be jointly preparing our students for global success in the boardrooms and workplaces of the future.

Education New Zealand, in partnership with the New Zealand High Commission and other New Zealand Inc agencies, is holding a special Discover Aotearoa New Zealand (DANZ) exhibition with the support of the New Zealand government through Manat Taonga – the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Diplomacy International Programme.

Held at the Pavilion Shopping Mall in Kuala Lumpur until tomorrow (Oct 29), the exhibition will also provide students with the opportunity to learn more about studying in New Zealand.

For more information about studying in New Zealand go to

John Laxon is Education New Zealand’s Regional Director of South, South East Asia and the Middle East.