Acquiring specialized knowledge and skills

Coming from the industry before joining the academia again, I wonder sometimes, what is the outcome of furthering your education if the learners does not acquire skills and knowledge that benefits them in their current or future vocation? To my observation, the slowest institutions that adopt changes are education and legal (policy-making) organizations. However this occurs due to the “glass wall gap”, between the industry and these institutions, where due to their different focuses, converging and meeting points are a rarity.

Learners that graduate from university are bombarded with basic, sometime theoretical and broad knowledge on their future vocation. The industry meanwhile expects the graduates to be skillful with the required knowledge and industry tools. This is the obvious supply and demand mismatch. So how do university learners obtain required specialized knowledge and skills?

Life-long learning

It is obvious that university is not the real world i.e. the industry and your lecturer is not your boss and supervisors. Hence, with bridging, universities have tried to impart industry based experience to the students learning time with labs, equipment, case studies, outside off campus activities, and industrial training. The most obvious way to achieve learning and teaching excellence is to always innovate the learning through continuous improvements in syllabus, leaning approach and tools and inculcating the mind of continuous learning.

As technology and industry changes at speed, there is the impossibility of adopting change. How fast can you adapt your learning contents and syllabus, three month, half a year, one year, two-three years? Hence it is only practical for the lecture and students to both, adopt the life-long learning paradigm. Agility in content and scope should be done realistically with demanding times. Such approach can be adopted with flexibility and the vast amount of information available from the Internet can help to enrich the learning objectives. There are stories that an app developer learned the mobile app development from 48 hours of self-youtube tutorials! Learning is possible in many ways nowadays and willpower and passion are movers for the life-long learning generic skill.

Critical thinking and respect for knowledge

It is an utmost important for a teacher to inculcate a critical thinking notion when a learner is learning. As noted in the Holy Quran, it is a book of distinguishing between truth and falsehood i.e. the furqan. My ideal philosophy in learning to do the correct way conceptually and practically. Answers may vary but the bounds and range should be there to confine the learner to an acceptable answer and reasoning. Herein there is the respect for knowledge be it within the realms of technology, humanities, and to the smallest skill such as preserving and conserving water while ablution. Critical thinking should not transform the person into an arrogant being but the critical skills enables the person to acknowledge that he has very little knowledge to steer and become successful in this world. Unknowns are more than knowns. We are still a social animal no matter how advanced our mobile smartphones and Internet connection are.

Improving self, family and society

The end in mind is very important for a learner. He or she must acknowledge that the sole purpose of learning and knowledge it to evolve for betterment. Internalized and reflected knowledge is the wisdom that will enable humanity to progress and not digress.

Internalizing this is quite challenging in today’s confusing world where most of the time we are not clear which is good and bad. The moral compass is getting grayer as situations cannot be interpreted with a binary judgement. Herein conscience plays an important part in learning. These experiences are the most important when learning as we are always blinded by the worldly wealth and sort term gains that usually corrupt our heart.

Imparting these values in the individual requires the heart of a philosopher and father figure. An educator needs to reach his/her inner self in order to achieve this difficult internalization.