Gulf News
Gulf News Edufair runs until tomorrow at the Ritz Carlton, DIFC Image Credit: Virendra Saklani, Gulf News

As the education sector undergoes a major transformation amid changing market dynamics, a combination of abilities, subject skills, experience and soft skills are essential for learners to stay ahead in their careers. That was the verdict from educators from across top institutions in the UAE on the second day of Gulf News Edufair, who explained the ways students can build the career trajectory in a disruptive world.

Hundreds of people visited the first two days of Gulf News Edufair, with parents and students reaching out to the 50-plus exhibitors and attending the lively panel discussions and seminars to find answers to everything they need to know about going to universities, whether it’s admission requirements, programmes on offer, specific modules or the cost of different degrees and campus life.

Virendra Saklani, Gulf News

Showcase your talent

Educators highlighted that it’s critical for learners to showcase their unique skillsets and gain a competitive edge in their chosen fields. That was the take away from the panel discussion on “Continuous learning and targeted courses: Best ways to upskill and reskill”.

“Where you studied and your marks are just one box,” says Fazeela Gopalani, Head of ACCA Middle East. “There is so much more nowadays that employers look for. They specifically look for soft skills such as being able to present yourself well, and communicate eloquently, as well as emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence.

But it’s also about showing them what makes you special. “Research and publish a paper online to showcase your subject knowledge, or create a YouTube channel to exhibit your unique point of view,” says Vishal Iyer, Professional Qualifications Trainer, PwC's Academy Middle East.

The other resounding message of the lively discussion was that one shouldn’t wait around for that elusive job – you need to put yourself out there and grab it with both hands. “Jump at any and every internship or volunteering opportunity that comes your way,” says Vignesh Sivakumar, Operations Director, Phoenix Financial Training.

“In life, asking doesn’t make you smaller. Ask for help and support, and whatever they give you, take it,” adds Gopalani. “Do internships, do jobs for free – these will help build your CV.”

No right or wrong

Industry experts highlighted the things students must consider before deciding on the right college and course. “Work hard, make a plan, but keep your options open, and in the end, follow your heart,” said Varun Jain, Founder and CEO, UniHawk.

“It’s about taking the decision that’s right for you at that juncture of your life,” says Jain, giving numerous examples of students who didn’t take the trodden path, but went on to have highly successful university careers.

“There’s no right place to study – your own choice matters in finding the right fit.”

Higher education abroad

Along with promoting higher education in the UAE, this year, Gulf News has expanded the scope of the event with the inclusion of top universities and degrees from Canada, Australia, the UK and European nations, creating the benchmark for interface with the global education industry.

Higher study opportunities in Canada which often leads to permanent residency were also highlighted in one of the seminars. Parents and students also had a chance to explore the benefits of taking English language tests for study abroad and immigration.

“Pearson’s Test of English is one option that is accepted in all leading universities in Canada, US, UK, Australia and New Zealand,” says Abdullah Jalal, business development analyst, Gulf, Pearson. “Anyone who appears for the test gets 11 hours of free training, and results in two days.”

Exploring options

Haneena Ansari and Aliya Nasser, two student visitors looking for postgraduate courses were inspired by the panel discussions and seminars they attended.

“They were great,” says Ansari, who is looking at courses in business analytics and finance. “They gave us a several tips on networking and what you need for a successful career path.”

For Nasser, a student of mathematics and computer science, it was about being able to explore all her options. “I am interested in data analytics and AI, but I am still confused as to what to take,” she says. “I’ve been getting a lot ideas on the options open to me.”

Arfaque Quazia visited the event to explore MBA options. “After completing my Bachelor’s degree in Commerce in 2020, I started working in sales and also running a business. But, now I am looking to advance my career with an MBA degree,” says Quazia. “Gulf News Edufair is a great platform to explore courses and interact with university representatives. I have gathered information on MBA degree options in the UAE and will soon finalise a programme.”

Parents too had a unique opportunity to get information directly from the universities and help children plan their careers.

“It’s the first time for me coming to an event like this,” says Sandhya Nair, parent of a grade 12 student. “The exhibitors have been assisting us with details critical for admissions such as the entrance exams and application process. They are very helpful in explaining the admission process as I was not aware of all the details.”

Interactivity is the key

Transforming the way learning is imparted in classroom is key to the future of education, said experts in the panel discussion titled “A roadmap for success: Thinking differently to keep up with the changing goals of education” on day two of the Gulf News Edufair 2023.

“We can no longer rely on just lectures or PowerPoint presentations. We must have interactive classrooms,” said Dr Wathiq Mansoor, Dean of College of Engineering and IT, University of Dubai. “We must give students the opportunity to participate so that there is dynamic feedback – we teach the students and we learn from the students at the same time.”

The key to the future is to think of education more as a dialogue, according to Dr. Mohamed Nasor, Dean of the College of Engineering and IT, Ajman University. “This generation needs to be immersed, and part of the process,” he said. “They don’t take things for granted – they want to see how the learning is linked to their future career. They must own their learning.”

That means a shift in how teachers approach their role in the classroom. “We are facilitators,” Dr. Nasor said. “We provide the resources, and structure the information, and they learn themselves.”

Dr. Mansoor agreed, adding, “Teachers need to be trained and faculty must be provided support to adapt to this new learning.”