• Pearson’s ScoreKeeper 3: the new and improved test management platform for Versant

    We’re proud to announce that we’ve launched ScoreKeeper 3, the new and improved, all-in-one test management platform for Pearson’s Versant language tests

    As your partner in managing automated English language testing, ScoreKeeper 3 empowers you to make informed decisions by giving you access to rich data about each test taker’s language abilities. Use it to assign tests, monitor candidates, access materials, track progress, and retrieve scores. 

    The newest version of the platform has features that make your organization’s life even easier. Whether you’re screening job applicants, benchmarking your employees’ English levels, or assessing your students’ language proficiency, ScoreKeeper 3 is the only tool you’ll need to manage the process.

    Learn more in our explainer video:

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  • New innovations in assessment: Versant’s Intelligibility Index score

    Bill Bonk has a love of learning languages and taught English as a foreign language for over a decade in countries such as Italy, Ecuador, Japan, and Brazil. He has a M.A. in Second Language Studies and a PhD in Cognitive Science and has worked on various second language learning (L2) tests within Pearson for the past seven years, including new tests for young learners (TELL, English Benchmark Young Learners) and adults (English Benchmark). 

    In this article Bill talks about what intelligibility in communication really is and introduces us to the Intelligibility Index, which is found exclusively in Pearson’s Versant English Test. This 15-minute test is used worldwide by schools, recruiters, and employers who need a quick and accurate measure of people’s English language skills. 

    Communication can be easy

    After basic needs like food, water, and shelter are met, communication is pretty much our primary task in life as human beings. It’s no coincidence that virtually all the elements of higher intelligence involve communication. Think language, culture, technology, sensory systems like vision and hearing, memory, learning, etc. At times communication can feel so automatic and easy. Just a look on the face of someone you know well at work or a random conversation with your sister can communicate something so quickly and easily. 

    Talking on the phone with someone you know well, you get the impression that verbal communication works perfectly. You take it for granted that you can understand everything someone says, even when the ideas get more complicated. 

    Sometimes people use the example of driving while talking as an amazing talent. You can perform a complex task like driving while doing something else. Well how about the fact that you can talk while driving? Talking with someone can become so automatic that we don’t even feel like we are dedicating any effort to it while we are performing another task simultaneously. But it is a very complex and amazing skill. 

    Communication can be hard

    Nevertheless, there are other situations when it takes us more effort to communicate. From a listener’s perspective, when we’re not familiar with the other person’s accent, it takes work to understand them. It often takes a while to adjust our ears to that accent. 

    In an increasingly globalized world, we communicate with people from different countries in English much more often nowadays. We also get the chance to listen to many accents and styles of speaking on news, television shows, and movies. But when we actually need to engage in communication with someone, we really notice the effort that it sometimes takes to successfully navigate this situation. 

    From a speaker’s perspective, if you’ve ever studied another language, you know how hard it is to get REALLY proficient. Even if you studied the language since high school, practiced for many hours, or lived in a country where that language is spoken, you may find that you hit a certain plateau in your proficiency. This means you might never get perfect. You still have an accent, you still struggle to say things with the same precision that you can easily say in your first language, to hit just the right expressions. People may ask you to repeat what you just said because they did not understand you the first time. It’s frustrating.

    The concept of Intelligibility

    Intelligibility is a term that refers to how easily understandable a message is, usually referring to the speech or writing that delivered that message. When everything comes together, it’s like one of the effortless communication situations described above. 

    However, it is often the case that there are factors that make the communication take some effort. This breakdown can be caused by many factors. For example:

    • A noisy environment
    • An incorrect assumption about the intentions of the person speaking to you
    • A difficult concept to express in words, etc. 

    But, certainly, the speaker also has a very big role in this. 

    As mentioned earlier, speaking in a foreign language can be hard for many different reasons. We do our best to speak in a way that people will understand us. Yet, we do not always have a perfect accent. Instead, we search for words and expressions, we make grammar errors, and the communication can go wrong in all these ways! 

    However it does not always go wrong. Some people have strategies and skills that they use to make themselves more intelligible more often, even if they don’t speak ‘perfectly’. For example, they might:

    • Slow down, or speed up
    • Be more aware of particular sounds that they have trouble with
    • Make adjustments, for example, they might speak more carefully, only using phrases that they are more sure of. 

    It’s based on a wide variety of things, and there is no one recipe for improving intelligibility. Sometimes you just try a bunch of strategies to see which ones seem to work for you.

    Intelligibility as a Versant score

    At Pearson, we did research to investigate intelligibility. We wanted it to be recognized that you don’t need a perfect accent, grammar, or vocabulary to be understandable. In reality, you just need to be understandable with little effort by listeners. You can be intelligible to English speakers whether you are from Kathmandu, Khartoum, or Kentucky. And if you don’t score a high intelligibility score now, you still can get there with some effort, practice and information. 

    Our new Intelligibility index score is found exclusively in the Versant English Test. This 15-minute test is used worldwide by schools, recruiters, and employers. It offers a quick and accurate measure of people’s English language skills. 

    Versant has been in use for more than twenty years. It offers subskill scores and an overall score, which you can use to see if people have made progress in their English proficiency over time. It also breaks down where the candidate’s English skills are strongest. At the same time, it shows whether the test-taker has the proficiency needed for a job or education institution.

    Intelligibility index scores are an addition to the Versant English Test. They are a new metric that no other test possesses, indicating a new direction for evaluating English communication skills.

    Learn more about Versant and our new Intelligibility index score or contact your local Pearson representative.

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  • Introducing the Versant Professional English Test by Pearson

    A team that has a chance to grow is a happy team. HR leaders know that professional development opportunities bring new skills and make their companies more competitive. At the same time, staff retention is boosted. According to a recent study by LinkedIn, 94% of staff would remain at a company for longer if it invested in their career development.

    But still, there’s a lot that goes into running a successful career development program. If you want to help your employees improve their language skills, for example, providing training is not enough. You’ll also need to benchmark their skills and monitor their progress.

    The Versant Professional English Test (VPET) is a new assessment product by Pearson. It allows language trainers and HR managers to effectively measure the progress of employees and training professionals who are learning English. The test also evaluates candidates’ abilities to deal with a range of workplace situations, including professional and social interactions with customers and colleagues. This will show you each candidate’s ability to manage real-life situations in an international work environment.

    Let’s take a closer look:

    What is the Versant Professional English Test (VPET)?

    The Versant Professional English Test is a comprehensive language proficiency test. It can be used to assess the language skills of learners in professional development programs and business English courses.

    The test measures all four skills that are vital to effective communication in English: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  Questions in the test are designed around of real-life workplace scenarios typical of an international working environment.

    The Versant Professional English Test is automatically marked by Pearson’s patented Versant AI scoring technology. This eliminates bias and ensures consistency in scoring. As a result, personalized score reports are available within minutes. These allow test administrators to access meaningful insights into a learner’s progress.

    On top of this, the score reports contain suggestions for improvement and recommended activities to help learners achieve their professional development goals related to English.

    Candidates can take the Versant Professional English Test on a computer anytime and anywhere. This makes taking the test flexible and convenient.

    What are some ways to use the Versant Professional English Test?

    The Versant Professional English Test is for corporations, private language schools, and training providers who want to:

    • benchmark employees’ English proficiency skills;
    • measure progress in a professional development program;
    • pinpoint learners’ strengths and weaknesses to inform course planning;
    • evaluate learners’ proficiency at the end of a training program.

    Whether you’re preparing your learners to succeed in an English-speaking business environment or upskilling your workforce, you can use VPET to objectively measure and monitor their skills.

    What types of questions make up the Versant Professional English Test?

    The Versant Professional English Test has two levels of difficulty, ensuring that the test is appropriate for the learner’s ability. Levels are based on CEFR ranges:

    • Level 1 is designed to assess abilities across the A1 to B1+ range
    • Level 2 is for the B1+ to C2 range

    Test takers have 60 minutes to complete the assessment by responding to 58 questions.

    The 10 question types that appear in the VPET are:

    • Sentence completion: Complete sentences with a missing word.
    • Passage reconstruction: Read a short passage and write a summary of it.
    • Reading comprehension: Read a passage or interpret a simple graph and answer multiple-choice questions.
    • E-mail writing: Read a short description of a situation and write an email in response.
    • Dictation: Listen to a sentence and type it out.
    • Response selection: Listen to a sentence and select one of three possible responses.
    • Passage comprehension: Listen to a short passage then answer three questions.
    • Repeat: Repeat a sentence exactly as you hear it.
    • Speaking situations: Listen to and read a brief scenario then respond.
    • Story retellings: Listen to a brief story then retell it in your own words.

    The questions are designed to evaluate an employee’s English language skills as well as their ability to cope with a wide range of real-life workplace situations. This way, test takers can prove their ability to use a combination of business and social language skills.

    The responses that test-takers give allow Versant to gather information on a variety of key points, including:

    • pronunciation
    • fluency
    • sentence
    • construction
    • vocabulary
    • organization
    • voice and tone
    • listening
    • and reading comprehension.

    Then, the platform analyzes all of this to provide data-rich insights into the test taker’s language skills.

    How is the Versant Professional English Test scored?

    Pearson’s patented Versant AI scoring technology analyzes over 20,000 data points in every response. Our technology and integrated approach to measuring language skills ensure that results are always accurate and consistent. We developed our scoring models using hundreds of thousands of responses from English learners and native speakers, which allows us to deliver reliable results.

    The automatically generated Versant Professional English Test score reports contain:

    • an overall score reported on the Global Scale of English (GSE) and mapped to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR);
    • individual scores in speaking, listening, reading, and writing;
    • an in-depth analysis of language proficiency across the fours skills;
    • suggestions for improvement by skill set;
    • and customized follow-up activities mapped to selected Pearson English courseware.

    Trainers can access the score reports from the easy-to-use ScoreKeeper test administration platform. You can use the same platform to upload rosters, deploy tests, and monitor results.

    Are you considering investing in your workforce’s professional development to help your employees and company grow?

    Learn more about the Versant Professional English Test and get a sample now.

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  • Discover Remote Monitoring with Versant

    In any exam situation, security and candidate authentication are key considerations. Under normal circumstances, test centers provide employers and institutions with all the assurances they need to be able to accept the results of exams for professional purposes. 

    However, schools and universities around the world have locked their doors and international test centers are being temporarily closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    This unexpected global state of alarm means that many employers and universities are struggling to offer their applicants qualifying tests during their recruitment and admissions processes. As a result, they have no real means of confirming whether their candidates have the required level of English, which may lead to missed job opportunities or lost university places.

    Both corporate and university administrators are therefore looking for flexible, reliable and secure digital language assessment solutions. Corporations particularly need a layer of security built into their tests for recruiting activities and Higher Education institutions require an alternative means of remote testing solutions for their placement and entrance tests.

    So are there viable alternatives to test center-based exams? 

    Remote assessment with Versant

    At Pearson, we offer an alternative assessment solution to help institutions and companies test the capabilities of their students, staff and applicants.

    Versant is a series of flexible digital language assessments for adults and has a number of use cases:

    How does the Versant test work?
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  • Six top tips for teaching English online

    teaching english online

    More and more, schools are offering blended language and remote teaching options. There are lots of benefits of teaching English online. Firstly, it’s sustainable, saving on transport, travel costs and it reduces the number of printed materials. Secondly, it allows you the flexibility to teach students when you’re away from school and the classroom. 

    So, if you’re faced with a new remote class and you’re not sure how to approach it, follow these six tips and you’ll soon be an online teaching pro.

    1. Find the right technology

    If you want to become a great online English teacher, the first thing you’ll need to do is find a reliable online platform or learning management system to help you communicate with your students. The good news is that there are lots of free options available to you.

    Platforms for teaching one-to-one classes and small groups

    If you are running one-to-one or small group English classes and are mostly focused on conversation, Google Hangouts is an easy-to-use option. It’s free and web-based, which means desktop users do not have to download applications to use it. If you have a Gmail address, you’ll be able to send recurring calendar invitations to your student(s) and they will be able to sign in to the Hangout directly from their email.

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  • Correction to Press Release: NetDragon Collaborates with Pearson, Expands Education Library with Agreement to License Digital Content

    (November 20, 2020) –  Pearson issued the following correction:

    A press announcement from Pearson and NetDragon made on October 23, 2020 erroneously claimed that the products Reading Street®, enVisionMATH®, digits®, and Interactive Science™ are part of the Pearson portfolio. Pearson does not own those products, and they are not associated with Pearson’s licensing agreement with NetDragon. Those products are now owned by Savvas Learning Company, and no Savvas products are part of the license of content to NetDragon.

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  • Pearson and Liverpool FC partnership

    Pearson and Liverpool FC partnership

    Today, I am delighted to announce a partnership with leading Premier League football club and current Club World Cup Champions Liverpool FC, to offer international sports industry qualifications designed to provide pathways to careers in sport, fitness and physical activity for young people and adults. 

    Available to overseas learners from September 2020, these new qualifications are:

    • BTEC International Level 3 in Sport, Business and Management,
    • BTEC International Level 3 in Sports Coaching and Development, and
    • BTEC International Level 3 in Sports Facilities Operations and Management.

    These new qualifications are being developed to meet the needs of a growing global sports industry, within which new careers are emerging and developing all the time.  Young people and adults wishing to pursue and make progress in the sector will acquire up-to-date industry knowledge, skills and behaviours that open doors to a range of exciting careers in sport, such as coaching, management, facilities operations and fitness instruction. Building on Liverpool FC’s experience as a major sports employer, the BTEC will ensure that learners have their learning brought to life in real world sports contexts.

    The qualifications are presented in a series of modular bitesize units, meaning learners can engage in short courses or a full 2-year programme of each. Units include health and wellbeing, sports psychology, nutrition and fitness, business, technology and self-employment.

    The BTEC will provide learners with a range of transferable skills and behaviours that are highly valued by employers through units in business, technology and self-employment, as well as developing the skills and knowledge to tackle two of the biggest health issues of our age - physical fitness and mental wellbeing. These skills are especially valuable in a changing world where job roles are likely to continue to change and the emphasis from industry and employers is increasingly on flexibility, adaptability and transferable skills.

    The aim is for these new BTECs to inspire learners amongst Liverpool FC’s millions of fans to develop their skills and knowledge and gain a qualification that supports new global career opportunities and elevates sports education and professionalism around the world.

    Read our press release here >

    I would like to say a huge thank you to James Emmett, Becky Laffan, Jason Gregory and everyone who has worked on making this partnership happen. Thank you also to Janet Clarke, Hannah Lee and Sonia Sakaria on the great work you’ve done getting the communication and marketing ready for today’s launch.

    Best wishes,

    Cindy Rampersaud

    Senior Vice President - BTEC and Apprenticeships 

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  • Working and learning online during the COVID-19 pandemic

    mother and daughter at the dining table

    The spread of the COVID-19 is a once in a generation event that has impacted us all in some way. In our individual confidence, or our work, and sadly, people’s health.

    At Pearson, our mission is to help people make progress in their lives through learning. Regardless of their age, location or stage in life. To do this we support a broad range of partners, educators, and institutions. We continue to do that each and every day.

    You know what you need. You know what will make a difference to your learners and we are ready to support you.

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  • Can Your Employees Survive and Thrive in the 21st Century?

    With 21st century technology rapidly evolving, we are under immense pressure to keep up with the times. To do that, we need to constantly make the right calls. But do we have the critical thinking ability to make those important and informed decisions?

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  • Will Artificial Intelligence Become Pearson's Competitive Advantage in Language Testing?

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer limited to science fiction novels and the imagination. As we take steps closer to a full integration of AI and processing of information it can seem unsettling not knowing how it will affect the education realm itself. How will we approach something as complex and “human” as language testing using AI? Will the emergence of AI be a positive or negative influence on the way we approach it, and will it allow us to refine the testing process itself? Pearson’s very own Director of Academic Standards and Measurement Dr Rose Clesham discussed these questions and more recently at events in Singapore.

    AI Language testing

    Quote 1

    Dr Chlesham’s presentation entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence: Changing the Face of Formative and Summative Assessment’ outlines how computer-based tests such as the PTE Academic are at the forefront of harnessing the transformational power of AI in language assessments.

    The event, organised by PTE Academic at the Hilton Hotel, was well attended by clients and stakeholders from universities, colleges, language schools and education agents. Presenting as a keynote speaker, Dr Clesham explores new insights and revelations on the power and potential of AI to positively influence the way language assessment is conducted. She believes in the potential for AI to improve and refine the way language assessment is conducted globally.

    When discussing AI and its integration with education, many would be unsure of its suitability with language testing due to its complexity. Dr. Clesham, whose area of research is learning assessment, revealed to the conference that she too was initially in this line of thought. After all, AI is still not considered to be a genuine replacement for human intellect, how would a computer be able to gauge and assess the nuances and rhythm of human language?

    Conference

    Dr Clesham says that her views shifted as she engaged with AI and studied the applications. It was found that it was the complexity of language testing that made it a perfect fit for an AI to work with. For high stakes language testing on a global scale, there is a need for efficient, secure, and fair testing conditions which also adhere to a golden standard. Computer based tests that are facilitated through AI technology allows for these strict standards to be met, and provide every test taker to undergo the same experience.

    These issues can be avoided utilising AI. We rely on computers to perform routine tasks as they don’t get bored, they make fewer mistakes, and they are unbiased and unswayed by emotion or prejudice. By allowing AI to filter out the potential for human error we can provide more accurate test results, and in turn we can monitor the AI’s ability to give fair assessments.

    Conference

    Quote 2

    Dr Clesham’s presentation was met with ripples of recognition and relatability throughout the presentation. One of these powerful ‘Ah-Ha’ moments came with the presentation of a side-by-side comparison of a proficient vs. non proficient speaker. The visualisation of sound wave measurements, and the explanation of the algorithm measuring fluency, accent, errors, and WPM, elicited nods of recognition and understanding from the crowd.

    Using PTE as an example, she stresses the importance of validating the AI marking engines by correlating and training them with massive inputs from expert markers. PTE Academic uses human markers as a safety net in the process; when the AI is presented with unrecognisable speaking or writing then the material referred to this safety net. This ensures that the test taker’s results are fair and balanced, and also helps to educate, validate and improve the AI marking system. In other words, if the AI is unable to process the information then expert markers step in to educate the AI.

    For those amongst the audience concerned with their roles being replaced by AI, Dr Clesham offered this advice:

    In other words, we must embrace AI and view it as a tool that will enable educators and testing to reach their full potential.

    After the talk, there was an interactive session where attendees were able to express their perspective on what they saw as either the strengths or drawbacks in using AI for language testing. The Q&A session during this time produced some useful insights, and some of the preconceptions and enduring notions that will need to be overcome in educating the market moving forward.

    We thank Dr Rose Clesham for giving us the opportunity to understand and explore this new era of education and the developments in the future for language testing.

    Written By: Gordon Vanstone, Client Relations Manager, PTE Academic

    If you would like to know more about PTE Academic please visit this site or contact me directly at gordon.vanstone@pearson.com

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  • Disrupting Education Systems to Develop a New Generation of Problem Solvers

    Technology has revolutionised the world. With automation, artificial intelligence and digital technology pervades our everyday lives, the key question to ask is: How do we prepare our learners for a future world governed by technology? At Pearson’s conference on “Growing Global Education Now!” held at Kuala Lumpur in October, educators from across South and Southeast Asia heard from global education consultant, Mr. Charles Leadbeater, how to lead the way into a global learning movement.

    Learning to be better humans

    “The future is going to be vastly different from what we have now. We will see traditional jobs undergoing a radical upheaval in the next 10 years. Some jobs are slowly disappearing while others will require different types of skills or processes to work with technology,” Leadbeater explains.

    He expounds on the danger in our education systems where young people are taught to learn by routine, where they follow instructions and process information, then regurgitate the knowledge in examinations in order to get the grades required.

    “That is going to leave young people in the dead end because, in the future, any activity which requires the processing of lots of data will see robots and artificial intelligence outperforming humans. What we have to do is to develop young people who will be better humans,” he theorizes.
     

    Quote 1

    The future comes with no instruction manual

    Leadbeater states that if education is going to prepare learners for the future, it needs to shift from a model of “following instructions” to one of “solving problems”.

    In conducting the research for his book, The Problem Solvers, Leadbeater visited innovative and progressive schools all over the world who have applied unique models of teaching and learning. While their curriculums are dissimilar to one another, he found one common thread among them: dynamic education which incorporates exposure to the real world while also developing the holistic aspects of each learner.

    “Preparing young people to be creative problem solvers requires a combination of old and new methodologies. The most impressive schools that I go to are a mixture of the very new -- progressive techniques and digital technologies -- and the very old -- methodologies to build character, personal strengths, entrepreneurship and outward learning,” he says.

    However, he warns educators against the common trap of falling prey to false dichotomies that divide between knowledge and skills, theory and action, traditional and progressive or digital and real-world learning.
     

    The dynamics of learning

    Leadbeater explains that dynamic learning is an experience of a structured, yet active kind of learning that gives learners the experience that they take into the world. “My hypothesis of dynamic learning is that it has four critical elements. Young people should be equipped with a combination of knowledge, personal strengths, social skills and a capacity for agency. When you go to good schools and you see good teachers, what they’re doing is designing and orchestrating the dynamic combinations of these four ingredients,” he informs.

    quote1

    Firstly, knowledge, which forms the foundation of learning. The journey into knowledge starts with the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, moves on to the knowledge of core content and even further into higher-order concepts and thinking skills to challenge, question and adapt existing knowledge.

    Leadbeater states that while the basic building blocks of knowledge help learners to know about the world around them, it is more crucial to have a theory of knowledge. He emphasised that it is the ability to discern, analyse, research, think critically and combine different disciplines of knowledge that becomes the basis for creative problem-solving.

    The second element acknowledges that education needs to be a personal journey of growth and discovery. This focuses on developing personal attributes of character that will count later on in life.

    quote2

    “Qualities such as growth, resilience, persistence and purpose are just as important as knowledge if young people want to thrive and succeed in the real world. Not only do they need to learn how to be resilient and adaptive, but they will also need to have a clear sense of purpose, to know the difference they want to make and the value they want to add to the world,” Leadbeater shares.

    The third element covers social skills where learners are encouraged to deepen their relationships with other people by learning how to connect, communicate and collaborate in order to achieve things together.

    This involves methods which facilitate collaboration between learners, such as getting them to work together in groups on a certain project or problem. The process would involve dialogue and discussion, as well as tapping on the diverse skills and outlooks of the different members of the group. This is where the skills of collaboration come in handy, something which cannot be effectively taught in the classroom.

    quote3

    The last element, agency, is the route to take action, primarily to make a contribution to the world by helping other people. Agency is the true test of learning, where learners turn knowledge and ideas into action in order to make a difference to the world. The way that this can be done is by incorporating projects like making things, running a business or serving the community.

    “In order to get the students to be really interested, find something real that matters to them. The need for learning is stronger if it makes a difference to someone else. For example, one of the schools I visited in Spain asked students to build houses for refugees. They were able to take responsibility for their own learning and integrating knowledge from multiple disciplines such as science, economics, geography, language and technology,” Leadbeater says.
     

    study butterflies


    Making the shift

    In introducing these four elements of dynamic learning, how can they be effectively applied in schools to create a more dynamic education system? Leadbeater explains that it would require the combination of dynamic teachers, dynamic curricula and dynamic methods of assessment.

    “Several countries like Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong have already led the way in developing hybrid curricula which foster a mix of skills. More critically, we need to shift the focus of assessments on knowledge to an assessment of skills that students need to acquire to succeed. Dynamic learning requires dynamic forms of assessment which involve both formative and summative, online and in action, in the exam hall and in the real world,” he shares.

    To overcome the challenge of implementing this on a larger scale, Leadbeater urges educators to be an active participant of this global learning movement.

    He concludes by saying, “Education is not just about gaining knowledge and getting the grades. It is about building young people who can make a difference for our world. We must prepare them for an uncertain future, which is open and full of possibilities but also facing deep and urgent challenges that need to be addressed. We want to create a generation of problem solvers who excel at being human and come with the human capacity to care, to empathise and to create.”

    To continue the conversation on Dynamic Learning please join the International Schools Community. If you would like further information on qualifications resources to support your classroom please visit us here.

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  • Skills For Employability In Vietnam: Three Industry Experts On The Past, Present, And Future Of Work

    Fears about technology displacing jobs are unfounded. Historically technology has created more jobs than it has erased. Clearly, there’s a complex interplay of factors, such as the way climate change is creating jobs in “green” industries. However, it’s also obvious that the skills we need to be a success are changing. Here, three industry experts from Asia talk about the shifting professional landscape in Vietnam.

    quote1

    Economically, Vietnam is booming. A combination of political stability and nourishing trade deals have helped make the southeast Asian country a bright spot in the region. Another driver of growth is Vietnam’s youthful population. The average age is 35 and over half of the people of around 95 million are below 34-years-old. But as the economy grows companies are becoming more discerning about who they hire. Added to that the pool of prospective candidates has evolved. Often, the aspiration for young people in Vietnam was to live and work overseas—in countries like America, the UK, and Australia. But increasingly, young Vietnamese are looking to study and work overseas but then return home to help develop their own communities.

     

    A broad range of skills

    “We no longer look for staff with a very specialised skill set. Instead, we’re looking for employees who have a broad range of applicable skills,” Alan Malcolm begins. Currently Pearson’s head of Asia, Alan has worked in the education sector for almost 20 years progressing from sales director for Japan six years ago to head of sales and marketing for Asia to his current post as regional head. He admits that “companies might need one or two specialists across the region,” but key to employability is “flexibility.”

    quote1

    Alan is also seeing the need for skills like problem-solving and critical thinking. “People with those skills are the ones who are currently fulfilling the majority of the roles for us in Vietnam and across the region,” he explains. And active listening, particularly for sales teams, is more important than ever according to Alan. “Active listening—being able to show people that you’re listening to them—is really important, particularly in client-facing businesses. If you can show you’re engaged you’ll build a much deeper relationship,” Pearson’s head of Asia adds.

    Authentic Learning

     

    Beyond the CV

    For Huynh Thi Cao Thi, a well-written CV merely gives a candidate the chance for an interview. She is the human resources director of FPT Retail. The company employs over 4,000 staff in Vietnam at their retail stores where they sell a broad range of devices from laptops to mobile phones. In her role, Huynh Thi Cao Thi engages with two kinds of prospective employees: salespeople for their stores and administrative staff who support their sales teams.

    “Of course, a CV is still important, it’s the first thing we use to screen candidates but in an interview, I’m really looking for three things—self-confidence, good communication skills, and a positive attitude,” she explains.

    Another focus of the training programs developed by Huynh Thi Cao Thi is time management. “That’s the focus of one of the key courses our training centers deliver,” FPT Retail’s director of human resources explains. “Perhaps our staff have never been instructed in this before, but arranging their schedule and being able to meet deadlines is crucial,” she adds.

     

    Learn and relearn

    Learn and relearn

    Winnie Lam agrees. She also looks for good time management skills and flexibility in her team members but, she feels, it’s not just new hires and graduates who need to develop their skills. She thinks even experienced staff need a regular refresher. Winnie is the chief operating officer for Colliers International Vietnam. She has acted on the board of CanCham Vietnam, for the Canadian chamber of commerce, and for the Hong Kong Business Association in Vietnam, as well as being the director for the TMF Group and AB Horizon Vietnam.

    Winnie sees that a fixed skill set is liable to outdate a prospective candidate’s opportunities for success in the job market quicker than ever. “There are a lot of new titles and obviously lots of new functions that people are performing,” Winnie muses, “so even experienced people like me need to learn and relearn otherwise we won’t be able to access new positions simply because things are being done so differently.”

    Winnie has also noticed that her staff are less observant than before, perhaps because of their over-reliance on technology. “People are so focused on the screen they don’t realize what’s happening around them. There are times I want them to drop their devices and just be present and aware of what is happening,” she says.

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    Colliers International Vietnam are also committed to training staff to develop their soft skills while encouraging self-study in hard skills. “We want our staff to seek out learning in hard skills themselves. But we actively train soft skills because I think our staff need a model that we can expose them to because they need to understand clearly what soft skills should look like,” Winnie Lam adds. “I think soft skills trump hard skills now and in the future,” she smiles finally. For more information on Future Skills please visit Skilling Up for 2020: A View from Asia.

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