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The leaders of tomorrow

In this day and age, it is not adequate that educational institutions just stimulate a student’s intellectual appetite. But how can schools produce industry leaders and not just hard-working employees?

Kathmandu, September 19, 2016: Merely a few decades ago, a certain set of rules were universally applicable to students—a student was supposed to be disciplined, obedient and subservient to the authority projected by a teacher. In turn, through the most of the 20th century, schools and universities around the world produced fantastically well-disciplined subordinates who joined the workforce and did highly-specified tasks that were handed out to them, without ever questioning their managers or business owners. Times, however, are changing. In today’s fast-paced cut-throat world, it is not just enough that an employee is a hard worker and a productive sub-ordinate—they are expected to exhibit leadership skills right from the off-set. Today, it is not just sufficient that an employee can follow given directions well; they are expected to lead and co-create simultaneously. Which is why, leadership has become one of the hottest buzzwords in management. In schools and colleges, as well, curriculums and courses are being moulded in ways that enhance a student’s aptitude for leadership. The end goal of education is not to produce good employees anymore; it is to produce capable leaders who are able to display leadership qualities, regardless of what their jobs title or work profile is.

Because leadership is expected right from entry-level positions in the modern working environment, the better academic institutions are able to inculcate leadership in students, the better they will fare after graduation

Khagendra Ojha, the chairman at Global College International, believes that leadership is not a skill but rather a part of a person’s character—one that is nurtured from a very young age rather than acquired overnight. “When you are working with students at the high school or college level, you have to remain mindful that it is an age when the students are very malleable,” says Ojha, “It is the peak time  to train them on the important skills like leadership, which will come in use for the rest of their lives.” Ojha believes that it is important that the Nepali education system adapts with shifting global paradigms with regards to education and incorporates leadership training in curriculums.

“One important way of instilling leadership—a method practiced all over the world—is transforming a classroom into an interactive space rather than just the students being lectured by the professors. For example, when students participate in group projects and assignments, they not only learn better but they also hone some important skills such as co-ordinating and communicating with their peers and working towards a common goal,” he says, adding that because leadership is expected right from entry-level positions in the modern working environment, the better academic institutions are able to inculcate leadership in students, the better they will fare after graduation.

Ashish Tiwari, director and principal at ACE Institute of Management, believes that education goes much beyond just a classroom setting and that it is important for educators to impart on their students skills that do not necessarily come through a prescribed curriculum—leadership being one of them. “Today the world view is slowly shifting with regards to education. In this day and age, it is absolutely vital that students receive a holistic education—one that sharpens not just their intellectual abilities, but also their social, emotional and psychological traits,” says Tiwari, “Education is not just about what is learned in class, it is measured by what skills the students are able to translate into their everyday lives.” Tiwari, who is a firm believer in honing communication and relationship management skills in students from a young age, asserts that because the workplace today requires that you fit in as a team player, it is important that schools place special focus on communication and relationship skills in order to ensure that their students are primed to excel in the workforce. “We like to instil a value in our students that learning is a lifelong process that does not end with just graduation. One of the prime qualities of a leader is that they are continually growing and evolving. They accept that change is inevitable and are always improving their awareness of themselves and the environment around them. And that is what distinguishes the great leaders from the average ones, great leaders are not just doing the tasks that they are supposed to do, they are continually improving their skill sets on the job and are inspiring others to do so as well. It is a value we make a point to impart on our students,” he says. Tiwari also believes that because leadership qualities are now expected from employees working even at entry-level positions, the onus falls on educators to ensure that the students are equipped with the right communication and managerial skills which help them become assets in whatever organisation they join upon graduation.

Ramesh Silwal, the CEO of Golden Gate International College, says that for too long the Nepali perception about leadership was limited to viewing it as a quality only politicians demonstrated. “ Leadership, like it has been perceived, is not just about speaking at large rallies and amassing thousands of followers, it is about possessing skills such as planning; formulating visions, objectives and goals; and being able to effectively implement them through proper mobilisation of your team,” says Silwal, “Leadership is essential in every sector be it politics, business, finance or education.” Silwal, who was instrumental in introducing a nine-credit course at his college that focuses on life skills such as leadership, communication and management, believes that in this day and age it is important that education institutions are not just producing employees but industry leaders.

“Today, while the value of a degree is very important, it is not uncommon to see someone with lacklustre grades excel at the workplace because of the great life skills that they have. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that educational institutions not just sharpen a student’s intellectual capacities but focus on an all-round development that take into account their ‘life skills’ which will be crucial in their future successes or failures.”