Dr Vaidyanathan Jayaraman is the Dean of Undergraduate Programs and a Distinguished Professor at SP Jain School of Global Management. He oversees the undergraduate programs across the school’s campuses in Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore and Sydney. Prior to taking on this role, Dr Jayaraman was the Principal and Associate Dean at Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, India. Before joining Great Lakes, he was a tenured senior faculty at the School of Business Administration, University of Miami, USA, where he taught Supply Chain Operations and Analytics.
High school graduates are entering a critical phase of their lives when they have to pursue a college degree or vocational training post the pandemic era. A lot has been written and discussed how students should master their communication and problem-solving skills and gain foundational knowledge expertise. However, in this post-COVID era wherein countries are taking steps to control and curtail the pain and suffering due to this virus, the most important skill that a high school graduate can learn is empathy. Empathy is the ability for people to place themselves in someone else’s shoes and understand the situation and feeling from their point of view. It’s about listening, paying careful attention to non-verbal communication, picking up subtle cues, and showing some sensitivity to other people’s emotions. Students should learn to be passionate yet be compassionate. Being empathetic can also enhance a student’s articulation skills because they can sense what others require to know and if they are getting it from them. This in turn would also help students become effective supervisors and leaders.
The second skill that cannot be taught but need to be acquired and nurtured is to develop a positive attitude. In this post-pandemic era, having a positive attitude is being optimistic about interactions and remain hopeful, and see the best even in difficult situations. It’s about appreciating the glass that is half full rather than being half empty. It’s about converting any stumbling blocks into stepping stones and challenges into opportunities– looking for solutions rather than focus on problems. Students who are growing up in this century are saddled with tremendous pressure and negativity. Hence adopting a positive attitude would bring constructive changes, happiness, and a very bright and successful future.
The third skill that high school students should possess is critical thinking – an ability to work through any obstacle to solve the problem. In the current work-from-home culture that is prevalent thanks to the pandemic, people need to work independently, think critically, and solve problems without having access to a manager who would have been accessible on-site. Problem-solving and critical thinking typically go hand-in-hand. Students have to now be prepared for jobs and careers that do not even exist yet. Therefore, critical thinking is a key skill for the future.
We also need to train our students on becoming ethically responsible citizens so they can contribute to the greater good of the world. Students today are technologically savvy and can multi-task and do so much with so little. As an example, talking to someone on the other side of the world which used to be a huge challenge a few decades ago has now been made simpler with the advancements in telecommunication. Hence, teaching our students to respect the values, culture, and beliefs of people from other countries will lead them to become change-makers and game-changers.
To summarize, while storytelling and communication (both verbal and written) are keys to a successful future, in the post-pandemic era, students need to go well beyond these skills to become ethically, morally, and socially responsible human beings.
The equation is clear: IQ+PQ+EQ+SQ = SUCCESS in life. Possessing an abundant mix of the intelligent and professional quotient is not enough these days…it’s important to sprinkle in a healthy dose of some emotional and spiritual quotient that would make a student outstanding and successful in life.