EducationInterviews

COVID-19 Has Presented an Opportunity to Reimagine the Education Sector

Jamal Al Jassmi, the General Manager of EIBFS, speaks about the challenges and opportunities for the education sector during and beyond a pandemic

How has the pandemic affected the education sector in the region?
In the face of the unprecedented shutdown due to the pandemic, we saw universities and schools across the world quickly adapting to remote teaching to ensure academic continuity for their students.

The biggest challenge back then was the lack of a contingency plan or a clear operational route to tackle the situation. Moreover, most educational institutions did not have adequate digital infrastructure or online teaching tools to conduct online training.

However, this pandemic led most educators to scale up digital transformation and has urged them to rethink the existing curriculum to be more resilient and aligned to the needs of the future.

What sort of opportunities do you see in the regional education sector?
Every challenge carries within itself the seeds of opportunity. In this context, we truly believe that COVID-19 has presented an opportune moment for us to reimagine the education sector.

Particularly for higher education, there is an opportunity to revamp modules to include subjects that can help them secure jobs and make a meaningful contribution to the economy. Moreover, another area educators need to work on is maintaining engagement with students and preserving their interests.

When the pandemic hit, in addition to becoming digitally ready, we at the Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS) spent a considerable amount of time assessing our course material to ensure that they will be relevant in a post-COVID-19 world as well as to add new and improved finance and leadership courses to our training plan.

Interestingly, 40 percent of our 2021 course portfolio has been created by charting out competency-specific learning pathways. Currently, we have identified 12 learning pathways that cover key banking-related areas such as Financial Analysis courses, Risk Management, and Credit Documentation, among others. Through this skill-based approach, we are making a major shift to a continuous learning model by enabling banking professionals to continually top-up courses based on their areas of expertise and their interests.

Is there a digital disconnect despite tech tools being available for distance education? How can this digital disconnect be bridged?
Yes, there is a disconnect despite learning tools being available simply because of the limited digital exposure teachers and students have had during courses before the pandemic.

Most courses were held in a classroom and given that distance education primarily revolves around the use of online course platforms, email, and document-sharing platforms, there were teething issues that were experienced by educators at large.

To address the digital disconnect, we hosted several training sessions for our teachers to help them get familiar with our Insight platform. In parallel, we also prepared videos and tutorials on how to access course information, attend online classes and raise queries to help the banking and finance professional enrolled with us

Another reason for the disconnect, which doesn’t relate to the digital sphere, is the fact that different students prefer different forms of education. Some students prefer the online model, while some students prefer the classroom setting.

In this context, when we were working on our 2021 Annual training plan, we surveyed our students to understand their preferences. To this end, we have adopted a blended learning approach this year— one that seamlessly integrates classroom and online learning.

What importance does financial education have in developing the skillsets of a student?
The banking and finance sector is a key pillar of the UAE’s economy and we believe that this sector will play a major role in the nation’s post-COVID recovery. To this end, it is crucial to reskill professionals in this industry by equipping them with the right tools.

With the advancement of technology, our goal is to provide digital training to students and young working professionals in the sector. Moreover, with the changes in the regulatory environment, we believe that advanced courses in compliance, risk, and governance practice can offer immense value to working professionals.

Do you use solutions today to make financial learning a seamless experience?
To deliver a seamless experience, we launched the Insight platform—a specialized platform that offers about 100 courses. This platform, which currently boasts 10,000 users, offers over 100 functional skills and soft skills development courses on categories of fintech, data analytics, corporate banking and management, trade finance, compliance and anti-money laundering, risk management, Islamic banking, and business communication.

By the end of 2021, we seek to add 50 more specialised courses to Insight. Moreover, in keeping with the current trends and use of deep tech tools, we have also begun testing advanced artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to initiate advanced, adaptive learning through which we seek to offer customised services and insights to our students.

What about the security aspects of online learning? How can that be addressed?
With the increase in cyber-related crime, system security and secure access protocols play a critical role in securing online learning platforms. Our digital platforms are highly secure with valid HTTP security certificates.

Insight is fully hosted on the Amazon Web Services cloud, which offers a high level of security and can detect and eliminate any potential vulnerabilities. Additionally, all our student data is end-to-end encrypted.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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