Recently, I had a chance to visit Argentina to understand more about, and to visit, the remote teaching facility the British Council have in Buenos Aires. More about that in my previous blog.
But one of the interesting facts about Argentina (and Uruguay and Colombia) is that students don’t need Cambridge qualifications to progress to university, which is solely based on school leaving certificates and university entrance exams. They follow the Cambridge courses due to their love of learning and keenness to develop.
The other interesting fact is that all state universities in Argentina are free for anyone to attend, including overseas students, so it’s perhaps not surprising that there is a high percentage of overseas students doing graduate degrees in Argentina. This may also be due to the wider variety of courses offered in Argentina compared with other Latin American markets.
The reason I thought about that particular example was the recent release of data from the British Council which showed that social sciences degrees plus international study or work experience are the two most commonly shared characteristics of professional leaders around the world.
That second characteristic is the one that most struck me. In our increasing work with helping ministries around the world reform their education systems we are used to an increasing requirement for bilingual, and sometimes trilingual, curriculums (one or two native languages plus English). And these countries work with us because Cambridge qualifications are recognised by universities and employers around the world. But clearly business and world leading organisations are looking not just for language skills and robust qualifications but for bi-cultural experiences and the type of broad internationalist experiences that bring new, fresh perspectives to problem solving and human relations within organisations.
In many regards this was something Cambridge International Examinations predicted, as have my colleagues at Cambridge Assessment. Way back in 2011 we held a conference on ‘What kind of education enables us to cope with an interconnected world?’ You can still watch the conference here: http://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/insights/education-for-an-interconnected-world/
It was an attempt to define what students needed to flourish in an interconnected world whether that be at a HE institution, at work or merely in lifestyle.
Of course, qualifications, skills and learning programmes that are internationally transferable are only part of the equation. We also need to encourage young people to make use of their internationally recognised qualifications as the passports to study and work abroad that they are. That comes down to an attitude of mind.
Student fees here in the UK may help make that more likely for British learners as study in the UK becomes, in terms of price comparison, little different to studying abroad. But given the lamentable history of language learning in the UK are we even close to opening up opportunities for young people to develop and become tomorrow’s professional leaders?
Interim Chief Executive of OCR