The value of critical thinking


Iryna Fedortsova, NeuralSolution COO, shares her thoughts about difference between educational systems in Oxford and in Ukraine.

After being enrolled at the university and becoming a student of Saїd Business School, I am often asked questions about the difference between educational system in Ukrainian universities and in Oxford. Besides, many are curious if I really feel the value of education, which consumes tons of my time, energy, and resources. In this relation, I must admit that I do appreciate it and the last thesis regarding the quantity of time, energy, and resources spent is totally true.

It is only natural that the curriculum of Saїd Business School includes essential modules which cover hard skills in the field of micro- and macroeconomics, analytics, financial analysis, etc. However, it is not limited to teaching us only concrete technical skills. It is just impossible to teach everything in such a fast-moving and rapidly changing environment people live in today. The most valuable thing we are taught is critical thinking. As an Oxford student, I now see how much Ukrainian education system is similar to that which was adopted in the Soviet Union. The Soviet era education doctrine presupposed giving students very solid academic knowledge without teaching them how to implement and use it in real life; more so, students were not used to express their own opinions. On the contrary, they were just to repeat what was said by professors or written in books. Since much was inherited from old-fashioned Soviet education system, students in Post-Soviet states are still often tasked with answering questions which already have answer keys. Of course, it is very comfortable for students just to swot the answer keys but this mode of education does not prepare them for real life and practical side of the profession. Here, at Oxford we do not have questions answers to which have already been found. Consequently, we are forced to do substantial research to find additional information using given instruments and theory. No wonder, we have no choice but think critically while completing each assignment. More interestingly, we are encouraged to find an academic contradiction of our opinion and to support our view with qualified resources to prove that our statement is correct. Such exercises teach us to critically assess any information and qualitatively apply our knowledge to new situations. Finally, we learn to think out of the box. This education system is very different for me and I am totally out of my comfort zone doing the EMBA.

Simultaneously, while developing hard skills, the School pays much attention to students’ soft skills (communication and negotiation skills, emotional intelligence). Surprisingly, graduates from Post-Soviet states, among which is Ukraine, have really high level of Intelligence Quotient (IQ), but their Emotional Quotient (EQ) is not well-developed as only first steps are made in this direction and only at some universities. Developing of EQ is a necessity for any modern professional; if only IQ were important, HR specialists would stay in a queue for recruiting graduates from Mathematical Departments only. All people are different and it is essential to find the right way of communication (not manipulation) with each person. Will professionals be able to build long-term relations with clients, if they choose the entrepreneurial career, or will they succeed in corporate career and find common ground with internal and external clients? The answer to the above questions lies in developing of professional’s soft competencies, and Oxford gives me great opportunity to fill the gap in this kind of knowledge.

The world is changing in relation to the approach to organizational structures. At the end of the last century the hierarchy organization structures prevailed, however, nowadays the borders between managers and subordinates are removing. Collaboration structures are becoming prosperous in the long-run perspective, and hence, the principle of cooperation and teamwork is highly required and applicable. In this connection, Saїd Business School suggests new approaches how to lead and create teams, gives explanation why some teams flourish and others fail.

In summary, I can state that most knowledge acquired at Saїd Business School could be implemented in real life. Moreover, the programme challenges us to find new solutions to any kind of problems (from creating added value services as a department for the whole organization to resolving world scale problems). Here, we are taught that there are no right or wrong solutions, still we feel prepared for any difficulties.

Originally published at Oxford SBS blog.

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