Icons of Learning – Global Summit & Awards, 2018

The Icons of Learning – Global Summit & Awards 2018
Dec 14, 2018
Raffles Town Club, 1, Plymouth Avenue, Singapore

The Icons of Learning (www.iconsoflearning.com) is a thought leadership platform that brings together various stakeholders in the education & life-long learning ecosystem in Asia, for an exchange of ideas and best practices.

The forum engages in deliberations to make the education system sync with the times  and gear up to the challenges & diversities.

The theme this year is “Creating Authentic Learning Experiences in an era of Digital Storytelling & Gamification“. There will be an active participation from education providers, training organisations, governments, consultants and related institutions from SE Asian countries including India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Thailand & Hong Kong, in addition to Singapore.

The 5th Icons of Learning Awards that would follow the conclave honour individuals and institutions that have been striving hard in this area. For the emerging markets of South & South East Asia, education & learning is a critical aspect to enhance the potential of its population.

Conceptualised, organised & hosted by Singapore-based Business Excellence & Research Group (BERG), the Icons of Learning 2018 is being organised for fifth year in a row. The event will be followed by Networking cocktails & Dinner.

For participation & passes, write to contact@bizexcellence.com.sg or call +65-91018487

Future proofing 1 million children in South East Asia by 2020

Ee Ling Lim, CEO – Smarter Me Pte. Ltd.

Ee Ling Lim was an Investment Banker for almost 10 years. She joined CIMB Investment Bank in Kuala Lumpur fresh out of university, and it was likely her time with the Group Strategy team as CIMB was buying banks in Indonesia, China and Thailand, that sealed her love for corporate finance and strategy. She always had the desire to work abroad, and so few years later, she moved to Singapore and joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  She is the CEO of Smarter Me, an education platform whose purpose is to inspire kids to discover, grow and live their passion. They’re on a mission to make education more relevant, applicable and accessible – equipping them with essential tech skills and 21C skills.

“Growing up, I was a straight as student, probably due to the indirect pressure of being the child of a teacher, and earned scholarships to obtain my Diploma in Business from HELP University College in Malaysia and a Bachelor of Finance from the University of Queensland, Australia. I love books and art, and also always had a knack for organizing events – ranging from my high school prom, to class trips, to company team offsites. I think I attained fulfillment in bringing ideas to life, and derive joy from seeing people being happy at an event organized by me,” Lim added.  Read below to know more about Ee Ling Lim and SmarterMe.

What led you to the path of entrepreneurship?
Investment banking was exciting and challenging, and I wouldn’t be what I am today without the experiences and the skills gained there, but I had reached a point in life where I question myself, what was my purpose of being here, in this world! I was in the business of advising corporate clients, but I didn’t feel like I was making any real positive impact to humanity.

So in late 2016, I took a leap of faith to leave investment banking to start Smarter Me. I’ve always had a passion for education – having taught kids art and craft and in a religious school – and I saw the gap in learning – what kids are learning today (which really has not changed much from what we went through, despite the vastly different world we live in today) and what they need to be successful in their future world.

Tell us more about “Smarter Me” and its growth.
SmarterMe was founded because we want to inspire children to discover, grow and live their passion. We started out in 2017 as an online platform to connect parents with curate, quality instructors, and ran discovery-themed holiday camps, enabling children to be exposed to various exciting and interesting learning opportunities, such as coding, race car engineering, money matters, and illustration. This year, we are focused on delivering education which are relevant, applicable and forward-looking. We are launching a series of live video classes in Coding, Robotics, Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking for children ages 9 and up and teens.

What sets our courses apart is Our corporate partnerships, where a real-world challenge is issued to students, requiring them to apply their knowledge to come up with proposed solutions; and our holistic approach of integrating self-actualization and happiness into the lessons plan. We see these personal mastery skills as vital and shouldn’t be something we learn only when we are adults.

Smarter Me’s vision is to be a school with forward-looking curriculum that equips kids with 21st century skill set, mindset and heart set, to define and achieve their own success and happiness in the future world. My goal is to empower and future-proof 1 million children in South East Asia by 2020.

Who has been your biggest motivation and why?
My two daughters have been the motivation for me. In this rapidly advancing and evolving world, our kids are as lost as ever. I’d hate for them to go through the motions, hitting the university and first job milestones and still be lost in their 20s, because they’ve not learnt the skill set and developed the mindset and heart set to be adaptable, resilient, and knowing their purpose. That is what we are trying to bring to children, through Smarter Me.

They’ve been extremely involved in Smarter Me, from giving design inputs to testing our curriculum, and that motivates me even more because I know they are already feeling empowered and believing that they too, can be creators.

If you were to change/relive any one moment, what would that be?
Cliché but there’s none. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and all that I’ve been through only serves to make me who I am today, especially my days in banking where I benefited from mentors and honed my analytical and communication skills.

What is that one milestone in your life that makes you happy?
I love that you ask this, because happiness has been my focus from 6 months back. I’ve been keeping a daily gratitude journal and consciously doing more of what makes me happy, which can range from being efficient at work, having quality conversations with my family, listening to inspirational podcasts, to reading more books and gleaning more knowledge.

It’s not a single milestone, but probably my decision to make a conscious effort to develop myself, that is contributing to my happiness. That being said, I’m still very much a work in progress!

What would you like to achieve in the next coming years?
I want to inspire and empower children globally. Through Smarter Me, I want to provide more kids with access to future-proof education, and give them the power to discover themselves, and to be creators rather than just consumers.

Education should instill thinking skills and mind training: Naveen Chopra, Chairman, The Chopras

“I’ve packed seven lifetimes into one life,” says Naveen Chopra, the Founder & Chairman of education group, The Chopras, immediately after we sit down to talk recently. That sets the stage as the veteran entrepreneur exudes the aura of a ‘happy-go-lucky’, go-getter personality.

Highly opinionated with some strong- and potentially controversial- views on a host of topics, he is a natural raconteur. Stories and characters come thick and fast, validating his assertion of packing in seven lifetimes already. His fulfillment comes from being able to shape the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, he says. “The education business is one where you make money while you do good.”

In a free-wheeling conversation with Manoj Aravindakshan, Editorial Director of AsiaBizToday, Naveen Chopra spoke on a wide range of topics, from starting his career with an advertising agency and “making a bundle of money by the time I was 23” to the Group’s foray into the Singapore market. He is passionate about spreading the profound and age-old wisdom of ancient Indian civilisations to the rest of the world. But perhaps the most illuminating parts of the conversation were his views on the state of education today and the skills that are essential for the workforce of tomorrow.

Edited excerpts from this conversation below:

On the entry into the Singapore market

We have set up our holding company in Singapore, The Chopras Global Holdings Pte Ltd.  We aim to use Singapore as a springboard into South East Asia. We intend to commence operations in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the entire ASEAN. Maybe even Korea, in a 5-year time frame. We see relative stability of government and the regulatory framework; a business-friendly environment in Singapore.

Having established the holding company here, we thought we may as well have some economic activity here. So we have also started our branch office for student advisory services and career planning. We have also added psychometric profiling as a tool to assist students and their parents to better understand themselves and have more informed conversations about themselves. Psychometric test results lead to better understanding, better discussions, and as a consequence, better decisions.

On the eye on ASEAN besides the huge India opportunity

It has got something to do with my personal beliefs/ thinking and narrative. India is not merely a country; India is a civilisation. We are an ancient civilisation that has contributed immensely to  world civilisations, including to China. Buddhism went to China went from India. If you read the thoughts of Confucius and other thinkers, you will find an absolute mirroring of our own ancient thoughts. So, one big factor is the civilisational links with this part of the world. We have come here to be a part of the South East Asian narrative. Although we are not formally a part of South East Asia, we feel we are an integral part of SE Asia for 1000s of years.

Then, from business/financial perspective, we see a huge need for the development of the youth of these countries. We see an opportunity in that. For example, even though a lot of people are offering English language proficiency development, we think there is a big need for soft skills, such as public speaking, confidence building, communication, and so on I keep on hearing business owners and corporate executives say that they are not getting the right kind of talent. All of that is an opportunity for us.

On the issues with today’s education

The lack of thinking skills! You’ve got courses for everything except for how to think. There is no course which is teaching you about your mind. What is your mind? How does it work? Where does thought arise from?  Those are the kind of things that should be researched and brought into education.

The narrative of the “self” is gone. When I was a kid at school/ college, our conversations was centred a lot around spirituality, ‘atma’ (soul). Don’t do this, if you do this, you will have to pay a price. That is karma and karmic theory, which is all about cause and effect. If you are calm, you can trace the cause of every effect. But today our minds are so full of noise, that we don’t have time to think; we are not giving ourselves time to think.

The modern education system was designed by the western countries, notably by the British, to cater to the needs of the Industrial Revolution and post Industrial revolution so that people could fulfill certain roles. But is that the right paradigm for our times and that of the future?

We are all born lateral thinkers. However, the prevailing education system irons out lateral thinkers into straight-line/ linear thinkers.

On what the purpose of education should really be

Education, first and foremost, is mind training and it should really be about developing minds. We need to teach and re-teach people how to think. We need people to use more than the 4 or 5 percent of their brains that they are used to using right now. The only salvation is to lift that and get people to use more of their minds to cope with the issues that life will throw at them.

In today’s world, teachers and parents etc. often say, “Do what you like. Let the child do what he likes” . But does life happen in the way you like all the time? So if you are training your mind to only do the things you like, then how will you cope with something that life throws at you which you don’t like?

If you teach yourself and force yourself to do things that you don’t like; master the things that you don’t then, nothing can defeat you.

On skills needed and career opportunities for the future

We are coming to a phase where people will have to become increasingly self-employed. They will have to be self-dependent to the extent that they are able to. For example, I see great future for people who are able to developing their arts and crafts.

My perception is that the idea of “one career, one job” throughout life is gone. In the next 8-10 years, the world would have changed beyond belief. So, by the time the new generation of kids – say, those born in the last decade- would have finished their professional life, they would have changed 5-to-7 careers, not just jobs!

In such a scenario, ‘mind training’ is indispensable.

On how the Chopras’ new University in Uttarakhand, India will be different

Obviously, we will have all the traditional courses. But we will also have programs that seek to bring a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. For example,  our School of Policy and Governance will be mounting a course on Comparative Civilisational Studies, something that has not been done anywhere else in the world as a program. This  will study major civilisations from around the world- Indian, Chinese, European, the Incas etc.- looking at all of them.

The aim will to be understand the flow of knowledge, with a view of engendering a body of evidence and knowledge where the different civilisations understand each other and  know their contributions to each other and therefore become more accepting of the other.

Regulations will become more facilitative, only quality would survive

Dr. Rajan Saxena, Vice Chancellor, NMIMS, Mumbai

Born in Delhi, Dr. Saxena’s childhood memories are that of a playful young boy who was active in debates, National Cadet Corps (NCC) and other extra curriculars. His greatest learning at the school, he recalls, were value of discipline, honesty and respect for the institution – the values that he has carried all through his life.  All along, his dream was to be at the top and not be just one among the many.

Author of one of the most popular Books on Marketing Management, Dr. Saxena was born & raised in the walled city of Delhi where his friends circle gave him the opportunity to appreciate diverse cultures that India has and the values of different religious and ethnic groups. “It taught me tolerance, respect for different cultures, nationalities and religious groups” he says.

A graduate from the prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce, he earned his Ph.D. from Delhi School of Economics. Currently the Vice Chancellor at NIMMS Deemed University since 2009, Dr Saxena was Director of IIM Indore, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan’s S. P. Jain Institute of  Management  & Research, Mumbai and ICFAI Business School, Gurgaon.

His passion was to be a leader and therefore, he took the initiative to organize many things in my life, both in school and college. When he started teaching at Delhi University, he realized that the only way, he can impact the lives of people is through education and that there was no other profession that played such a significant role in the lives of an individual. 

Team AsiaBizToday reached out to the passionate and scholarly leader in higher education in India, to know more about his interesting journey, captured in the interview below.

Who is your Role Model?
I grew up in Delhi at a time when India had just gained independence and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister. I had the opportunity to see him from a very close quarter and also the then President of India Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan at an inaugural function of Bal Bhavan. Their speeches were not only motivational but highly visionary.

Pandit Nehru while addressing us as children, talked of his idea of India. We did not quite understand, but he made it interesting by telling stories and how we can all contribute but from Dr. Radhakrishan’s speech that day, I learnt that education is the only way by which individual’s minds get opened and that how important is was for the nation to have open doors and window, which implied open minds, welcoming ideas from the world. I used to read Gandhi’s Tryst with Truth. Nehru’s Discovery of India and many other such stories. Little did I knew at that time, that theses speeches, readings and stories were going to make me what I am in my life.

During my stint at Delhi University, I was most influenced by one of my college teachers who also later became my mentor, Prof. Y. K. Bhushan a wonderful writer, human being and a highly effective teacher and trainer. While working with him, I learnt what it takes to make an institution and an outstanding Business School in India. 

Tell us about your life’s biggest learning experience
My mother was my biggest teacher who taught me never to nurture a feeling of defeat even in times worst adversity. She would often tell me to continue to try better because I am destined to be the best and at the top. But she also simultaneously taught me to be grateful to God as I was more fortunate than many others.

This was when, she herself had fought the worst adversity an individual could face in her life. Therefore, my childhood and early days are those of continuously making efforts, never succumbing to failure and success and humility must go together to make an individual successful. Only when one works for perfection, outstanding results are achieved.

What led you to a career in Education?
All along as a young student at Delhi University, I wanted to be an IAS, IFS or IPS Officer. I also admired some of our diplomats whom, I happen to meet personally during my student days. Despite my rank in the IAS/ IFS/ IPS examinations, I could not join IPS because my height was 2 cms short of the minimum standard. The episode did not dishearten me, but helped me affirm that I would be a guide – showing the path to others through my writings, teaching, consulting and intellect.

Even today, if I were to be at the point, in 1972 and 1973, I would still make the same choice of remaining in education and would do the same things because I have loved, what I do. Universities are the places where ideas take birth.  

What are the Key decisions that you make in your current role as Vice Chancellor?
As an institutional leader, I am required to take decisions that help institutions enhance its credibility and dominance in higher education. One such area relates to making processes transparent and policies which are fair and help institution emerge as an institution of high integrity. This is because, I firmly believe that institutions who value integrity, quality, transparency and fairness and respect individuals will always remain sustainable because the society would have higher degree of confidence in it. Only when society takes pride in an institution, it can grow.

Hence some of the key operational areas where I take decisions are students, admissions, academics and quality of delivery, acquisitions and retention of talent at faculty level and leaders for the system. Another key area relates to industry connect, external linkages and university governance. Matters of financial stability and growth are also ones that come under my purview. Also is the area of how one can shift the focus of learning to the student rather than the faculty by leveraging technology and using experiential pedagogy. I call myself as one whose primary role is to enable to a lifelong learning experience for the student.

Tell us about your most Cherished Milestone
One of the finest moment was the award of Ph.D. Degree from Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University in 1979 which opened up new avenues for me in Management Education. It also served as a first step of my journey in management schools.

The next mile stone was 1984 January when my first book on International Marketing got published by McGraw Hill. This marked my journey in writing a text book and therefore in 1999 my 2nd book on Marketing Management by McGraw Hill got published.

Amongst many other milestones, I cherish The Distinguished Alumnus Award from Shri Ram College of Commerce pushed me to reach to newer height in institutional building  in management education because my alma mater was proud of me and I need to live up to this pride.

Your views on Changing landscape of Education in India
Among the three Drivers of Change today is Technology. Technology today provides us an opportunity to make learning more global and effective. Internet today empowers individuals. It helps in reducing the knowledge gap between the creator and the receiver of knowledge. Hence, online education is here to stay. It will not replace the teacher and the physical classroom interaction, but it will make learning more meaningful and creative. The institution and the faculty has the opportunity to bring the faculty resources from the world through internet in their classrooms. The online education also serves the purpose of educating the faculty. And hence, it is a great tool to develop cognitive skills of students and improve quality of education.

Management Education in India has changed over a period of time. Reflecting the change in economy & technology research in different subjects which has influenced the management thought. New segments like working professionals, entrepreneurs and women are growing and demand for Management Education is continuously expanding. Management Schools have to consider developing more focussed programs. If India has to be recognized as a thought leader, then Education has to grow and it is professional education that will define the face of India. And hence, in future reaching out to the world is only path to grow. Future focus on Management Education will be on developing high performing leaders and managers in a tech environment. I also feel that Regulations will become more   facilitative, but it is only the quality institutions that will survive.

Life teaches all of us at every step. It also provides us an opportunity. It is for us to either learn and take the opportunity or walk the other way. Failure is an opportunity to learn and success to become more humble.

What you like to achieve in the coming years?
I have loved institution building and making difference to lives of individuals. There has never been one moment that I have regretted my decision and hence therefore, in the times to come, I will only continue to help institutions grow, as India needs many more good quality institutions and continue to teach and develop faculty. I will remain engaged in research and writing on institution building and Indian management thoughts that have influenced organizational leadership and strategy.

I would also like to spend time to discover myself.  As Robert Frost wrote in his famous poem “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep” and hence there are many more milestones to still achieve.