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Importance of Design thinking brought alive at the International Forum for Students (IFS)

Gateway Graduate School, the higher education and professional development arm of the Gateway Group, in association with the University of Adelaide, Pearson Edexcel, Teesside University and Deakin University hosted successfully the second annual International Forum for Students on the 12th of February 2019. This innovative conference, exclusively meant for the high school students of Sri Lanka, was held at the BMICH. There were more than 400 participants at the event. The presentations and discussions from the eminent international and local speakers with wide global exposure brought new light to how students should develop new skills to prepare for a future that is uncertain.

‘Designing Destiny, Sustaining Success’ – the theme of IFS 2019

In forging ahead with the future, success and progress are not certainties, particularly in this changing world. The event specifically focussed on the exponential advances in knowledge, technology and ways of life and their influence on how students should plan their acquisition of new skills and competences through formal education and informal experiences. The distinct and varied challenges presented in the 21 st century require different modes of engaging and functioning through the possession of skills and competences such as systems/design thinking competence; anticipatory competence; normative competence; strategic competence; collaborative competence; critical thinking competence; self- awareness competence; integrated problem-solving competence and ethical as well as spiritual competence.

Expert Speakers and Panellists

The participants of IFS 2019 were inspired by a series of thought provoking sessions by the speakers and panelists who highlighted the relevance of design thinking to the present times.

  • Mr Joseph Hopper, Head of Learning Design at Pearson Edexcel; Mr Hopper gave the introductory speech on the topic ‘Use Design Thinking to Chart Your Career’ and set the tone for the conference proceedings.
  • Ms Soundarie David Rodrigo, Founder and Music Director of the Soul Sounds Academy and Soul Sounds as well as an Intellectual Property Lawyer and Mr Neranjan de Silva, Founder of Oktave and a Chartered Engineer; Ms Rodrigo and Mr de Silva jointly presented their personal perspectives about the transferrable skills that can be developed by pursuing arts in conjunction with traditional fields of studies through their speech titled ‘The Role of Arts in Fostering 21 st Century Professional Skills’.
  • Mr Peter D’Almeida, Managing Director and Chief Executive of N*able; Mr D’Almeida spoke on the topic ‘Workforce of the Future: Curiosity in the Age of Disruption’ and presented his professional insights about the work skills required for the future in a lucid fashion.
  • Mr Warren Harrison, Associate Dean (International) of Teesside University Business School, Teesside University spoke about the importance of taking a pragmatic approach to developing digital capabilities in the 21 st century particularly given the fluid nature of the environment in which future professionals will be functioning.
  • Mr Carl Jones, International Manager of Deakin International, Deakin University emphasised the need for Sri Lankan students to develop conviction to follow their dreams; he argued that courage is a necessary condition for success in global working contexts.
  • Mr Madu Ratnayake, Executive Vice-President, CIO and General Manager of Virtusa highlighted the challenges that the present day youth face with regard to the emergence of disruptive technologies; he specifically accentuated the requirement there is for continuous learning and the importance of cultivating the habit of acting to accomplish one’s goals.
  • Kalashuri Dr Channa Wijewardene, Founder and Dance Director of Channa-Upuli Performing Arts Foundation discussed the key attribute of finding one’s unique path to success; he enthralled the audience through practical demonstrations as to how he transitioned his interests and skills in sports to the field of dance.
  • Mr Manesh Fernando, General Manager of Hilton Colombo encouraged the participants to foster an open mindset with regard to planning their futures; he also spoke about the opportunities that are available in Sri Lanka and abroad within the thriving hospitality sector businesses for young people who are bold and ambitious.

In addition to the speeches and the panel discussion, there was also a live performance by the dance troupe of Channa-Upuli Performing Arts Foundation directed by none other than Kalashuri Dr Channa Wijewardene. The performance which exhilarated the audience reflected the theme of the conference which encompassed the role of developing multiple competences in designing one’s future.

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