Soft skills valued by Maldivian college students as they prepare for lifelong learning, career success, and citizenship

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Hidaya Mohamed Zahir

Abstract

Soft skills such as adaptability, innovation, creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration, leadership and resilience are transferable skills expected of university graduates, to find sustainable solutions to the challenging and complex problems faced by the society in the 21st century. This necessitates the need to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of programs of study that are not contributing greatly to student’s future career success and to the economy in general. A qualitative phenomenological approach was used to explore the soft skills Maldivian college students consider important, as they complete higher education and prepare for the 21st century world of life, work, and citizenship. A purposive sample of 18 students from three different colleges in Male’ was interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. The findings revealed that college graduates valued essential soft skills such as adaptability, communication, collaboration, and problem solving skills, and realised they needed these skills to be competent and successful in the world of work. They also identified weaknesses in college curriculum and pedagogy which hindered them from learning and practicing these skills. Significantly concerning was that these students did not have the opportunities to consider innovation, creativity, and cultural citizenship as important skills they could gain during their tertiary education experience. This indicates that regular revisions to curricular should be made to address and accommodate graduates’ deficiencies in soft skills which are transferrable to the workplace. Students also should be given applied projects, case studies, and experiential learning to narrow the soft skills gaps.

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