Article by Daniel Belteki, formerly Link Global Business Solutions
In my first week at college in the UK I was asked to present my group’s argument: “what we believe Sociology to be”. It was a nerve racking experience but one which would begin the development of my soft skills, and now, 4 years on, I can look back on that moment and reflect on my own unusual experience of moving from a Hungarian to English education culture, and identify the three key differences that stick out for me.
During my two A-Level years in the UK, I had to give countless presentations in History and Sociology classes. Although this provided me with many hard skills; how to structure and focus on the main message of the presentations, the soft skills that I learnt are much more important and relevant in my everyday life: focusing not only on what I say, but how I say it; the effect that body language has on the audience; the importance of first impressions and making an impact, very often with the use of creativity; handling nerves.
The Hungarian oral assessment (“felelés”) is a type of presentation practice, however, during “felelés”, the student being assessed is only required to communicate with the teacher. Moreover, the emphasis is on the “what is said” rather than on the “how it is said”. It could be argued that by using this assessment type, even those people who don’t know how to say something can be assessed. On the other hand, this could also be interpreted as not encouraging the development of the students’ soft skills, especially those students who were lacking. The question is: should these children be left behind?
As you can imagine, I was more used to the Hungarian style of teaching History, and it took me a while to adjust. In those first couple of weeks, I felt a little bit sidelined because of this. It was very surprising to see just how much emphasis there is in the curriculum on the debating of the causes of different historical events. This not only allowed me to start questioning many things that I have taken for granted, but also to develop a more open mindset which doesn’t instantly reject other beliefs, instead it encourages me to understand the reasoning of the other side and why that person decided to support a specific conclusion. Moreover, this open mindset also allowed me to not take any of the sides of an argument. Thus, what I feel like I was presented with is the basis for the development of great communication skills, which allows me to gain more from the discussions I have every day with my friends or co-workers and to carry out more successful negotiations.
The last example I wish to mention is the importance of teamwork. Unfortunately, during my college years in Hungary, I rarely came across any teachers who asked me to work in groups; the notable exceptions being my English language classes and lessons taught by Spanish teachers. As a result, my classmates in the UK were one step ahead of me, since many of them had already improved their soft skills: demonstrating reliability; constructive communication; active listening; how to introduce new ideas; how to convince and influence other members of your team; how to be an active team member. Many of the skills which were covered in a course of valuable meetings training, carried out by a company close to my heart whose name I won’t mention ;)
To put all of this into context, up until the point where Hungarian students leave college (or gimnázium or szakközépiskola), they are given little direction on how to apply and use the knowledge they learnt there. I heard many people say that it is during university years that we get to learn these soft skills, but as we all know, just because you go to college, it does not mean that you will go to university as well, and, as such, the question remains: should these children be left behind?
Daniel Belteki was employed at Link Global Business Solutions. He spent two years in college in Hungary and then continued his studies in Bristol, England and at the University of East Anglia.