I am Dr. Afra Sajjad and I’m the Head of Education and New Market Development Emerging Markets at ACCA. And I’m very much looking forward to this interview.
1. ACCA is the leading association in the world of accounting education. Could you please, specify the most remarkable new trends in accounting education?
In terms of new trends that need to be mentioned I would like to name 3 key trends in accounting education.
The first trend, of course, is online learning. Online learning has come into place because of its ease and because it does help people learn according to their lifestyle. People are busy and they don’t have time to go for face-to-face learning and that’s why online learning seems to be getting properly. But I have to say that it also gives the opportunity for blended learning. And what we at ACCA are noticing is that people prefer blended learning, and they do have the opportunity to go through some part of the learning at online atmosphere and then come together as a group for face-to-face learning. ACCA provides each student with equal opportunities. So, the first trend is online learning.
The second is something very new, which is called experiential learning. It’s based on experience. What we inclusively see in business schools is people coming together in groups sharing case study and then giving feedback on that case study as for the experience. These days we at ACCA also see that the young people doing the ACCA want to try experience-based learning. And that’s why we are introducing something like integrated case study as it gives people an opportunity to apply their experience to the case-study. ACCA qualification is practical oriented; immediately upon getting this knowledge people may use it in their job.
The third trend is personalized learning. For personalized learning, I’m going to use the example of ACCA, as we have a large amount of students across the world. Some are very bright, extremely good; they take exams and pass exams. Some of them are not that good, sometimes they pass, sometimes not, some are struggling and some don’t take exams but still want to do it. And for them what we think we need to do is personalized learning, meaning having the learning methodology and learning approach that suits their learning style. If the person is exceptional and needs fast track, then we need to promote fast track. If the person is poor, he or she needs a lot of support. But it’s not fair that exceptional students get the same support as poor students do.
Thus, three trends are: online learning, experiential learning and personalized learning. They seem to be the three types of trends that are changing accounting education.
2. Are there any outdated approaches to accounting education?
In different countries different things are outdated. Personally, I could name as outdated is lecturing. I think that the person standing in front of a huge class lecturing is not getting any feedback from students. Another thing is encouraging people to learn concepts through what is called ‘road learning’ or ‘learning by heart’. I would personally think that this approach will not work with the today’s generation at any part of the world.
3. The globalization of product and financial markets is the powerful challenge for businesses all over the world. Is accounting education required in the context of globalization?
I think that it is even much more required than before. Now we see increasing focus at international financial reporting standards, international auditing standards, integrated reporting - all these are international trends. And if assume that people only have the knowledge of local accounting financial reporting and local business standards, they are going to experience difficulties not only if they want to work abroad, but even working in their native country, e.g. in the country like Russia, which definitely has an international aspiration and ambition in the world of international business. A very good example is diploma in International Financial Reporting Standards which is devoted to international standards, but it was translated to Russian. And currently we see a huge demand for it in Russia, because people want to learn, know and apply international standards. So globalization is definitely going to bring international accounting qualifications much into trend.
4. You are coordinating ACCA activities for the emerging markets countries which still have many distinct features as compared to the developed countries. In emerging economies many processes in business environment, business models and financial markets are different. Are the challenges for accounting professions in this group of countries also different?
Yes, I manage 80 countries including regions from Russia and India to Brazil and Turkey and then the whole Eastern Europe like Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, and Indonesia, Myanmar and other. I think different countries have different standards, different types of people, different cultures, but few things are similar. All these countries are going towards international standards. However, ambitions of people who want to become professional accountants seem to be the same. They want to get good job, they want international mobility, and they want to have a qualification which is international. Someone wants to get to the top very quickly. So that’s what young people are about.
5. Could you, please, advice what could be the most efficient "road map" for developing professional competencies to meet the new requirements in accounting professions?
Academic qualification is a ‘must’. If they want to excel and if they want to get a fast track to the top positions, they go for a professional qualification. And the evidence for that is that 82% of the top companies in UK have a chief executive being a professional accountant.
So, academic qualification is a must, bust fast track means you must have a professional qualification. But having qualification doesn’t mean the end of professional development. You need to continuously invest in your personal development. And one of the things that employers tell us is that people do not read newspapers. They do not have any idea of what is happening around them in the business world. They go to interviews without knowing what is happening. So, you should read newspapers, also you can follow few newspapers on Facebook. If you have an idea of what is in newspapers, you will obtain some soft skills like creativity, you will be able to think out of the box, have good communication skills and commercial acumen. And working in international teams means knowing and understanding cultural differences even in communication. So, my advice to any professional is to be curious, to look around, and don’t stop learning. Even when you are 60 years old, you may start learn Chinese, I’m not kidding.
The interview is prepared by Khromenko Ekaterina, a student of the Faculty of World Economy and InternationalAffairs