Date posted: 31/08/2020

Future-proofing the accounting curriculum

Educators are constantly faced by the challenge of how they can prepare young people for the ever-evolving future of the industry. So how are leading accounting educators preparing students for the future of the profession?

Chartered Accountants ANZ's thought leadership paper, The 21st Century Profession, evaluated the current state of professions, and how professionals can ensure that their skills and expertise remain relevant to meet the demands of the future.

The study found that while some facets of professions will be replaced by technology, disruption provides a catalyst for change and growth and significant opportunities for those professions that are willing to adapt and evolve.

In this context, Chartered Accountants ANZ took the opportunity to ask conference attendees at the 2020 Accounting & Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ) Annual Conference - some big ticket questions:

  • What are the top 5 capabilities that are most important to future-proof accounting graduates and the accounting profession?
  • How can we develop these key accounting capabilities in students?
  • How do we provide students with more opportunities to think critically?
  • How do you incorporate technology and data into the course design?

AFAANZ 2020 brings together leading accounting and finance academics and is a valuable platform to hear from industry leaders, discover new ideas, and get involved in discussions on a range of industry issues.

Here's a selection of the insightful responses and ideas gathered on the day:

The most commonly mentioned capabilities every accounting graduate and professional needs were:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Resilience/adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Leadership
  • Digital Literacy

Tips and ideas for developing these key accounting capabilities in students:

  • Encourage students to reflect on why education is important, what they want to learn, and how it will benefit them in their future careers
  • Link accounting topics taught over the semester to one scenario so students can understand how the topics interconnect and relate to one another
  • Include assessments on how students can develop behavioural capabilities, in addition to technical skills
  • Help students understand how they can adapt to change with resilience
  • Include opportunities for students to lead and engage in team work through a course in introductory entrepreneurship

Tips and ideas for providing students with more opportunities to think critically:

  • Work to remove the emphasis on memorising content, and add learning tasks that develop judgement and resourcefulness
  • Discuss the role of sustainability accounting and reporting in facing the challenges of the future with resilience
  • Include opportunities for students to problem solve with their peers, and discuss their thinking

Tips and ideas for incorporating technology and data into the course design:

  • Provide practical examples of how technology is impacting the world of business and accounting
  • Explain how to use blockchain technology and big data Help students understand how to use audit analytics tools by providing them with in-class experiences
  • Discuss with students the role of FinTech, and find out whether this is a topic that they're interested in
  • Add IT specific modules into accounting topics and removing excel based assignments to enhance IT knowledge and skills
  • Include a new unit on data analytics

More great ideas:

  • Use smart technology in the classroom
  • Encourage students to reflect on why they made the decision to pursue a career in accounting
  • Use mobile app games such as Quitch and AccountingPod to engage with students

These answers demonstrate that there are a wide range of methods available to educators to help shape the accounting curriculum to equip the finance and accounting professionals of today and tomorrow with the right capabilities to face the challenges of the future with confidence.

A recent study in the Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability on Future-proofing accounting professionals: Ensuring graduate employability and future readiness evaluated the role of professional bodies in equipping accounting graduates with the skills to meet the challenges of change, and found that educators play a vital role in helping students develop resilience and emotional intelligence to succeed in the future workplace.1

Although providing students with the opportunity to undertake generic technical and professional tasks in the classroom is essential, it's also important to remember to place emphasis on the non-technical skills such as team work, oral and written communication in the accounting curriculum as this will enhance the education experience for students, and increase their employability.2

Thank you to the AFAANZ conference attendees who contributed their tips. We hope this will inspire you and form a basis for further conversation between you and your peers.

Sources
1. https://ojs.deakin.edu.au/index.php/jtlge/article/download/886/868
2. https://researchbank.swinburne.edu.au/file/f5a62ad8-813c-4c0c-b220-29bf4009c07a/1/PDF%20%28Published%20version%29.pdf

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