What are 21st century skills?

At SISD, we’ve often spoken about developing the skills that our children will need for the future. But these skills aren’t the same as what they would’ve needed if they were to achieve adulthood in the 80s or 90s. Children need to be taught 21st century skills if they want to succeed in the 21st century workforce. In today’s article, we talk about what these skills are and how they help today’s children become tomorrow’s career men and women.

What are 21st century skills?

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a US-based education advocacy group, 21st century skills are the skills, knowledge, expertise, literacies, and other traits that students will need to succeed not only in their coming careers, but also in life.

To this effect, the Partnership considers three core types of skills:

  • Learning skills, which include: critical thinking, creative thinking, collaborating, communicating
  • Literacy skills, which include: information, media, and technology literacy
  • Life skills, which include: Flexibility, initiative, social skills, productivity, leadership

What’s interesting about this list is that it consists primarily of soft skills, or skills that can’t necessarily be measurably taught. In particular, skills such as initiative, creative and critical thinking, and collaboration can’t be separately graded subjects in class, but instead must be part of the classroom culture, integrated into how every subject is taught.

We’ve previously covered soft skills when we discussed the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, and also noted how these skills very closely lined up with the IB Learner Profile.

Why are these 21st century skills important?

The tech-driven nature of the new millennium has changed the way we approach nearly every industry. Technological innovation and new best practices are rapidly disrupting how every business and even every society operates. Software and hardware are constantly upgrading and being reinvented, and new ideas and ways of doing things permeate society every single year. It’s conceivable that the landscape of 2030, merely a decade from now, will be nearly unrecognizable from today.

In order to function effectively in this new and changing environment, students need to be able to adapt to the times, discerning right from wrong, developing creative solutions, knowing how to solve problems, and working well with others.

On top of that, there are certain unique emerging dangers to society that our children will need to learn to defend against. For example, fake news is a huge problem in the information age, that has influenced politics and outrage for years. Another would be the dangers of anti-vaccination movements and pseudoscientific medicine, which can seem convincing to an untrained eye. Both of these, and similar issues, may continue to be a problem in the near future – a future that students can prepare for by maintaining critical thinking and research skills, allowing them to discern what is real and not.

How does SISD prepare our students for the future?

SISD has long recognized the value of these skills, and the challenges that our students will face in the future. To that end, we’ve styled our curriculum in ways that ensure our students will be prepared.

For one, we use the International Baccalaureate curriculum, whose emphasis has always been on creating lifelong learners, who will view the world with an inquisitive, critical eye, and who can collaborate with each other to solve problems. Recently, we’ve extended this even further by adopting the IB Career-related Programme, an alternative branch of the IBDP that is targeted towards career and vocational knowledge.

Aside from this, we’ve also recently enhanced our IB PYP Programme with STEAM, to ensure that our students are prepared for a technology-driven future from a very young age. Our IB STEAM adhere to top technology education standards, and employs a variety of resources to provide our children with cohesive learning experiences. Through IB STEAM programme, our Primary students will more easily transition to STEAM education in their later years.

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