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Preparing Children for the Unknown Future: 21st Century Skills

by on 22/11/2019     755 291

For the past few generations, we have seen large shifts in education opportunities and the labour market. Back in the day, it was all right for baby boomers to enter the workforce as a high school dropout and still be able to find a job. As long as they knew the trade, managed to follow directions, were willing to work hard and could get along with others, they were rewarded with a salary and a relatively secure life. For children born today, low-skilled applicants need not apply is the phrase that literally sums up their employment future. Moreover, the majority of low-wage jobs are now filled by immigrants or have moved overseas.           

 

 

Learning How to Learn 

As the world changes technologically and culturally, new-age jobs and industries require us to take the initiative to lead and be more flexible. While giving a speech about literacy and education in a 21st century economy, President Barack Obama notably said:

 

These new jobs are about what you know and how fast you can learn what you don't know. They require innovative thinking, detailed comprehension, and superior communication … I believe that if we want to give our children the best possible chance in life; we want to open doors of opportunity while they're young and teach them the skills they'll need to succeed later on, …

 


21st Century Skills

The increasingly globalized world has prompted us, as parents, educators and researchers, to redefine the traditional notion of which skills are required to prepare children for success in life outside of school. We need to move beyond the common formulations of learning that the majority of us grew up with and it takes more than just computer and technological skills to face the increasingly competitive society. The diagram below illustrates the top skills that children need to embrace:

 

With the accelerating pace of change, these critical skills empower children to secure information-age jobs, survive challenges of a highly uncertain future and protect themselves in unfiltered environments.  

 

 

How Are Educators Adapting?

Early education plays a crucial role in this. It requires redesigning of education systems and curricula, and retraining educators to encourage flexibility rather than specialization. In our efforts to help parents make informed educational decisions, we have observed a sharp increase in the number of local schools being strong advocates of 21st century education. They favour child-centred teaching methods, for example, project-based learning and problem-based learning, to inculcate critical thinking, creative thinking, communication and collaborative skills in the children. Instead of memorizing facts through rote learning, there is strong emphasis on teaching children how to learn and how to solve problems. The learning experiences strive to break down the barriers that exist between education and the real world, making them more relevant. The implementation of these practices calls for an iterative process of planning, teacher’s training, execution and evaluation.

 

Image: 123RF | ximagination


A Need to Reimagine Education

Curricula, assessments, teacher expertise, and management have fallen short of its goals in past education reform efforts. Acknowledging and making changes to the key components that have undermined the success of the reform movement is our best hope for turning our education system into one that is in line with the 21st century skills movement, and hopefully benefit less-advantaged children as well. Fixing these would not be easy, but it is doable over time.