The twenty-first century is characterised by an innovation-driven economy and rapidly emerging technology. We find ourselves in an age when digital screens have taken over our lifestyles and our industries are fast becoming automated. We all want our children to become successful individuals in life, well-equipped to cope with these changing times. But what exactly are the skills that they need to thrive in the twenty-first century? What abilities and traits are the most valuable today?
We, as parents, typically want our children to secure the best grades or the top position in class. However, academic performance is only one indicator of your child’s ability and may not always reflect his or her potential to succeed in life. The skills that our children require may be categorized in various ways. The traditional approach is to classify these as either hard skills, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, or soft skills such as leadership, critical thinking, and communication, which academic performance may fail to reflect adequately. While a certain level of proficiency in hard skills is a must, particularly the ability to create technology-based content, it is these so-called “soft” skills that are increasingly becoming more relevant today. Significantly, parents and teachers often take such soft skills for granted.
According to World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Education, these hard skills, also called foundational literacies, are only one of the three broad categories of skills most needed in the twenty-first century. The second category includes competencies like problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity that describe how students approach complex challenges. Finally, character qualities like curiosity, adaptability, and persistence demonstrate students’ response to their changing environment.
Research by Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) identifies 4Cs as among the most important twenty-first century skills for children: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. These learning and innovation skills, according to P21, best prepare students for the complex life and work environments of today. The research also lists adaptability, self-direction, productivity, leadership, and cross-cultural skills as other essential life and career skills for today.
These skills can be developed in children by providing them exposure, rather than mere instructions. It is advisable to take your child to places where he or she can learn through practical experience and become familiar with different environments. For example, bring your child to your workplace and show him or her the work that you and your colleagues are doing. Similarly, it is important for schools to connect the curriculum with real life problems through practical learning activities and educational trips. Relying on texts and theory alone can alienate children from the demands of the real world and make them hesitant in interacting with the world beyond their home and school.
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