What are your skills for the 21st Century?

April 20, 2010 at 12:40 pm 3 comments

Artist Michael Salter with his Giant Styrofoam Robot Michael Salter and his “Giant Styrobot”
Image Source: www.ecofriend.org

by Alec Patton

Recently, I’ve been looking into ’21st century skills’ – the skills that people will need in order to thrive in the next century.

If you want to find out what people are talking about, you could to worse than watch this video made by students at Weymouth High School, or check out the Partnership for 21st century skills.

However, I’m more interested in you think: what skills do you think will be most valuable in the coming century? Collaboration? Synthesising information? Building giant styrobots?

Give as many skills as you want, but if you like a target to aim for, post 3. If you think targets are irredeemably 20th century, then just do what feels right.


Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jamie Wood  |  April 20, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Flexibility, creativity, problem-solving, thinking on your feet, thinking outside ‘the box’.

    Though I would argue that these are ‘timeless’ skills that are needed to negotiate any situation successfully – what’s so special about the 21st century compared to the 20th, the 10th, or the 5th one B.C. for that matter?

    I loved the video Alec posted, b.t.w.!

  • 2. Briony  |  April 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I agree with Jamie that the idea of 21st century skills makes me a little uneasy. People have always had to transfer skills to new situations, whatever the century.

    I think the key skills needed for success in new situations are confidence, resilience and motivation. Confidence is a huge one – the knowledge that you will be able to deal with problems, even if they seem impossible at first. Yes we need to be able to be flexible and creative but we also need to be able to convince others of our ideas.

  • 3. Jo  |  April 21, 2010 at 11:01 am

    The problem with the focus on skills is that it often seems like code for “let’s not teach knowledge”. (Not at Weymouth, thank goodness). Futurelab’s Enquiring Minds project (http://www.enquiringminds.org.uk/), for instance, has some interesting elements but I don’t see it’s going to produce, say, the high calibre of engineering students we need because it’s too inward focused. Problem solving skills are great but they need to be combined with a high level of scientific knowledge in order to, say, solve the problem of the inefficiency of most solar panels. Mindmap all you like: that’s not something you’re going to happen upon.

    P21’s advocacy of “21st century readiness” for every student seems on the face of it rather vacuous (are most schools keen to prepare their students for another century?) but the implication is that curriculum development can lag behind the needs of students.

    This can happen. For instance should we be teaching Mandarin instead of French? (Australia, rather sensibly, says yes). But the focus is often on technology as if school was the only place where you learned how that sort of thing worked. (And it’s often on what we might call ‘soft technology’ so we’ve not turned into a nation of programmers despite all the attention lavished on IT).

    I can think of a skill that’s assumed much more importance in the last 15 years and that’s judging reliability. The internet has utterly changed how research is done and kids can easily grasp how to go about finding information. What they struggle with is forming a judgement about how accurate that information is. In the absence of context or a firm knowledge base they run the risk of regurgitating nonsense. (Conspiracy theories are perpetuated: by an inability to balance unreliable and reliable evidence.)

    So my three ‘skills’ are: subject knowledge (unfashionable), literacy in its widest sense (writing, speaking, technical) and understanding information. But Jamie and Briony are right we need all that other stuff too. We always have.


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