The concept 21st century skills has emerged from a concern by governments over how to manage their education systems and ensure learners are equipped with the skills, knowledge and competencies needed for life, the workplace and continuous learning. In the past definitions surrounding skills have been expressed in loose terms, such as learning to learn and other definitions that are intangible and difficult to measure. More recently, interpretation of skills has started to shift, with researchers arguing that 21st century skills are radically different those gained in the past.
The model of development has changed radically. Information and communication technology has transformed how work is undertaken and the social relationships between people involved in this process. Under these changes production or services become more geared to the individual needs of customers or clients. Under these changing conditions workers have to be able to adopt and innovate in response to changing demands. The key features of success of this model are: the move towards soft-skills, autonomy, decentralised decision making, information sharing, team work and continual improvement. In terms of the precise implications for skills the emphasis has shifted towards more technical specialization, the use of soft-skills and the application of that knowledge1. One of the most comprehensive definitions associated with this term has been developed by a group called Assessment and Teaching of 21st century skills (ATC21S). Together they identify four key categories, which build on the premise of applying knowledge. Ways of thinking’: this is allowing people to think more productively by supporting them to generate and then evaluate ideas, or think creatively and then critically. In today’s business world when new problems arise with no precedent, innovative solutions are required. If the workforce has the skills to solve these problems and proactively make decisions about the solution, the workforce is, in turn, adaptable and able to respond to continuous change and challenge. In terms of specific skills these include creativity and innovation, critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making and learning to learn.
‘Ways of working’ is most easily described as ‘how’ new skills and approaches are being realised in the working world tamiflu online. They are the vehicles for supporting the ‘thinking’ and ‘adaptable’ workforce deliver effectively. These include communicate skills – the ability to articulate and receive clear messages to a diverse mix of people through a range of mediums and collaboration skills- the ability to work effectively 1 For more information about the application of knowledge see John P. Wilson (2012): International Human Resource Development: Learning, Education and Training for Individuals and Organisations (3rd ed.)Development and Learning in Organizations, Volume 28, Issue 2,Kogan Page, London, 2012 with people, understanding different skills sets to optimise outcomes. Teamwork is a proven way of achieving effective and high quality results.
‘Tools for working’ are the more practical skills set that ensures that people can optimize how they work. Technical advances have brought in an information overload; students need to be information literate to help them decipher where to find the relevant information, how to assess its value and how to use it.2 ICT literacy underpins this. Technology will keep advancing, and education systems and workforces will always lag behind. ICT literacy includes both competence and confidence to use ICT. It does not refer to specific software or hardware use but as a term to describe the ability to use technology effectively.
‘Ways of living in the real world’ refers to the skills that define the individual and their relationship with the broader global community. The 21st century means fast paced change and people need to be able to shift their mind set to match this change and learn how to balance their life and their career whilst staying focused and driven.3 They need to understand how their actions and activities may have a wider social responsibility as well as a personal one and own that responsibility. Formal education pathways alone cannot meet the requirements of 21st century skills. The evidence from number of countries highights that formal education systems are not meeting the needs of learners or modern industry, as evident by the large numbers of young people who are illiterate and the severe skill shortages that continue to be experienced by industry.
The next blog will look at examples of 5 countries and the pathways they chose in defining 21st century skills.