21st century Skills
‘Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity and skill to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.’ –Mahatma Gandhi
The word learning has taken on a greater meaning and significance with the realization that the wisest mind has always something to learn, while people always thought of learning as being confined to academic endeavors. In the process of learning, learners absorb knowledge from every possible source and at every opportunity. Today’s students must learn to collaborate, communicate and solve problems.
However, the gap between the skills people learn and the skills people need is becoming more obvious, as traditional learning falls short of equipping students with the knowledge they need to live with.
The present day generation is getting smarter day by day. Most parents and teachers find themselves at a loss when faced with bold and intelligent questions from students. With technology and social media taking our society by storm, kids of all age groups today are much more informed on various aspects of life than ever before. They are inquisitive and intelligent.
Against this backdrop, the question that parents and teachers need to ask themselves is whether they are focusing on building the children’s abilities and skills to meet their expectations?
Are the parents restricting the children rather than taking them to higher levels of learning and joy?
21st century curriculum must include, in addition to the standard core subjects, important areas of study such as global awareness, civic literacy, etc., and skills such as ICT literacy, critical thinking, problem-solving and life skills.
Teachers play a significant role in helping students develop 21st century skills by applying methods that increase students’ capabilities. They should use innovative strategies and modern learning technologies that help integrate cognitive and social skills with content knowledge as well as increase student participation in the learning environment in order to promote skills.
There are many strategies that enhance both learning content and developing skills.
Today, teachers should give students the opportunity to engage in various activities such as projects, problems, design and research-based learning that promote cooperative learning.
In these activities, students work together which increases their participation, achievement and motivation to learn. Consequently, collaborative learning allows students to contribute different degrees of prior knowledge, abilities and aptitudes. The 21st century skills are a set of abilities that students need to develop in order to succeed in the information age of today.
Let us look at the 21st-century skills that every student needs to survive and succeed in our world.
The students want to be challenged and inspired in their learning. They want to collaborate and work with their peers. They want to incorporate the technology they love into their classroom experiences as much as they can. Hence, preparing a child to face the world is not an easy task for any teacher. Many of these skills are also associated within depth learning, such as analytic reasoning, complex problem solving, and teamwork.
These skills differ from traditional academic skills which are primarily content –based.The set of skills we need to focus on is to successfully develop lifelong learning.
They are many and varied and a few are listed below:
Problem solving skills: In the future, problems will become more complex. As society advances, so will the complexities. The more we focus on students’ ability to devise effective solutions to real-world problems, the more successful those students will become. Problem-solving is a skill that comes naturally to them and this can be advanced with proper engagement in their learning. This comes from doing projects and meaningful tasks that give them challenges to overcome them in an imaginative way.
Lateral thinking skills: Students can gain much by working out exercises that force them to think beyond the text book.Training the students to think outside the box helps in developing self-directed learning.
Analytic thinking: Students need the ability to think analytically which includes proficiency with comparing, contrasting, evaluating, synthesizing, and applying without instruction or assistance.
Presentation skills: Being able to present information in a clear and coherent manner so that others can interpret it. Learning to interpret both visual and written presentations is important.
Communication skills: Learning to use social networking as a learning tool among students is important. While there is much concern about proper use of social media, we must teach our students how to use these tools to expand their own learning.
Students must be able to communicate not just with text or speech, but in multiple multimedia formats. They must be able to communicate visually through video and imagery as effectively as they do with text and speech.
Interpersonal skills: Verbal and non-verbal communication plus listening and questioning skills enable a student to be responsible and accountable for actions, An awareness of social etiquette and expectations of self management skills are very essential for working as a member of a team.
Confidence building skills: Developing an ‘I can’ attitude and assertiveness is so very important. Education must aim to instill confidence in our students so that they know they can learn, explore and achieve success on their own.
Self-directed learning skills: Giving our students the opportunity to determine what and how they will learn is a valuable way for them to determine the path of their own learning. If teachers set the agenda for students, there is little scope for them to discover the joy of learning on their own. They need opportunities to become active learners who can direct their own learning path. Self directed learning can be very powerful and can help students to practice all skills.
Collaboration skills: Students must possess the ability to collaborate in both physical and virtual spaces, with real and virtual partners globally.Connection and collaboration with others are essential not only to their learning but for their mental and emotional health. It is a skill that educators must exercise with them regularly.
Planning skills: Students must be able to set parameters for the scope of work as well as setting and sticking to a time line for the completion of work. This is an imperative skill to ensure learning. Needless to say that these skills help students to gain confidence and self manage any situation with courage and achieve their goals.
Above all, teachers must inspire students to develop a love of learning. By igniting a passion and a hunger to learn, educators will be setting students upon a path of lifelong learning and develop all the skills required for a successful future.
‘Every person – with his or her own skills, abilities and uniqueness – can contribute to others and bring great joy to those that fortune has not smiled upon.’ -Shari Arison
Padmini Sriraman is presently working as the Principal of The Hindu Senior Secondary School Chennai. She is double M.A in Economics and History and also holds M.Ed. and.M.Phil.degrees. She has written social studies books for Classes 6, 7 and 8 and EVS for Classes 1 to 5. She has conducted Workshops in Social Science, EVS, Classroom Management, etc. in various states in India, and at Dubai and Doha She is a recipient of the CBSE National Award from the Government of India in the year 2012, and of the First Financial Literacy Award instituted by Eduheal Foundation and Bombay Stock Exchange, plus other recognitions from various institutions. Her personal vision is to create a positive impact and motivate everyone with a ‘can do and never give up’ attitude. She is qualified in Carnatic music and veena, in painting and drawing, and was a basketball player during school and college days