Market research firm Hanover Research recently analysed six major educational frameworks designed to improve the development of 21st-century skills, one of which was produced by national education-business coalition Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). While each framework had its own list of critical 21st-century skills, they concurred on four critical areas for development:
1. Collaboration and teamwork
Firstly, an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork to build leadership, communication and organisational skills – aptitudes that are needed to succeed in a fast-paced and constantly-changing environment. A strong grounding in the principles of collaboration and teamwork prepares students for jobs where they are expected to work with others to develop new ideas, plan and facilitate projects, and solve problems. It teaches students to see things from different viewpoints and resolve conflicts that may arise from differences in values and opinions, leading to stronger work relationships.
2. Creativity and innovation
In essence, creativity is the ideation of a thought, while innovation is the realisation of the idea. The P21 names creativity and innovation as essential skills of future citizens, and recommends that instead of viewing teaching as an act of knowledge transfer, educators must weave the art of creative thinking into the curricula to cultivate innovation among students. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the workforce of the future must be able to think critically and be capable problem solvers, and it is through creativity that these crucial and much-required skills are fostered.
3. Critical thinking
Critical thinking is considered one of the most valued skills in the workplace, especially in a competitive, knowledge-based economy. The P21 and the American Management Association deems it to be a vital 21st-century skill that is “expected to become even more important in the future”. Essentially, critical thinking involves the ability to reason effectively through inductive and deductive methods; analyse and understand how different parts of a system work together to produce desired outcomes; evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs to draw conclusions based on the best analysis, and utilise the information gathered to solve problems.
4. Problem solving
In this age of creativity and innovation, it is imperative to continuously produce new ideas, products and services. According to The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University educators looking to nurture problem-solving skills in students should focus on these areas: Communication, independence, empathy, diplomacy, thoroughness and independence. And through these areas, students will learn to identify their own problem-solving errors and develop the patience to attempt complex “real life” problems.