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21st Century Skills

Why do students need 21st century skills?

Every child in American needs 21st century knowledge and skills to succeed as effective citizens, workers and leaders in the 21st century. There is a profound gap between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need in typical 21st century communities and workplaces. To successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce, U.S. schools must align classroom environments with real world environments by infusing 21st century skills into their teaching and learning.

What is the Framework for Learning in the 21st Century?

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills' framework for learning in the 21st century is based on the essential skills that our children need to succeed as citizens and workers in the 21st century. The Partnership has identified six key elements of a 21st century education, which are described below. An overview of the framework and the Partnership can be downloaded here.

1. Core Subjects. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, identifies the core subjects as English, reading or language arts; mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics; government; economics; arts; history; and geography.

2. 21st Century Content. Several significant, emerging content areas are critical to success in communities and workplaces. These content areas typically are not emphasized in schools today:

  • Global awareness
  • Financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy
  • Civic literacy
  • Health and wellness awareness

3. Learning and Thinking Skills. As much as students need to learn academic content, they also need to know how to keep learning — and make effective and innovative use of what they know — throughout their lives. Learning and Thinking Skills are comprised of:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Creativity and Innovation Skills
  • Collaboration Skills
  • Information and Media Literacy Skills
  • Contextual Learning Skills

4. ICT Literacy. Information and communications technology (ICT) literacy is the ability to use technology to develop 21st century content knowledge and skills, in support of 21st century teaching and learning

5. Life Skills. Good teachers have always incorporated life skills into their pedagogy. The challenge today is to incorporate these essential skills into schools deliberately, strategically and broadly. Life skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Ethics
  • Accountability
  • Adaptability
  • Personal Productivity
  • Personal Responsibility
  • People Skills
  • Self Direction
  • Social Responsibility

6. 21st Century Assessments. Authentic 21st century assessments are the essential foundation of a 21st century education. Assessments must measure all five results that matter — core subjects; 21st century content; learning skills; ICT literacy; and life skills. To be effective, sustainable and affordable, assessments must use modern technologies to increase efficiency and timeliness. Standardized tests alone can measure only a few of the important skills and knowledge students should learn. A balance of assessments, including high-quality standardized testing along with effective classroom assessments, offers students a powerful way to master the content and skills central to success.

Information from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

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