EducationNationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 02

Teaching and learning of 21st century skills

After going through the last six months of the major global health issue, COVID-19 has taught us that teachers of the 21st century are undeniably dealing with new challenges but they are now more accountable for a student’s overall development, placing the foundation for lifelong progress. In this unprecedented time, it is up to educators to use the difficult conditions to take the next step forward and develop capacity in modern skills.

After dealing with the global health challenge, it is the responsibility of the education sector to prepare educators on the requirements of the 21th century skills. The global lockdowns provided the appraisals of education sectors all over the world, including Pakistan. The challenges may have changed, but so have the resources and rewards, and with constant new updates on the education sector, the teaching scenario may only change for the better.

According to experts, 21st century skills, which are 12 capabilities that today’s students need to succeed in their careers during the contemporary information age, are critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, information literacy, media literacy, technology literacy, flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity and social skills. The skills are proposed to help students keep up with the speedy pace of today’s modern markets. Each skill is unique in helping students but all the competencies have one quality in common, their indispensable role in the age of information technology.

There are three categories the skills fall into: Learning skills, literacy skills and life skills. Learning skills come under the first category and also known as four Cs i.e. critical thinking, creativity, a collaboration which teaches students about the mental processes required to adapt and improve upon a modern work environment. 4Cs skills are taken as the heart and soul of teaching the 21th century skills as these are more recognizable in students who are in post-secondary education and career settings. Critical thinking is the mechanism that weeds out problems and replaces them with fruitful solutions and trains students to think critically without the support of teachers and mentors. It is a known fact that critical thinking is considered to be the most in demand and significant skill for any health sciences scholar and in upcoming business settings. It is an essential skill to indulge into employees for enhancement of practical knowledge.

Creativity is another equally important quality as a means of learning adaptation. This skill empowers students to see concepts in different ways, which leads to innovation and improved concepts. In any field of life, innovation is the key to the adaptability and overall success of any human resource unit. Collaboration means getting students to work together to achieve compromises and acquire the best possible results from solving a problem. Collaboration may be the most difficult concept in the four Cs. But once it’s mastered by any learner and future professional, they can settle down or will be able to sort the fundamental issues of any team unit in crisis.

Finally, communication is the glue that brings all of the enlightening qualities together. Students must learn how to effectively convey ideas among different personality types and situations. Effective communication has the potential to eliminate confusion in any working environment, which educates students to convert into valuable parts of their teams, departments, and professional endeavours.

Information literacy is the foundational skill and helps students understand facts; especially, data points that they’ll encounter online. More importantly; it teaches them how to separate fact from fiction. In an age of blatant misinformation, finding the truth online has become a responsibility on its own. It’s crucial that students can identify honesty on their own. Otherwise, they can fall prey to myths, misconceptions, and outright lies.

Media literacy is the practice of identifying publishing methods, outlets, and sources while distinguishing between the ones that are credible and the ones that aren’t. Just like the previous skill, media literacy helps find the truth in a world that’s saturated with information. This is how students find trustworthy sources of information in their lives and students, who are equipped with it, can identify and differentiate which media outlets or formats to ignore. They also learn which ones to consult and follow, which is an equally important competency.

Technology literacy goes another step further to teach students about the machines involved in the information age. As computers, cloud programming and mobile devices become more important to the world and require more people to understand the concepts in demand. Technology literacy gives students the basic information they need to understand what gadgets perform what tasks and why.

The third significant category of the skills is called “Life Skills “or FLIPS skills i.e. Flexibility, Leadership, Initiative, Productivity and Social Skills. Flexibility is the expression of someone’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Developing flexibility is a struggle for a lot of students, it requires them to show humbleness and accept that they’ll always have a lot to learn — even when they’re experienced. Leadership involves someone’s abilities for setting goals, walking a team through the steps required, and achieving the goals collaboratively. Whether someone is a seasoned entrepreneur or a fresh hire just starting their careers, leadership applies to life and career both. As students lead individual school departments, they can learn the ins and outs of their specific assignments. That gives ambitious students the expertise they need to grow workwise and lead the whole project. Leadership alone isn’t enough to get ahead though.

True success also requires initiative, requiring students to be self-starters. The initiative only comes naturally to a handful of people. As a result, students need to learn and practice it to fully succeed. This is, again, one of the hardest skills to learn and practice. Initiative often means working on projects outside of regular working hours. The rewards for students with extreme initiative vary from person to person. Sometimes they’re good grades. Regardless, the initiative is an attribute that earns rewards. It’s especially indicative of someone’s character in terms of work ethic and professional progress. That goes double when the initiative is practised with added qualities like flexibility and leadership.

Along with initiative, modern skills require students to learn about productivity. That’s a student’s ability to complete work in an appropriate amount of time and it’s called “efficiency.” The common goal of any academic mentor at or workplace supervisor is to get more done in less time. By understanding productivity strategies at every level, students discover how they work best while gaining an appreciation for how others work as well. That equips them with the practical means to carry out the ideas they determine through flexibility, leadership, and initiative. There is still one last skill that ties all other 21st century skills together.

Social skills are indispensable and crucial to the ongoing success of any learner and professional. Projects and businesses are frequently done through the connections one person makes with others around them. But this concept of networking is more active in some industries than others, but proper social skills are excellent tools for building long-lasting relationships.

In today’s world, the rises of social media and instant communications have changed the nature of human interactions and, as a result, today’s students are equipped with a wide range of social skills. Some are more socially skilful than others; some are far behind their peers and some lucky few may be far ahead, as socializing comes naturally to them. Teaching and learning four Cs are only the beginning of modern skills as tools that can be universally applied to enhance ways of thinking, learning, working and living in the world and guide students to achieve higher leadership goals in life.