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What are 21st Century Skills?

Sep-14, 2020

kids holding computers, coding, laptops and tablets

As a parent in 2020, you may have heard or seen the phrase "21st Century Skills" in regards to your child's education. But what exactly are 21st century skills, and why are they vital to your child's success?

In general, 21st century skills refer to the skillset that a child needs to acquire in order to find success in the world, both in their future career and in life. These are based on factors like an increasing digital presence, automation of labor, an increased consumption in creative content, data safety, climate change, and social awareness, just to name a few. Let's take a look at what these skills are, and the role they will play in your child's future.

The 4 C's

When we talk about 21st century skills, we're most often referring to the 4 C's. These are:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Communication

You can see how important these skills are in a business setting, regardless of industry. Critical thinking is vital to job performance and when managing life outside of work. Creativity means innovation, and a drive to distinguish yourself in your own unique way. Communication and collaboration work together not only to create a tight community, but to work together to solve problems and achieve success as a unit. While increased automation has decreased the need for some kind of collaborative labor like building cars, an increasing number of projects require collaboration between teams and individuals in sectors like program design and content creation.

By emphasizing the 4 C's, students are encouraged not only to achieve success alone, but as a unit with their classmates and teammates. Healthy competition has its place, but creating divisions between peers can lead to unhealthy behaviors and assumptions. As groups are encouraged to become more fractured through political manipulation and othering, a focus on the 4 C's combats these attitudes and promotes understanding.

Literacy Skills

Whether it's media literacy, technological literacy, or just basic informational literacy, having a solid knowledge base is vital to success in a 21st century society. These days, it's easier than ever for fact and fiction to be presented side by side, so being able to use literacy skills to analyze and reject fabrication and manipulation will serve your child well. Staying up-to-date with the latest technologies and applications is no longer about following trends. Improvements and new abilities to our technological devices occur every day, so keeping a wide range of knowledge without getting stuck will keep children from getting left behind.

Beyond basic identification, technological literacy also requires understanding of how technology functions. When many are content to view their devices as inscrutable, a 21st century learnerr digs into the core principles of how technology functions. This is important, not only for helping parents to navigate their own devices, but to participate in the future as a knowledgeable consumer and employee, understanding how to make technology work for them.

Life Skills

Also known as FLIPS, Life Skills encompasses the emotional and behavioral traits that set a person apart as a leader, collaborator, and friend. We define 21st century life skills as:

  • Productivity
  • Flexibility
  • Initiative
  • Social Skills
  • Leadership

These skills echo the 4 C's in many ways, emphasizing teamwork, being a self-starter, and continuing to innovate. While 20th century life skills may have been taught in courses like home economics, shop class, and finance, FLIPS are more focused on peer-to-peer interactions and personal accountability.

Interacting with the world from a perspective of inclusivity, celebrating diversity, and respecting boundaries will be the hallmark of 21st century life, so picking up these life skills is invaluable to integrate into a work culture that promotes these values. It will also make your child a better friend, a better neighbor, and a better community member in potentially difficult and divisive times.

Becoming a 21st Century Learner

While all of these skills as vital to being successful in the 21st century, experts agree that knowledge of core subjects and the ability to learn are the foundation upon which these skills build. If you are looking to strengthen your child's knowledge base, consider a program which teaches Math and English concepts with these ideas in mind.