21st-century skills


The current pandemic situation is the best example of change that we are experiencing today. It has forced us to relook our approach towards life, education of our children, school teaching practices and future work.  

This sudden catastrophic change is a stark reminder of the critical importance of school not just as a place of learning but of socialization, care, and life coaching, of community and shared spaces. The pandemic is giving us insights on how important it is to shift from just content dissemination to augmenting relations with learners, learning leaders, and peers.

It is clear for our little learners that if they don’t know how to learn on their own, how to manage their time, how to evaluate a crisis, and how to creatively derive a solution to a problem, then it will be difficult to succeed in this ever-changing environment. And traditional rote learning cannot prepare these children for a new world.

Our children need to acquire 21st Century skills so that they are ready for Industrial Revoluton.  Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology, this Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced materials, biotechnology, and genomics. We are in the midst of a “skills gap” crisis. That means there are more job openings than there are people qualified to fill those jobs.

The development and inculcation of 21st-century skills begin from their very early years when children start school and continue well beyond. These skills all double back to one key focus- the ability to adapt to change. The labor market is changing at a moment’s notice, industries are regularly disrupted with new ideas and methodologies, the world has entered an era where nothing is guaranteed, and jobs which are crucial now may be obsolete in the future and vice versa. Thus our children need skills intended to help them keep pace with such lighting changes. With 21st Century skills, our students will have the adaptive qualities they need to keep up with a business environment that’s constantly evolving. Students need to learn to navigate the change that will inundate their lives. At the very least, they need to learn how to react to it. And be prepared for jobs that perhaps don’t exist today.

Otherwise, they will get left behind.

1) Complex problem solving- Complex problem-solving skills are the developed capacities used to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings. Problem-based learning pedagogy thus plays a crucial role in fostering problem-solving skills in children at an early age.

This helps in

  • Managing their emotions
  • Think creatively
  • Take quick action and not avoid a problem
  • Foster growth mind-set
  • Become independent and confident

2) Critical thinking: It is the procedure for finding solutions to problems.  As we continue to move into a technology-driven world, critical thinking will be one of a handful of skills that will determine our children’s future. Critical thinking is the ability to imagine, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

Critical thinking can be fostered by

  • Inculcating comprehensive reading habit
  • Asking “why” and “ how”, instead of “what”
  • Giving ownership to the learners
  • Promoting play-based learning
  • Solving riddles
  • Reflecting and summarising

3) Creativity:  This skill is all about “Thinking outside the box”. Learners are empowered to see concepts in a different light and differing perspective which leads to innovation. Creating is the highest order of thinking. When students create what they imagine, they are in the driver’s seat. This skill can be taught when teachers start focusing on teaching students “how to think’ than “what to think”

4) Communication: In simple language, this skill involves -Talking to others. Learners must learn how to effectively convey ideas among different personality types. Communication is more than a skill, it is the art of learning where learners communicate with teachers, other students, and peers. It creates a language-rich environment.

Communication can

  • Help learners internalize their learning when they explain it to others
  • Fosters critical thinking
  • Increases their listening skill when others communicate 
  • Improves confidence

5) Collaboration: It is a social skill. Working with others means getting students to work together, achieve compromises, and get the best possible results from solving a problem. The key element of collaboration is willingness. All learners have to be willing to sacrifice parts of their ideas and adopt and adapt to others to achieve results.

Collaboration promotes learning not only within the classrooms but across time zones with multiple participants. This skill can be fostered through

  • Working alongside with cross-cultural teams
  • Respecting diversity and cultural orientations
  • Being flexible to accommodate common goals
  • Recognizing and value h other’s perspectives

Communication, interpersonal and intercultural skills are key ingredients to effective collaboration

6) Leadership skills:  Leadership encompasses people management-Motivating a team to accomplish a goal. Leaders are indeed born, but we cannot deny the fact that we can inculcate people’s management skills into our preschoolers and prepare them for the future.

  • Set a good example
  • encourage team activities
  • encourage perseverance
  • Negotiation skills
  • encode decision-making ability
  • encourage leaders to take initiative

Leadership is someone’s penchant for setting goals, walking a team through the steps required, and achieving those goals collaboratively.

7) Emotional intelligence: Emotional Intelligence is a child’s ability to identify, evaluate, control, and express emotions. It helps them understand and use feelings to work through challenges esp. at the time of crisis like the pandemic. Learners who lack EI can be less connected with the teachers and other students, which negatively affects the performance in the class. Improving emotional intelligence in children can help them:

  • Improve self-awareness
  • Manage stress
  • Boost self-motivation
  • Build empathy
  • Make good decisions
  • Communicate effectively
  • Develop relationships

8) Decision making Skill: Decision making is the ability to distinguish between a choice and our need. We have a dire need to have \efficient and effective decision-makers in today’s changing world that can make quick decisions. Decision making is different from problem-solving. Decision making is something we want to solve, while problem-solving occurs when there is a problem.

9) Negotiation: Negotiation is another social skill that fosters reasoning and conflict management. It is a method by which children settle differences. Young children and even preschools struggle with common conflicts and arguments. Given their biological nature, experience with family and peers and friends, teaching environment, each child responds to conflicts differently. Negotiation has three important elements: Attitudes, knowledge, and interpersonal skills.

10) Cognitive flexibility: This skill talks about our ability to deviate from plans as needed. Flexibility is the expression of someone’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances. This can be challenging as learners have to come out of their established zone – your way isn’t always the best way and you have to admit it when you are wrong.

Flexibility requires them to show humility and accept that they’ll always have a lot to learn — even when they’re experienced.

Still, flexibility is crucial to a student’s long-term success in a career. Knowing when to change, how to change, and how to react to change is a skill that’ll pay dividends for your entire life. Cognitive flexibility helps in fostering.

  • Ability to change
  • Have the patience to tolerate change
  • Evaluate thins from multiple viewpoints
  • Improves strength to move from one failed idea to another new idea
  • Be less rigid in thinking
  • Open-minded evaluating different options and perspective
  • Willing to take risks

Along with the skills, we need to understand which skills can be replaced by Technology and which cannot be. Technology needs to be used responsibly.

Artificial intelligence is considered to replace most routine tasks that follow well-defined procedures described in computer code. AI is now beginning to even replace non-routine tasks and skills too. But AI is still to work on replacing emotional, social and timeless skills. Time less skills includes concepts of right and wrong, values, sense of justice, attitude, not putting blame on others, dealing with uncertainty, self-esteem, self confidence, resilience and learning to deal with failure. Thus future jobs require creativity, innovation, initiation, critical thinking and all these timeless skills, and we have to prepare our children accordingly.

Thus the current crisis has highlighted how schools should perform beyond educating. Schools need to adopt entirely new teaching methods to achieve these 21st-century skills, Problem based learning is one such pedagogy.

VEGA Schools Gurgaon is one such school where all the children learn by solving real-world problems or doing real-world projects.

As the world evolves and new skills define success in the decades to come, at Vega Schools, we have embedded these skills into our curriculum from Pre-nursery onwards, to ensure that every Learner is prepared for life after education. Feel free to Contact Us for more information.