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21st-Century Skills

January 19th

We're already in the 17th year of the 21st-century. 16 years ago, with trepidation, modern society entered the 21st-century with the looming threat of the Y2K bug. Because of the preparation and dedication of the world at large, the Y2K bug had limited, if any effect on the global population. The Y2K bug did usher in an age of unprecedented change in almost all economic sectors. Included in these sectors was education and 21st-century skills are what educators need to teach learners who'll grow up to be 21st-century citizens. The 21st-century skill set is a set of abilities required to be happy, active and employable humans in the 21st century.

Core curriculum

It goes without saying that the 21st-century skill set includes the appropriate core curriculum the student is studying. This will obviously change depending on the school, district or country the student is studying in. The 21st-century skill set is not meant to replace core curriculum but to build upon it so that the learners will be a more capable member of society upon graduation.

Learning and innovation skills

When learning and innovation skills are discussed in regards to the 21st-century skills the discussion centres around; creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication. These are known as the 4Cs of 21st-century skills. These skills incorporate other ideas such as innovation and problem solving, all of these skills are seen as vital to the success of a global citizen in the 21st-century.

Creativity and innovation

Creativity is the art of turning abstract ideas into reality. Innovation is finding a way to do something better, smarter, faster or for cheaper. Creativity and innovation are skills learners need to adapt to changes in this dynamic world. They are a way to prepare learners for almost any challenge the world throws at them. Teaching specific skill sets is important for learners to gain mastery of individual subjects. When a problem falls outside this skill set, which will happen more and more, it learners in innovation and creativity that will see 21st-century citizens build pragmatic solutions.


Collaboration is working effectively within a team to achieve, innovate or build something amazing. If you look at any of the millions of job descriptions on the internet, there is one key skill that pops up in almost every one, "Is a team player". This is talking about the skill set a person has in collaboration. Collaboration is more than just cooperation.
Collaboration operates at a higher level and is a valuable tool that increases productivity, motivation and engagement in the classroom and workforce. A collaborative group builds on the strengths of individuals to make a stronger team. Diversity within a collaborative group brings in multiple perspectives and cultures, increasing tolerance and cultural intelligence. Also, being part of a team makes learners accountable for their learning and drives them to achieve more.

Critical thinking and problem-solving

Critical thinking is looking at information objectively to form a judgement or opinion. Problem-solving is the art of finding succinct solutions to hard or complicated questions. 21st-century learners face a barrage of information and messages from all angles and multiple sources. Should a student trust Wikipedia? What about a website from 2003? Critical thinking involves learners sorting through information, attempting to see multiple perspectives and removing any bias they might find. Brilliant problem solving occurs when a student discovers a solution using objective and unbiased information.


Communication is the exchange of information. It can take many forms, written, aural, design, dance, etc. Exchange is perhaps the most important word in the definition. Communication goes two ways; it is just as important for learners to develop listening skills as well as their verbal and written communication skills. Communication is key and is intertwined within the other 4Cs. As teams continue to globalise the ability of the individual to communicate clearly, concisely and effectively, will place them among the top performers in their chosen career.

Life and career skills

You wouldn't believe it but 21st-century skills prepare learners for life in the 21st-century : )

Flexibility & Adaptability

In the modern work environment, employees are forced to wear many hats. Consider a barista; aromatic and sweet espresso is just the start of her responsibilities. She will need to manage her time, manage her staff and manage the cash flow of the business. In a corporate setting a marketer doesn't just market, they write, they communicate, and they motivate. They may even be the go-to-guy for espresso. The modern employee needs to be adaptive and flexible as responsibilities, priorities and their peers will be in a constant state of flux.

Initiative and Self-Direction

Following on from flexibility and adaptability is initiative and self-direction. In such a dynamic and changing world, people will need to be committed to lifelong learning, going beyond basic mastery of skills and forging new professional careers. As we move into the future, new professions will open up, and it will be those with initiative and self-direction that will fill these lucrative new roles. If a 21st-century human has relevant skills that only a limited amount of people hold, not only will they enjoy job security but they'll be able to negotiate higher pay rates.

Social and Cross-Cultural Skills

As the trend of globalisation and technological advancement continues, cultural and social intelligence will become more and more important as workplaces go online and international. It's no longer necessary for employees to work from the office every day, in fact, the modern office is a cafe in Cuba, a hostel in Helsinki and loft in Lower Manhattan. While these locations are languages, cultures and worlds apart; these employees can work on shared goals with ease. The ability to understand, communicate and be culturally sensitive to international colleagues is, of course, of utmost importance.

Productivity and Accountability

In this modern age, it is all too easy to become distracted from your tasks. A plethora of distractions all vie for your attention. Being able to juggle distractions from Instagram, emails, advertisements and click baits with your work, life and family rely on productivity and accountability. Accountability is the first step. It is the acknowledgement and ability to be transparent about what you need to achieve. Productivity is how a person gets there. Productivity is about working smart, not hard and using all the resources you have at hand to achieve the desired result.

Leadership and Responsibility

When we think of leadership and responsibility, we think "management". In the 21st century, this isn't the case. Being able to motivate, influence and lead peers is a skill that serves 21st-century citizens in all aspects of their lives. Whether the boardroom, the classroom or the living room, leading by example and taking full responsibility for our lives and the lives of others are essential skills. A true leader understands that while a situation may not be their fault, it is their responsibility to make it better, learn from it and turn it into a positive.

Information and technology skills

Learners grow up as digital natives. It is up to the teacher to guide the correct use of technology.

Learners grow up as digital natives. 75% of 11 and 12-year-olds in the UK ignore the 13+ age restriction and have social profiles on one or more social networks. Curriculums across the globe are changing to incorporate different forms of digital media. Assessment has also opened up for learners

There is a huge push across the globe for learners to be taught to code alongside and within their curriculum. As the world moves into the future, the basics of coding and computer science will become a standard skill required by professionals. Computers are used in so many aspects of our lives it is important for 21st-century citizens to be able to understand at least the basics of what's going on under the hood.

Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just
want to pursue a career in the 21st-century,
basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn.


Stephen Hawking, Theoretical Physicist



21st-century citizens need to be able to use computer software effectively. A 21st-century citizen should know their way around at least Microsoft Office and should be able to transfer these skills to other the suites from Apple and Google. Browser based skills are required for searching the internet and being a productive and critical researcher for learning new topics. The fact that Google is now a verb shows the importance of learners developing their search query skill set.

Education is more than just english, mathematics and science, it's about preparing learners for the future. It's about giving young learners the ability to survive and thrive in the 21st century. 21st-century skills aren't taught at the expense of the core curriculum, they should be used to teach the core curriculum. The combination of the two is learning in the real world, learning for the future, learning for the 21st century.

Want to get started today? With Kalebr Projects you can add, assess and report on 21st-century skills with ease.