Global Education: 21st Century skills
Research has indicated that young people today are likely to have 17 jobs over five different careers after they leave school. Charles Fadel is a pioneer of the idea of 21st Century skills, founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign, and visiting scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He’s also delivering the 2017 Australian Learning Lecture – The New Success – this month. Following is an interview with Charles Fadel in Teacher Magazine.
Research has indicated that young people today are likely to have 17 jobs over five different careers in their lifetime. So, what are the kinds of skills that they’ll need in order to thrive in that environment?
Well, it seems to be very natural that they would, at the minimum, have versatility. You know, the ability to go from one to the other to the next job and/or career. That versatility implies, in a sense, a broad and deep education. Deep in the sense of deeper learning of the existing disciplines, whether it’s Mathematics or Humanities or whatever. But, also more modernised knowledge [in areas] such as entrepreneurship and robotics and wellness and so on – which all matter in today’s world and certainly for tomorrow’s world as well.
In addition to all of this, in addition to modernised knowledge in general and deeper knowledge, it’s also a question of how we use that knowledge. So, our learners will need their skills developed - creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
And above and beyond that, if you reflect about what makes people successful in life it is also how they behave and engage with the world, right? So, their mindfulness, their curiosity, their courage, their resilience, their ethics and their leadership.
And, lastly, and quite importantly in a world that’s constantly changing, the ability to reflect and adapt and continuing to learn how to learn comes at a premium. So, the students’ metacognition and growth mindset would need to be developed.
All in all, there you have it: four dimensions that make for a deeper, more robust and versatile education which is about modernised knowledge, skills, character and meta learning. In my recent book with Bernie Trilling (Four-Dimensional Education: The Competencies Learners Need to Succeed) we describe a complete range of competencies (beyond just skills) needed for new success.
Given that we’re already in 2017, why do you think we’re still grappling with the issue of 21st Century skills and how to develop that 21st Century approach to education?
Well, obviously, these requirements date back to ancient Greece and ancient China – actually, ancient civilisations in general. We’ve always needed, as humans, to function with all these dimensions of ourselves in our education. It’s just that in the 21st Century it’s becoming all the more critical because of the advance of, in particular, artificial intelligence, to start doing more and more of the human functions. We saw the first, let’s say, ‘displacement’ back with the Industrial Revolution, due to mechanisation and automation. Now, with increased intelligence of devices and robots and so on a lot of occupations will be, if not displaced, at least significantly augmented. And so, like during the Industrial Revolution, we need to upskill ourselves and we’re facing several impediments to do that:
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