21st Century Skills

Your afterschool program can help develop the skills needed to …

BRING SCHOOLS INTO 21st CENTURY


For the past five years, the national conversation on education has focused on reading scores, math tests and closing the “achievement gap” between social classes. This week a new public conversation will burst onto the front page, when the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a high-powered, bipartisan assembly of education secretaries, business leaders and a former governor releases a blueprint for rethinking American education from pre-K to 12 and beyond to better prepare students to thrive in the global economy.

While that report includes some controversial proposals, there is nonetheless a remarkable consensus among educators and business and policy leaders on one key conclusion: we need to bring what we teach and how we teach into the 21st century. Right now we’re aiming too low. Competency in reading and math — the focus of so much No Child Left Behind testing — is the meager minimum. Scientific and technical skills are, likewise, utterly necessary but insufficient.

Today’s economy demands not only a high-level competence in the traditional academic disciplines but also what might be called 21st century skills.

Here’s what they are:

  • Knowing more about the world
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Becoming smarter about new sources of information
  • Developing good people skills.

Can our public schools, originally designed to educate workers for agrarian life and industrial-age factories, make the necessary shifts?

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