Saturday, December 19, 2009

21st Century Skills: How do we get there?

I have just sent this to the administration at my school. This is what I would like to do!

This movie mentions the Are They Really Ready To Work? report on employers' perspectives on the basic knowledge and the applied skills of new entrants to the 21st century US workforce. The report highlights the argument that the US is having difficulties competing in a global economy when those entering the workforce from school or university lack the skills essential for job success. Among the most important of these skills are:
  • Professionalism/work ethic
  • Oral and written communications
  • Teamwork/collaboration
  • Critical thinking/problem solving
The three most important skills are rated by employers as professionalism/work ethic, teamwork/collaboration and oral communication. With increasing globalisation, knowledge of foreign languages will increase in importance in the next 5 years, more than any other basic skill. Making appropriate choices concerning health and wellness is the number 1 emerging content area for future generations according to 3/4 of the employers who responded to the survey. Finally creativity/innovation is projected to increase in importance - though currently more than 50% of new workforce entrants are regarded as deficient in this area. This area is defined as the ability to demonstrate originality, inventiveness in work, communicate new ideas to others and integrate knowledge across disciplines. Innovation is considered the single most important element in maintaining competitiveness.

Improvements are needed in many areas. High school graduates are deficient in the basic knowledge and skills of writing in English, mathematics and reading comprehension. Written communication and critical thinking/problem solving are also deficient along with professionalism/work ethic. The important skills of information technology application, diversity and teamwork/collaboration are only rated as adequate for high school graduates. While college graduates are better prepared than the high school graduates, they still rank as deficient in writing in English and written communication as well as being deficient in leadership.

Across the US alarm bells are sounding in the business community about educating tomorrow's workforce, leading to a projected impact on the US's ability to maintain its competitive lead in the world economy. The business community is speaking with one voice, calling for higher standards of workforce excellence consistent with the demands of the 21st century.

What about the graduates coming out of our international schools? As a teacher who has taught all 3 IB programmes (PYP, MYP and DP) my feeling is that certainly these programmes seem more able to produce students with the necessary 21st century skills than some of the national curricula I have seen in various countries. The IB prides itself on its broad and balanced programme of study that develops critical thinking, reflection and research skills. It encourages independent learning, an international outlook and intercultural understanding. During the programme students are expected to analyse, evaluate, construct arguments and present information. They are encouraged to solve problems creatively. It is certainly a very rigorous academic programme that goes some way towards encouraging in the students the skills they will need for life beyond the classroom.

1 comment:

  1. We do need to rethink everything, we owe that to our students and we owe it to our futures. We must strive for the expectations that were present in the IB programmes you taught.