What does the 21st century demand from children in terms of skills, aptitude and personality traits? Certainly a lot more than that what was expected even a couple of decades back. Cutthroat competition, the need to excel and soaring ambitions has sparked off a highly competitive environment in which children are learning and growing. The need to however balance the use of technology with real life experiences is the real need of the hour.
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has released a very interesting perspective on the skill gaps that exist amongst children in the 21st century and the role that education technology can play in narrowing this gap. First, let’s take a look at what skills they are talking about.
As the name suggests, these skills are learnt to cope with everyday issues, everyday life.
1. Literacy – being able to read and write well, is the need of the hour. This creates a sense of well-being and children who are good at this skill from the beginning have a steeper learning curve all through their school lives. It also ensures high self-confidence and a better place in the competitive world.
2. Numeracy – involves the skills that enable children to develop math skills. Problem solving, numerical concepts, geometry, and relationships are all sub-sets of numeracy. Being a very key skill, math helps in a myriad of ways later on in life.
3. Scientific literacy – is the knowledge associated with a comprehension of scientific concepts and processes. In children, scientific curiosity can be sparked off early on by introducing scientific words or vocabulary to them. It’s about getting them excited about simple everyday experiences.
4. ICT literacy – technology and digitization is all-pervasive these days. Children need to be ICT literate, which means that from an early age, they need to be involved with tools and applications. Not only do they need to have skills to use them, but also create digital technologies in the future.
5. Financial literacy – this skill involves the ability to use knowledge and understanding to make conscious and informed money and investment decisions. If imbibed early on, children can become financially prudent.
6. Cultural and civic literacy – introducing children to civic literacy can improve their worldview a huge deal. Issues like community health, racial discrimination and environmental protection are something that is affecting everybody.
These skills test how children can approach complex challenges. They are a shade more intense than basic or foundation level skills.
1. Critical thinking/problem solving – teaching children critical thinking makes them smarter, independent and creative. Asking open-ended questions can help ignite their problem solving abilities. Supporting them in research and thinking in different ways are key ways of developing this skill.
2. Creativity – creativity comes inherently to all children. It’s the environment that either hones this skill or nips it in the bud. Encouraging new ideas, where old tasks are done in a new way and enlarging the horizons of thinking can really up creativity levels.
3. Communication – this skill forms the basis of everything that a child will learn and perform in the future. A child who is not a good communicator could be socially affected for life. The ability to have long conversations, the correct use of grammar verbally and written and to maintain eye contact are some aspects.
4. Collaboration – grooming children to be ready to succeed in the real world involves teaching them the skill of collaboration. Getting along with peers and being able to work in teams is a sure shot requirement for the future.
Which skills can enable children to approach their changing environment with the right attitude? What makes the character of each child?
1. Curiosity – stimulating a child’s curiosity can help him/her succeed in the classroom. It is one of the most important skills that children must develop. It allows children to break away from the rut and be intellectually self-sufficient.
2. Initiative – doing something before one is asked to is called taking initiative. Children with initiative have a positive spirit, are aware of their surroundings and are proactive. All these traits can go a long way in helping cope with life.
3. Persistence – persistence is an important life skill. Being persistent in the face of adversity and not taking no for an answer is required to become a go-getter child.
4. Adaptability – can children work as well when out of their comfort zones? Instant gratification, personal choices and preferences have become everyone’s need. Thus, adaptability is an important skill to learn.
5. Leadership – It’s no secret that today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. Whilst some believe that this skill comes naturally, leadership traits can also be developed. The ability to make decisions, face peer pressure and set one’s own code of behavior are some early leadership traits.
6. Social and cultural awareness – promoting cultural awareness amongst children begins with schools acknowledging the diversity of their student population. A curriculum that is culturally inclined helps students from all backgrounds to develop a sense of identity.
Schoolkart believes that with the synchronization of education and technology, many benefits can be accrued like access to information; ease in teaching and above all, making education enjoyable.
Each country has enumerated certain gaps that exist in the skills possessed by their children. Education technology in terms of personalized and adaptive curriculum, open and free resources for learning and digital platforms enabling both teaching and collaborative learning is needed to bridge the gap. Education technology can complement the current curriculum at schools and facilitate teaching these skills that have been identified as must-haves for the 21st century. Let’s hope that this gap gets narrower with each passing day through combined and consistent efforts.