21st Century Skills: What, Why and How

As harsh as the words may seem, the truth about the upcoming age perfectly reflects in the following quote

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can’t read or write but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn”

-Alvin Toffler

Alvin Toffler is regarded as one of the world’s most outstanding futurists. According to him, the rapidly changing societies of the 21st century will have massive implications for life, work, and education. The knowledge and skill necessary for a given job will change more rapidly. This may lead to higher shifts from one job to another as certain jobs might go obsolete or may lose demand. This means that we can’t be dependent on any single skill to serve us for a lifetime. The survival and growth in this age of sudden and rapid change will be highly dependent upon the capacities to adapt, learn, unlearn, and be the designer of your own learning goals.

After stating this fundamental understanding of the position of the future, I would like to move ahead to talk more about 21st-century skills.

What are 21st Century Skills?

While I talk in detail about the 21st Century skills, I must point out that there is no official codification or categorization of these skills. These are a set of skills, knowledge, habits, and character traits that are believed to be important for success in the information age.

The following list encompasses twelve widely accepted abilities and skills believed to be critically important:

1. Learning Skills

  • Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is essential to look at the world around in-depth. It’s the ability to analyze things and form a judgment.

  • Creative Thinking

This skill empowers children to see concepts in a different light, which leads to innovation.

In any field, innovation is key to the adaptability and overall success of anything.

  • Collaborating

Collaboration essentially means working together. Although in a deeper sense it is the ability to understand the concept of greater good and willingness to sacrifice the opinions and biases to achieve the target.

  • Communication

This encompasses the ability to effectively convey ideas among different types of people. This helps in avoiding any confusion while working together and any misinterpretation of ideas and opinions

2. Literacy Skills

  • Information Literacy

It helps children to understand facts, especially data points, that they’ll encounter online.

More importantly, it teaches them how to separate fact from fiction.

  • Media Literacy

Identifying publishing methods, outlets, and sources while distinguishing between the ones that are credible and the ones that aren’t.

  • Technology Literacy

Technology literacy gives students the basic information they need to understand what gadgets perform what tasks and why.

This understanding removes the intimidating feeling that technology tends to have. After all, if you don’t understand how the technology works, it might as well be magic.

3. Life Skills

  • Flexibility

It requires the ability to deviate from the rigid mindset and adapt quickly to the changing realities. Knowing when to change, how to change, and how to react to change is a skill that is very essential for long term success.

  • Initiative

Initiative often means working on projects outside of regular working hours. It is the willingness to get out of the comfort zone and take the first and hardest steps when required.

  • Leadership

This is the ability for setting goals, walking a team through the steps required, and achieving those goals collaboratively. It also includes the courage to take responsibility for the actions of the team.

  • Social Skills

Social skills involve the component of emotional intelligence and the ability to network with different personas. It includes the ability to carry a decent conversation, basic etiquette, and manners.

  • Productivity

This is the ability to carry out various important tasks with maximum efficiency in the period of various distractions.

Why are 21st Century skills so important?

21st-century skills may encompass a list of abilities and skills but in summation, it is the ability of every individual to adapt to the changing requirements of the society. These skills are very important for every growing child since their future will be dependent on it.

The employment titan Manpower reports that despite the recession, 31 percent of employers throughout the world struggle to find qualified workers because of “a talent mismatch between workers’ qualifications and the specific skill sets and combinations of skills employers want.

How can we foster 21st Century skills into children?

Now that we are aware of the skills that we need in the children to live and grow successfully in the 21st century, let’s take a look at some of the ways which can help us achieve this.

1. Child-Centered Learning

“Tell me and I forget

Teach me and I remember

Involve me and I Learn ”

-Benjamin Franklin

Learning takes place best in environments where children feel empowered to learn. By giving children the opportunity to construct their own learning, we will be able to create lifelong learners.

2. Game-Based Learning

By including games and play in the learning process you will be able to bring the inherited properties of games such as decision making, problem-solving, collaboration into the learning.

3. Cooperative Learning

You can create opportunities for the kids to learn together through various activities such as Drama, puppetry, games, or activities. These bring out their ability to work together and collaborate with others.

4. Blended Learning

Use the love of your children for the digital platforms to their advantage. There are so many portals you can visit with your child and share their learning experiences along with your own. This helps them develop an understanding of using media responsibly.

5. Differentiated Learning

Change it up. When guiding children use different approaches and consider the learning styles of each child. Some children need to be more active while others may prefer a calmer pace. For example, in teaching children to count, have them sing out the numbers, provide materials they can count when playing, or include counting as part of a story you read to them. This approach offers multiple options for children to absorb information.

6. Be Flexible with your Strategy

Be willing to change the plan. If the children are excited about a game they are playing, but it is time to read a story during circle time, build on what they are doing and ask them to talk about their game or find a story that connects to the game.

7. Bring Consistency to the Routine

Create routines and expectations to help children feel secure, giving them the confidence and freedom to explore the environment. Consistency also supports the development of executive function skills, such as planning and organizing and self-regulation.

8. Combining Learning Domains

Offer learning experiences to help children develop the 4Cs while developing content knowledge. This intentional approach can be done while reading a story and discussing the characters or during a science experiment through the problem-solving experience.

9. Encourage Creativity

Create opportunities for your children to come with creative solutions to certain problems. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as they can before selecting an idea for a designed solution. Can they come up with 100 ideas in 10 minutes? What is the craziest idea they can think of? What if they had all the money in the world…?

10. Design Challenges

Create a design challenge for your kids with a number of constraints. This will provide them with the opportunity to come up with creative solutions while developing problem-solving abilities in them.

You can come up with interesting challenges such as building their Dream House with just 40 Lego Blocks.


Enabling children with 21st-century skills is not only important for their individual growth but also for social development. With simple steps at home, you can ensure that you are providing the future society with a great asset.