• Helen O'Grady Asia

21st Century Skills: Tech, and Then Some

As if the world wasn't already changing fast enough, the recent and ongoing pandemic has precipitated new ways of living and working, driving people and industries to keep up or risk facing obsolescence.

What does a rapidly evolving, post-pandemic 21st century future look like for our children? What skills can we furnish them with today for an ever changing tomorrow?

Skill #1: Tech-smarts

Being tech-savvy is, of course, a fundamental skill in an increasingly digital world. But as digital natives, our children need to be able to do more than deftly operate a smartphone! They must be equipped to navigate and evaluate digital media.

Skill #2: Creativity

British author, Sir Ken Robinson, argues that "creativity is now as important in education as literacy". Children who are encouraged to think creatively are more motivated and confident to face life's challenges. The rise of automation and AI systems also means that humans with the ability to devise novel and relevant solutions are valued as more effective contributors.

Skill #3: Critical Thinking

Masses of information, sensible or not, are now accessible at the touch of our finger. Our children need to be able to engage in reflective and independent thinking—to ask “why” and practise discernment.

Skill #4: Communication

Fact: Remarkable ideas and solutions are nothing if not communicated effectively. Our children will need to be proficient at both written and verbal communication. With more companies ditching in-person meetings for online platforms, the art of communicating across screens is now rudimentary for staying ahead of the game. This means that the ability to speak clearly and present confidently is all the more vital for establishing credibility and trust remotely. Skill #5: Facing Failure

Parents often rush to gloss over failure. But failure fosters growth and resilience. One of the many things that Covid-19 has taught us is that plans fail and lives get disrupted. Teaching our children to acknowledge failure, reflect upon it, and bounce back will make them stronger for the future!

Skill #6: Cross-cultural Competence

On top of a growing global interconnectedness, the current outbreak has accelerated the adoption of telecommuting across industries. With companies realising that remote teams are just as productive, building a tele-workforce across national boundaries is now more plausible than ever. Whereas simply collaborating was an essential skill, the future workforce—our children—must develop competence in collaborating empathically and efficiently with talents of different nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities.

Skill #7: Spontaneity

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review reported that companies have started sharing furloughed employees across industries with compatible skills. The world will continue to evolve, so we must prepare our children to be spontaneous and ready to respond to change.

As with all skills, practice helps us get better at them; start early, start young!


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