Essential 21st-Century Skills Your Child Should Be Learning

What makes a successful person? In the past, that might mean studying well and gaining all the knowledge necessary to work in an industry of one’s choice. However, times are rapidly changing, and this might soon be a thing of the past.

Today, hiring companies are focusing increasingly less on the academic aptitude and knowledge of potential employees – the difference between a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree is minute, or even negligible. Many people also end up in industries vastly different from what they studied in school. What prepares people for these jobs, then, is something other than simply being an expert in one’s field.

The workplace skills that attract companies today are transferable skills like that of deeper learning and soft skills. They want to hire talents who can think critically, find innovative solutions, and can communicate and collaborate to implement ideas.

To equip the next generation for the future workplace, it is crucial to learn more about some of these 21st-century skills and ensure that children are given opportunities to hone these abilities.

Critical thinking

In an age where knowledge and information are readily available through the Internet, amassing a vast knowledge of information in one’s head is no longer a coveted skill. Instead, one needs to know how to assess, synthesise, and use information wisely. The recent hoo-ha and ongoing battle against fake news further emphasise the importance of critical thinking to evaluate articles for veracity.

To develop critical thinking skills in children, make it a practice to question the things they see. Ask them ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions – this challenges them to go beyond remembering facts (which you get when you stop at ‘what’ questions). Also ask them questions like ‘why do you think so?’, which require them to be able to back up their claims with supporting information.

Innovation

While digital technology has made so many processes automatic, one thing that technology cannot do for us is to innovate. Innovation entails coming up with creative ideas as solutions to specific problems. It often involves the synthesis of various disciplines of learning, for example, science and design. It is a mistake to think that innovation is only for the creatives – rather, it is an essential skill that is crucial to all types of careers.

Every person is inherently creative, but this creativity can die down when stifled by external circumstances. Thus, parents and educators must make it a point to develop creative thinking by encouraging children to voice their thoughts. Build a nurturing environment that breeds creativity by giving respectful feedback and setting an example. By providing children appropriate avenues to exercise creativity, they will become more comfortable with on-demand innovative thinking.

Digital literacy

The changes in the world that best characterises this era is summed up in the title of the ‘digital age’. Digital technology has changed the way we live, work, and think. It is thus imperative that people of today have a good grasp of how to use digital technology in ways that are useful and safe. Alongside the 3 ‘R’s of education, digital literacy is fast becoming the next essential skill for the next generation of students.

Rather than shunning digital technology, parents should embrace it and teach their children to use it wisely. For example, use it as a teaching resource, supplementing their learning with videos, and interactive worksheets. Early and controlled exposure to digital technology will help children grow up to be confident and responsible users who can harness the potential benefits of the internet.

Communication

Aside from fundamental social skills, communication encompasses the ability to convey one’s ideas and intent in an appropriate manner. It may sound simple, but it is appalling how many adults fail to be effective communicators. Mastering effective communication in a variety of settings and formats can give people an edge over others in the professional workplace.

Bringing up children to be good communicators can be a challenge, and goes beyond just talking to them. It is important to give children opportunities to share their ideas, as this helps them formulate their thoughts and articulate them. While doing so, also demonstrate good listening, just as you would emphasise to them the importance of being a respectful listener.

The secret to success, it seems, is in bringing up a child with skills that are relevant to the current age. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child – parents should not neglect the role of their child’s school in equipping their offspring with these 21st-century work skills. It is a given that parents here want to send their children to the best schools in Singapore, but this should not be done blindly without checking if the schools are emphasising the right skills in their education system.

If you are looking for a top international school that focuses on bringing up children who are ready for the rapidly evolving digital age, one school to consider is the Canadian International School. The international school in Singapore runs the IB programme for kindergarten to high school students, with a close commitment to fostering creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. Starting from the IB primary years programme, there are digital literacy programmes to develop digital literacy, STEAM programmes to nurture interdisciplinary and innovative thinking, and an overall safe and encouraging environment to promote all-rounded learning.

Don’t neglect the importance of educating your child in these skills – help your child become future-ready by giving them the opportunities to hone these 21st-century skills at home and at school.