SKILLS OF THE CENTURY

Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

This saying is never too old. It highlights the importance of Acquiring Skills, and the increasing importance that it has gained in the contemporary world.  Skill means an ‘ability to do something’.  While there are a wide range of skills that exist, which are the ones that are basic and must be possessed by every individual, equipping one not just to survive, but also lead a productive life? Let’s find out!

In 2015, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report titled New Vision for Education: Unlocking the Potential of Technology that focused on the pressing issue of the 21st-century skills gap and ways to address it through technology (source WEF Report).  In this report, WEF mentioned a list of skills called 21st Century skills.

What are 21st Century Skills?

The term 21st century skills refers to a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed—by educators, school reformers, college professors, employers, and others—to be critically important to success in today’s world, particularly in collegiate programs and contemporary careers and workplaces. Generally speaking, 21st century skills can be applied in all academic subject areas, and in all educational, career, and civic settings throughout a student’s life. (Glossary of education)

These are broadly classified into 3 categories namely:

  1. Foundational Literacy: How students apply core skills to everyday tasks.
  2. Competencies: How students approach complex challenges.
  3. Character Qualities: How students approach their changing environment.

I. FOUNDATIONAL LITERACIES

These are the Core skills that a child must possess in order to effectively perform daily tasks.

  1. Literacy:  Ability to read words correctly, fluently, and with appropriate Comprehension.
  2. Numeracy: Foundational literacies also includes having basic knowledge numeracy. It involves ability to identify numbers, solving basic math problems like addition and subtraction, word problems.
  3. Scientific literacy: It involves building a scientific temper. The National Science Education Standards have explained Scientific Literacy as below:
    • Understanding of basic scientific concepts.
    • Ability to ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences.
    • Ability to read scientific articles with understanding.
    • Ability to identify scientific issues, underlying national and local decisions.
    • Ability to identify the quality of scientific information.
    • Developing capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence.
  4. ICT literacy: With the advent of technology and its invasion over almost every aspect of human life including education communication innovation work, there is a continuous evolution, and at the same time, a growing dependence on ICT i.e Information and Communication Technology. This gives rise to two absolute needs in that regard namely.
    • Access to computers and internet.
    • Literacy i.e. having basic knowledge about ICT and having the skills of using them to our advantage.
    • However, there is a huge rift between people who are able to access and avail the technology, and people who aren’t. This stark Digital Divide has left a vast number of people on the far side of technological advancement. We aim at making an attempt to fill this digital gulf by enabling underprivileged children and young adults to access, avail, and learn basic computer skills, thus improving their level of employability.
  5. Financial literacy: It is the ability to make financial decisions using varied financial skills for the purpose of management, budgeting, debt, investment etc in an effective manner. Developing these skills can help an individual become an asset, not only for self, but also the economy at large.
  6. Cultural and Civic Literacy: Cultural literacy is the ability to understand and participate fluently in a given cultural setting. Civic literacy implies knowledge about civic life, the government processes, rights and duties as individuals, and citizens. Cultural and civic literacy also include inculcation of social morals such teaching the child to distinguish between Right and Wrong, Harmful and Harmless, the importance of cultural assimilation, social harmony and more.

II. COMPETENCIES

In the modern age of technology, and the fading social and physical barriers due to the Internet, there is an increasing degree of complexity kicking in. To deal and grow through these complex challenges, every individual needs to develop these set of competencies.

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Creativity
  3. Communication
  4. Collaboration

Critical Thinking helps in improving their mental health, by pushing the limits of their thinking, developing a bend of reasoning. Encouraging Creativity helps them express themselves freely through the art, thus nurturing their emotional well-being. Building and enhancing their Communication skills strengthens their confidence about self, and about facing the world. Collaboration is the act and ability of Working Together. It leads an individual to work with groups of people for one common purpose, thus developing qualities like collective responsibility, communication etc.

III. CHARACTER QUALITIES

Character Qualities are innate qualities or traits that a person possesses. Below are the qualities that a person should essentially possess or develop, to flourish in all walks of work and life. Find them below.

  • Curiosity, the urge to know and question is perhaps the source of all inventions. Not just scientifically, but also on a social, physical, emotional level, asking Why? How? always helps one in finding answers and untying the knots of our doubts that clog our mind, emotions, adversely impacting our mental health.
  • Initiative is the ability to do something without being told. It is essentially a self-management skill, and gives one a sense of responsibility, ownership, and leadership.
  • While Initiating is the first step to progress, what is equally important is being Persistent in the same activity despite all the challenges. A river cuts through rock not because of its power, but persistence! Heard? ☺
  • Change is the law of life. None of us can escape it. They are Inevitable, and also needed sometimes. But these very changes can end up exhausting us, taxing our mental health, if we do not adapt well to it. Adapting to life situations, work situations, helps us cope, and in turn increases our efficiency. 
  • Leadership does not essentially mean being a leader. It is but a Quality. One may be a subordinate by position, yet guide, motivate the team to work enthusiastically towards achieving goals.
  • Social and cultural awareness not only helps us keep up with the world around us, but also helps us stay warned about the ills and evils. It also deepens our understanding, broadens the horizons of our mind, helps us empathise, shaping us into a socially responsible citizen.

An Educated person can be Literate, but every Literate person may not be Educated.

Literacy is the ability to read and write. But Education is a broad term. Along with ability to read and write, it also includes inculcation of basic values (moral, educational, social, professional), etiquettes, and acquisition of all the skills that we discussed above. And these, you definitely must have realised, exist beyond books! They are not just to be taught, but ‘developed’. While high end formal educational institutions might exercise 21st Century Skills, a vast number of Children in India aren’t a part of one. For those lesser privileged, various social working groups and non –profit organizations come into play.

Muskurahat Foundation is a NGO based in Mumbai that works towards reaching out to these less fortunate, but equally in need children and young adults. The Foundation, under its Project KEYtaab and Project Saarthi, has initiated steps towards Educating these growing kids by the means of Developing 21st Century Skills in them, helping them flourish, and most importantly ‘Enabling’ them to craft a shining life of their own, and eventually others!

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