Learning in the 21st century

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DESPITE it already being 20 years in the 21st century, many parents are still unaware of the shift on the academic front.

The term “21st-century skills” is no longer about “hard skills” such as writing, reading, maths or computing.

Instead, the emphasis is more on the “soft skills” such as etiquette, communication and listening, in addition to getting along with other people.

Alvin Toffler, an American futurist writer, said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can’t read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Do you agree? Sounds reasonable to me.

A professor once told me: “There are four skills that our future generation needs. They begin with the letter “c”, namely communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.”

She wasn’t alone. Education experts all over the world generally agree that education is changing, and it’s changing fast. Our children need people skills more than they need technical skills.

According to TeachThought, an organisation dedicated to the development of learning models and 21st-century curriculum, there are four essential rules behind 21st century learning.

One is that instruction should be student-centred; second, education should be collaborative; third, learning should have context; and fourth, schools should be integrated with society.

While these four rules are meant for schools and teachers, they may take some time to be developed and deployed by the Education Ministry.

The good news is parents can start to adopt these rules into their daily interaction with their children. Don’t wait for the official change to take place. Lead the change and prepare our kids for a promising future.


But before a beautiful future can be realised, we must take the right steps today.

Learning is very different in this century. Parents have long associated their kids’ success with academic achievements alone. They’d stop at nothing when it comes to ensuring their children’s excellence in studies.

While this is a noble objective, it can also lead to unhealthy obsessions. Underperforming students are demonised and sidelined. Don’t make that mistake. Give our children the chance to succeed in his/her own way.

Let’s stop looking at success through a narrow telescope. It’s time to redefine success based on their potentials and abilities. Things are changing and new jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago are being created on a daily basis. Even better, our children may very likely be a job creator than a job seeker.

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