Archive for September 21st, 2012

September 21, 2012

21st century skills look very much like 20th century skills

by Grace

Employers want 20th century skills from their employees.

In recent decades, leaders in government, business, and beyond have come to agree that long-term investments in education are necessary to address the growing mismatch between education and skills. The Task Force agrees with this assessment. The question, then, is the specific areas that make sense for additional investment. In surveys and interviews, most employers say the skills that are in high demand today are the same skills that students were supposed to be learning in school fifty or one hundred years ago: the ability to write and speak clearly and persuasively, the ability to solve problems and think critically, and the ability to work both independently and on teams. The difference today is that more skilled workers are needed than in the past.

– From a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)–sponsored Independent Task Force report on U.S. Education Reform and National Security

I see too much emphasis on so-call 21st Century Skills at the expense of fundamental 20th century skills.  Teaching students how to post on Facebook instead of how to write a coherent paragraph or spending class time on non-academic group activities instead of on word analysis and vocabulary skills are just some examples.  I wish schools would get back to the basics, and it looks as if many employers agree with me.

The report notes that while the United States invests more in K-12 public education than many other developed countries, its students are ill prepared to compete with their global peers. According to the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment that measures the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, and science every three years, U.S. students rank fourteenth in reading, twenty-fifth in math, and seventeenth in science compared to students in other industrialized countries.

Katherine Beals wrote that the misplaced focus on technology crowds out learning fundamental skills.

In practice, more lap tops, more ipads, more Internet access, and more Smart Boards also water down the technical aspects of the curriculum, distracting students and teachers away from teaching and learning math skills to mastery, and from rigorous, focused mathematical and computational problem solving. Technology in the classroom may help create a generation of 21st century consumers, but not of gainfully employed 21st century producers.


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