This is the "21st Century Skills: What?" page of the "21st Century Skills in Education" guide.
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Last Updated: May 15, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

21st Century Skills: What? Print Page

Is Your School 21st Century Ready?

"Our students have changed radically. They are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach."
                                                                                                    - Marc Prensky


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21st Century Skills Explained


What are 21st Century Skills?

21st Century Skills is a term that refers to the set of skills needed for today's students to succeed in higher education and the workforce of the 21st Century. It is not, as some people tend to believe, the same as technology skills. The concept originated with the Parnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), a coalition of education, non-profit and business leaders has been advocating for 21st century readiness for every student since the year 2002.

ESC-20 is a professional development affiliate of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills which supports the integration of 21st century skills into all aspects of teaching and learning.

The P21 framework provides educators and school leaders with an overview of student outcomes that support the four Cs (Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation). These skills are critical when preparing students to succeed in a highly competitive, technology-rich global economy. 

Core knowledge and skills such as reading, writing, math, science, social studies, fine arts, and foreign languages are still important, however, other skills must be added to help students succeed in their future. Global awareness; financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; health literacy; and environmental literacy are themes that help students move beyond basic competency and acquire a much deeper, relevant understanding of the world in which we live. By being 21st Century literate, students will become better decision makers, consumers and informed citizens.

Although these skills were taught in the past, they have acquired a new focus because of the availability of multiple technologies and digital information. 21st Century skills also include:

  • Learning and Innovation Skills - These include the ability to think both critically and creatively, to work collaboratively with people both face-to-face and virtually to solve problems, to communicate in new ways, to create and manipulate digital information in multiple formats;
  • Life Skills - These are character traits and personal habits such as integrity, leadership, time management, project management, and work ethics.

  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Literacy - This refers to the ability to use technology to acquire information, synthesize, analyze and evaluate information from a variety of media.  

The 21st Century Skills movement has gained great momentum in the last decade. P21 has released publications that have influenced education policy and practices in 15 states (Texas is not included), and has been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Texas version of the 21st Century skills is the Career and College Readiness Standards document. These standards were developed through a partnership between the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.


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