According to proponents, 21st-century skills encompass abilities such as critical thinking, creativity and interpersonal communication to accomplish goals. Other 21st-century skills include media and information literacy, the ability to use technology to one's advantage and effective time management. Learning those skills will prove essential if students wish to flourish in an increasingly competitive global job market, proponents assert.
Opponents of teaching "21st-century skills" say: Learning facts is as important as learning skills. Curricula that emphasize skills over facts will produce students with a flimsy grasp of history, science and literature. Objectively evaluating how well students learn 21st-century skills will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Do you think your school should focus more on teaching 21st-century skills?
Critics say there is already ample evidence that most of the students have a poorer grasp of basic facts. A 2008 survey distributed by Common Core found that most teenagers display a "stunning ignorance" of history and literature, according to the report's authors.
Supporters further argue that teaching 21st-century skills creates a more engaging, interactive learning environment than is created by a teacher lecturing in front of a blackboard. The best way to teach 21st-century skills such as critical thinking and teamwork is by having students form teams and work together to complete difficult tasks, proponents say.
Rather, "being good at problem solving and complex communication is what is increasingly important," says Richard Murnane, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass. Rote memorization may have been important in the 20th century, but in the 21st century just about any piece of information one needs is a click away on the Internet, supporters argue.
There is no reason why schools cannot teach both skills and content in equal measure.