21st Century Skills

Below are a few questions I’ve just stumbled upon from The Future Agenda website, which seeks to ‘analyse the crucial themes of the next ten years’.


What new skills will we need to have access to in order to support higher growth?

Does our population have the capabilities best suited to the challenges ahead? How quickly can we re-equip our workforces with the right skills? 

How well are we prepared to deal with inevitable surprises?

Do we have the right bio-surveillance in place to protect our nation’s health? Are we over-dependent on the wrong sorts of food? How good is our data security and can we be self-sufficient in energy by 2020?

Will we tackle the big challenges in isolation or will we collaborate?

How well aligned are we with other countries on the pivotal issues? Will we all agree on the right path and work in unison or are there areas where we will go our own way and, if so, where?


In the world of education and learning, there is a huge discourse that surrounds the idea of 21st Century Skills and these questions provoke some interesting thoughts about what skills may be needed to ensure a secure and prosperous global future. But what are 21st Century Skills? What role do schools have in developing these skills? Are the skills individuals will need for the future even able to be cultivated in educational institutions? Are we able to define such skills? Or does a definition of these skills prevent them from being developed effectively? 

I would suggest that talking about these skills in terms of the ’21st Century’ puts an unnecessary restriction on them. Perhaps, the skills needed at different times evolve and change with the times. Certainly, the way the world has changed even over the past 10 years has happened quickly and perhaps the most successful people are those with the ability to adapt and change with it. Is versatility, therefore, one of the most important skills individuals require to be able to adapt and evolve with change? Perhaps a whole century is a long time to base a skills set around. Will the skills needed to succeed up until 2020 be the same to be successful in 2050?

I have no idea. Who does?

I am probably being naive and slightly ignorant but after a very quick google search and an incredibly brief scan through the first document I found (see here) the skills that are suggested as skills for ‘student success in the new global economy’ are very similar to skills that were probably required for success in the last Century. Perhaps it is the ability to apply these skills to current times and the ability to think forward, utilising these skills to solve problems that don’t exist yet, that are the key to successful 21st Century Skills.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that these skills are important, but I’m not sure that a skills framework pushed out to schools alone will help us answer the questions suggested by the Future Agenda. I’m not sure what will, but I think it’s interesting to consider. 

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