A working definition of 21st century skills that every parent should know
A working definition of 21st century skills that every parent should know
A working definition of 21st century skills that every parent should know
Updated: May 2022 May. 2022
4 minutes read

As early as  the 1980s, educators, employers, governments and non-profit organizations around the world began highlighting an emerging set of skills that kids needed in order to adapt to the demands of the new millennium. Collectively, they’re referred to as ‘21st century skills’. Now that we’re nearly a quarter of the way into the century, it’s a good time for parents to stop and reassess what they mean, how they’ve changed, and why they matter for kids now more than ever.

Though they share common objectives, the skills and competencies that are generally considered 21st century skills are varied. 

As part of a growing international movement that includes the World Economic Forum, APEC, the OECD, Fortune 500 companies, plus teachers and concerned citizens, the definition isn’t likely to become standardized anytime soon. Yet the challenge is fitting, since unlike earlier modes of education, 21st century skills aren’t about standardization.

So a good place to start is what they are not:

21st century skills differ from traditional academic skills because they are not knowledge-based.

You may have heard of similar and related frameworks such as Common Core, the 4 Cs, Neomillennial Learning Styles, critical life skills or simply soft skills. 

Here is a fairly comprehensive list of evolving 21 century skills, grouped into three main areas, competencies, literacies, and characteristics.

● Critical thinking and reasoning
● Problem solving
● Communications
● Collaboration
● Creativity
● Innovation
● Information literacy
● Media literacy
● Information and communication technologies (ICT) literacy – including coding
● Flexibility
● Adaptability
● Grit and persistence
● Initiative and self-direction
● Leadership
● Social and cross-cultural interaction and awareness
● Productivity
● Accountability

Modern education was founded on preparing kids to gain knowledge and information, as well as encouraging them to follow instructions. That was what communities and the workforce demanded at the time. Today, literacy and numeracy skills are still critical, but they’re not enough. Kids can find all the knowledge and information they need in just a few clicks of a button. What they can’t learn online are the higher-order thinking skills or the interdependent range of social and emotional characteristics that are needed to successfully apply that cognitive knowledge to real life.

Simply participating and engaging as fully contributing members of society has gotten more complex – and it’s not slowing down. The evolution of the internet into Web 3.0 and the impact of the blockchain on our global economy mirrors a larger shift into decentralized forms of social interaction. Our kids will likely be working and collaborating a lot more autonomously. And without anyone telling them what to do, a strong set of 21st century skills can help them find the guidance they’ll need from within.

It’s easy to assume that kids can acquire these skills naturally by interacting with popular culture. But  research shows otherwise. MIT released a report in 2006 highlighting three troubling developments that require ‘policy and pedagogical interventions’.

>The Participation Gap — Not all kids have access to the same experiences or opportunities.

>The Transparency Problem — As meta and real life share increasingly blurry boundaries, it’s harder for kids to see how media shapes their view of the world. 

>The Ethics Challenge — The breakdown of professional training and socialization means kids will become media makers and actively play more public roles.

Not just their personal happiness, but also their careers and even the global economy depends on kids’ ability to successfully navigate these challenges. In order to do that, they’ll need 21st century skills to solve problems and communicate in ways that computers can’t. 

Recommendations for how to implement 21st century skills include five separate educational areas: standards, assessment, professional development (for teachers), curriculum and instruction, and learning environments. CoderZ hits all of them.

Firstly, 21st century skills are a core part of CoderZ’s learning platform. They’re baked into our curriculum, our digital interface, and our supplemental resources.

By teaching kids to code in a virtual environment with 3D robots, CoderZ brings coding to life in a way that’s engaging and gamified. It also guides kids to understand the building blocks and processes behind the technologies they use everyday to develop real digital fluency.

Incorporating core STEM skills into the learning material sets a strong foundation and the necessary context to develop those skills in innovative and creative ways. And because the award-winning courses are designed by leading global educators to be scaffolded and self-paced, it makes learning feel accessible and rewarding for any child in any environment. No matter if they’re ‘math kids’, computer-shy, or homeschoolers!

Though standards and assessment are a featured component, the goal isn’t just a good grade. Kids are encouraged to embrace failure as part of learning and to find answers through trial and error, similar to the real-lifechallenges and opportunities they’ll encounter.  A strong set of 21st century skills develops their sense of self-esteem and creativity, leaving them well-equipped to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Take the next steps with CoderZ

Schools & Educators
Lead your students to the forefront of the STEP revolution with a gamified learning platform!
Parents & Kids
Give your child the kind of education that gets them excited about learning!