What are 21st century learning skills for students?

In the 21st century, learning skills are essential due to significant changes in the social, professional and personal lives of people. Students need to be aware of these 21st-century learning skills to live a fruitful life full of well-being. Since the latter decades of the 20th century, the internet has created a momentum of technological, political and socio-economic advancements, which continues to impact life in the 21st century.

New jobs in the 21st century

Jobs that did not exist 50 years ago are booming today, like data analysts, UX designers, app developers, business intelligence, digital marketing, artificial intelligence jobs, cyber security, and many others. At the same time, some jobs and skillsets have become obsolete.

New jobs continue to sprout with technological advancements, like block-chain technology jobs. This means that learning new skill sets, and fostering a growth mindset is essential to stay current in the job market even after completing formal education.

You don’t always have a teacher or mentor to guide you after completing your education. Yet, you need to learn continually while updating your knowledge and skill set. Young students could master these learning skills in the teaching-learning process.

This means you need to have skills that help learn to stay relevant no matter what changes occur in the job market.

Let’s look at each of these.

Types of 21st century learning skills for students 

The 21st-century learning skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication are the 4C’s or 4 types of learning skills required by employers and businesses. Learning skills are classified into these four types for better distinction and clarity.

This is because you need to analyse, evaluate, find answers creatively, collaborate and communicate for solving real-world problems. 

Also read: What are the 21st century skills?

Critical thinking skills

Critical refers to analysing something to find its merits and demerits. For instance, when you say a book has gained critical acclaim means critics have evaluated the work from various dimensions and subsequently appreciated it.

So critical thinking is a thought process that helps comprehend something after carefully analyzing and evaluating it.

Then what are the mental abilities that equip critical thinking?

  • Defining the scope and components of something
  • Classifying information into parts
  • Compare and contrast information
  • Analyze the reasons and aspects of something 
  • Finding cause and effect connections
  • Problem-solving

Critical thinking provides the opportunity to learn objectively. It means you critically evaluate information. There is a readiness to distrust and question information. You think independently and are not swayed by any information. This means you make independent decisions based on evidence. You examine, filter out the clutter, and identify the critical information, to make connections and inferences.


This pertains to experimenting with new perspectives to produce fresh possibilities from a versatile viewpoint. This method encourages uniqueness while also building on the work of others.

Innovative thinking assists us in developing something new that is useful and relevant. Alternately, improving an existing product to adapt or enhance other factors. It means thinking out of the box by brainstorming ideas, imagining new possibilities, designing and improvising. 

Question the standard procedures and thought processes to explore new possibilities. Innovation is a by-product of creativity by coming out of your comfort zone and exploring the unknown methods of doing things.

This requires a readiness to learn, unlearn and relearn. Creativity can happen when you allow yourself and others to ask questions and express ideas. Besides, you need an innate motivation, engagement and joy in whatever you are learning or working on to be innovative. Please continue reading after this reminder.

Also read: Types of Writing Styles


This refers to working together in teams or groups for a shared purpose. It requires using planned strategies to give structure to teamwork. Every individual in the group contributes with minimum friction. This requires finding every team member’s interests and abilities.

Create a safe atmosphere for brainstorming without criticising ideas, delegating responsibilities, and distributing resources. Team culture is consented upon, so every individual follows the rules. 

After brainstorming, you need to decide which are the best options for achieving the stated common goal. You need to evaluate the steps and processes of execution and share them with team members. If changes are required or something is not working then you need to adapt.  

You need to set several sub-goals and complete them within the time frame. Communicating ideas, compromising, cooperating, asserting, deferring, leading, and resolving conflicts are all part of a collaboration.


Work is collaborative in digital as well as physical spaces. Students need to learn collaboration and communication skills so that they are well equipped to work effectively. 

Communication is both verbal and non-verbal through digital media and face to face. Diverse platforms for communication are available these days. Yet the medium of communication and situation necessitates that the communicator and receiver follow conventions.

You need to evaluate the subject matter and the purpose of communication. What is the background or context of the message? Who are the receiver and sender of the message and what’s the medium of communication? 

What’s the right medium for communicating? Will an email suffice or do you need to speak over a phone call? Check the reliability of messages and the authority of the sender. Is the information current or outdated? Take quick notes, decode the messages and images, and actively engage in ideas. 

Concluding lines

Your students will have the adaptability they need to stay up with a continuously changing work environment if they learn 21st Century abilities.

These abilities were important for students earlier too, but they are even more so in today’s information-based industry that is ever-evolving.

To develop critical and creative thinking, collaboration and communication in students, there are a variety of activities and teaching pedagogy that are used in the teaching-learning process. Become a lifelong learner using these 21st century learning skills.

Also read: How to improve reading comprehension for beginner readers.

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(Also read Deloitte Insights article “Catch the wave: The 21st century career”.)

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