Which Are The 21st Century Skills?

Have you ever wondered which skills are relevant in the 21st century? Well, if you were born in the 20th century then certainly you might think what special skills you need in the 21st century! Have a second look at how rapidly technology has evolved. Think how technology continues to affect the way we function in our personal and professional life. Hasn’t technology changed the way we work, communicate, consume information and learn?

In the 20th century, the industrial revolution transformed the global community. Now in this 21st century, we believe it’s an information age. This is because of an increasing explosion of information, media and technology. The skills that led to success in the 20th century are no longer sufficient to lead to success and prosperity in the 21st century.

Navigate life in the 21st century with these skills

Learning is a lifelong activity, especially in the 21st century, as technological changes happen faster than before. Think of new applications, new gadgets, new online tools, new careers, new ways of doing things, etc, in recent years. Do you feel media, entertainment and infotainment have overwhelming volume of content? Please continue reading after this video.

A few decades ago, there were no zoom calls, social media, helpful online tools, smartphones, OTT platforms and most of all no internet. Many of us understand that even after we’ve graduated, education is a continuous endeavour. It’s because we have to adapt to all the changes happening around us all the time.

We get better at responding to an ever-evolving life-style and work culture, only when we get equipped with more knowledge and tools. Yes, when we are more adaptive, we are better off in life; we will be happier, healthier, and live longer, more creative lives. Let’s review the fundamentals briefly before we know more about the 21st century skills.

What is literacy?

Literacy and numeracy are necessary for basic as well as higher education. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all considered literacy abilities in the traditional sense. They include,

  • Language sound awareness
  • Print awareness
  • Phonemic awareness

Vocabulary, spelling, and reading comprehensions are also literacy skills. Literacy means the ability to read and write. Yet, reading these days is not just from print media but also in digital media. Being literate assists us in gaining knowledge by reading books, decoding signs, symbols, labels and text messages, and using media and technology. 

So, literacy is not as simple as it appears, we need multiple skills like learning skills, literacy skills and life skills to navigate life. Essentially, we strive to collect information, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, draw inferences, create something new and positively impact society. 

Also read: Why Evaluate Information Sources

The era of adapting and re-learning

Starting in the past few decades, for gathering information related to study, work or news update; we make extensive use of a variety of print, visual and digital media. A person using only printed media will have difficulty using online search engines.

The internet search engines provides,

  • Long-form informative content
  • News videos
  • Product review blogs
  • Discussion forums
  • Podcasts
  • Data and analysis
  • Reports
  • Surveys
  • Trends
  • Infographics
  • Entertainment
  • Gaming
  • Documentaries
  • Doctorate thesis
  • Research papers

and so much more.

Moreover, there are many software applications used for a variety of requirements. For example, if you want to get your home painted, there are mobile apps that can show you how your home will look in different colours and textures.

Knowledge of how to use such mobile applications is also a part of literacy. Think of a farmer and his need to use mobile banking or a farmers mobile app. Even if the farmer knew reading and writing but didn’t know how to use the mobile app, would hamper his banking needs and farming alerts.

Literacy in the 21st century involves reading, writing, watching, listening and using a variety of print and digital media. 

Skills that young people need to succeed as individuals, citizens and workers in the 21st century, fall into these domains.

Knowledge of the traditional core subject areas

Learning Skills (click to read)

Life Skills

Literacy Skills

List of 21st-century skills

Excluding the traditional core subject areas, which are these 21st-century skills?

The three broad categories are learning skills, literacy skills and life skills. Learning skills (the four C’s) teach pupils about the thought patterns they’ll need to adapt to and enhance in today’s workplace. The learning skills include these 4 C’s, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication.

The student’s ability to distinguish facts, publication platform and medium and the digital tools behind them is the emphasis of literacy skills (IMT). There is a major emphasis on identifying credible information and factual information. This helps to distinguish between facts, opinions and fiction. The literacy skills include information literacy, media literacy, technology literacy.

Life skills (FLIPS) examine soft skills or intangible aspects of a student’s daily life. These intrinsic skills and attributes are connected with personal and professional growth. The life skills include flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity, social skills. This infographic shows the list of twelve  21st Century skills that assist in a student’s future career.

List of 21st century skills
List of 21st century skills – learning skills, literacy skills and life skills

Click on green highlightedwords to read: CBSE Handbook of 21st Century Skills.

The pedagogical shift in the 21st century

Why pedagogical shift is needed in the 21st-century is because merely teaching the traditional core subjects of language, numeracy and science is not enough. The additional themes of 21st-century skills need to be included in the teaching practices. This will ensure that after the fifteen years of education, students will be job-ready with the skills most in-demand in the 21st-century workplace.

We can associate the following phrases with the 21st century workplace.

  • Complex
  • Competitive
  • Knowledge-based
  • Data-driven
  • Technology driven
  • Multi-cultural
  • Collaborative
  • Network oriented
  • Increased productivity
  • Target oriented
  • Innovation
  • Innate motivation

In the 21st century, the teaching practices include cross-disciplinary approach. Real-life is a blend of core subject areas. For instance, agriculture is a blend of science, geography, marketing, and mathematics. Activities in human life are a mixture of several core subject areas. Additionally, the soft skills are also needed.

So, in the teaching-learning process, the subject areas have thin borders and cross over into other subject areas. Projects are based on real-life problems. Students are motivated to use the inquiry method. Students research, collect and synthesize information.

They think innovatively and solve problems using tools. Technological tools, multimedia, verbal, written and graphic presentations are used to express the findings.

The learning process is experiential, project-driven and collaborative.  Students learn by experience through the project method. They ask questions, find answers, make inferences and present their learnings. Projects are carried out in collaboration with peers.

Students help each other and learn from peers. Students learn soft skills during collaborative learning. They solve real issues and their learnings are useful in the real world.

A variety of terms are used to refer to these 21st-century skills.

  • Applied skills
  • Cross-curricular skills
  • Interdisciplinary skills
  • Transferable skills
  • Cross-disciplinary skills
  • Transversal skills
  • Soft skills

Though these terms may not have exact similar meanings, even then they represent the 21st-century attributes.

Also read: Environmental conservation books for kids and adults

Concluding lines

We have seen how the resources for gathering information and learning have changed in the 21st century. Literacy improves the overall quality of life. Information is constantly at our fingertips and the possibilities of learning to add value to our life as well as bring change in society are immense. 

In addition, we saw the list of 21st-century skills. Employers need these skills in their prospective employees in the 21st century. That’s the reason why young learners in the 21st century need these skills. If you liked reading this article, kindly type the email id and click the subscribe button.


Read this PDF of a paper published in International Journal of Higher Education.

Article on 21st century skills at edglossory.org

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