The Concept of 21st Century Skills
January 2012

The Concept of 21st Century Skills

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In order to fully equip our students for the future, the key thing that the educationists require is quality content

By Prof Sridhar Iyer, Dept of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay | www.it.iitb.ac.in

On the Wikipedia page, we can find the complete prescription of 21st century skills as provided by the international body called UNESCO. The key thing is the concept of 4Cs – Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity. Unless our students have imbibed these 4Cs, they will find it hard to get ahead in life. What we want to do is to figure out a mechanism to inculcate all these 4Cs into the curriculum.

Rather than waiting till they reach the higher education level, students must start imbibing the 4Cs at an early stage, when they are at Grade 1. So we are attempting to look at what is being taught in computer science in the schools across the country. We found that most of the time, the textbooks available in the market are completely skill based.

The inOPEN way
A bunch of us sat down and wrote books, which are now being offered to schools through called ‘inOPEN,’ a company that we founded. The best thing is that most of the books are free to download from our website. In the last two years, the website has had about 10000 visits from over 100 countries.

So how do we achieve these 4Cs? This is something that you can find in our books. Often we have classes that are compartmentalised, so students are not able to take what they have learned in one class and go forward. What needs to be done is that the students must be allowed to keep revisiting the same theme in greater and greater detail as they move into higher classes. Then there is the aspect of thematic integration, which can come from localisation of the content so that students are able to relate to what they are being taught.

Finally there is the pedagogic strategy of what we call guided discovery. This is a system of tutoring, where instead of just standing in front of class and teaching, the teacher plays the role of facilitator. Traditionally it is the students, who put questions to the teacher, but in guided discovery system, it is the teacher who does the questioning and the students try to find the answers by their own means. So the process of education becomes a sort of dialogue between the facilitator and the student.

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