Integrating 21st-Century Skills into Curriculum

Deepika Sharma

Principal, Grand Columbus International School, Faridabad

Living in an intense, volatile, uncertain and complexed world where performance is equal to power, the path set out for teachers is extremely ambiguous and challenging. Hence, the need to move from subject-centric learning to skilling. India has the world’s highest youth population, with 50% of the population below the age of 25 years. With such a large number of youngsters competing for limited jobs, the move in the direction of “what interests me” and “rising above one’s peer” is crucial.

Another aspect which determines success is personal orientation. It is imperative to move from score-centric system to individualised learning. So, the institutions must focus on 21st-century competency skills, which include sound decision-making, a positive attitude, accountability, flexibility, inter/intra-personal communication, prioritisation, critical thinking, and creativity. The Indian education system till date evaluates students on the 3 Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. India produces the largest numbers of engineers in the world, but only about 19% of them are employable. The reasons for this picture could be many, but the reality is that they do not promise a ‘career’. As Tony Wagner puts it- the world does not really care about what you know, rather all its cares are what you can do with what you know. Therefore, apart from 3 R’s, students must be trained in a new skill set.

21st Century requires learners to think and innovate, be independent in thought and mind. This will help them reflect on their environment and come up solutions. There is a need to form new processes, come up ideas which will bring in progress and the localised solutions will benefit the country. Curious and thinking members of the community will have more and better answers. Our education system needs to encourage personalised engagement with the subjects.

Collaboration or team-based environment, where one thinks, a team goal produces best results. It helps in adapting to cultural and regional diversity effectively. There is a need to have more acceptance and confidence to meet challenges and deadlines. The Indian education system has very little to enlighten on the collaboration. It’s more about competition with others instead of getting ahead of oneself. More sports and team-building drills should be made part of the curriculum.

Communication plays an imperative role in success. With millions of students moving to colleges from schools and workplace every year, to be a cut above the rest lies with the youngsters with adequate oral and written communication skills. There is a need to ensure our institutions impart articulation and expression of thoughts and do away with cramming. A world where initiatives are noted and well-received, practical communication skills help in nurturing leaders in every field. Educators are increasingly getting behind idea-organise learning and recognise achievement based on student’s set of competency skills.

While Indian Schooling is still traditional in approach, Information Technology is an inseparable and indispensable part of education now. All the learners must be IT savvy, and there is a need to increase the use of digital devices in schools. Teaching techniques across schools and colleges need a revamp which should be primarily driven by practical assignment and project learning. Online learning tools help students to learn better and more efficiently. Teaching should not be limited to chalk and board. Project-based learning helps in boosting creative thinking among students, and innovative teaching methodologies should be implemented.

A new skill set based on competencies is the need of the day. Schools have a significant role to play in ensuring that the learners are future-ready to take on a world which is beyond books, classrooms and institutions. Learners will be benefitted if the 21st Century competencies are integrated into the school curriculum. The way lies in taking an experimental approach that encourages many more prototypes to emerge, linked together by a structured evaluation framework that builds evidence for what works. Small scale initiatives could well take the right turn. We need more creators and developing human capital is the responsibility of the education system. A good thinking education initiative can be the catalyst for that change.

Deepika Sharma

Principal, Grand Columbus International School, Faridabad