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Skills for the 21st Century: Implications for Education


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  • Allen Jim
  • Velden Rolf van der



The world is changing rapidly in a lot of ways, but the dominant change is in ICT. Changingtechnology has far-reaching implications for how we act and interact at work, in education, incivic life and at home. Furthermore, this change is in large part the driving force behind many ofthe other major changes, such as globalization and flexibilization. These changes have led manyscholars to point to a new set of skills – the so-called 21st century skills – that are thought tobe essential for people’s ability to function and participate fully in today’s world. While we donot dispute the importance of these 21st century skills, we do caution against blindly pursuingthese skills and neglecting other more traditional classes of skill, such as basic skills (readingand math) as well as specialized knowledge and abilities – the so-called specific skills.Educational policy and practice should proceed from the insight that skills of individual humanbeings form a complete interdependent package of all these three kinds of skills: basic skills,specific skills and 21st century skills. It is far more fruitful to view 21st century skills inrelation to the basic skills that underlie them and the specific skills that they combine with inconcrete purposive action. In this essay we present a framework for the evaluation of what we knowabout our current situation in terms of various kinds of skills and learning which alerts us togaps in our knowledge that need to be filled for future policy purposes. It also performs asimilar function when looking at the challenges facing education and what education can do to meetthese challenges.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR) in its series Research Memorandum with number 044.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:unm:umamet:2012044

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Keywords: education; training and the labour market;

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  1. James Heckman & Flavio Cunha, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 31-47, May.
  2. Hanushek, Eric A. & Wößmann, Ludger, . "The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Dronkers, Jaap, 2010. "Positieve maar ook negatieve effecten van etnische diversiteit in scholen op onderwijsprestaties? Een empirische toets met internationale PISA-data
    [Positive but also negative effects of ethnic div
    ," MPRA Paper 23824, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Fouarge Didier & Grip Andries de, 2011. "Depreciatie van menselijk kapitaal," ROA Report 001, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  5. William Thorn, 2009. "International Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Surveys in the OECD Region," OECD Education Working Papers 26, OECD Publishing.
  6. Gary S. Becker, 1962. "Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 9.
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