Article first appeared in the Portugal Resident.
As our children return to education after the summer break, be it starting school for the first time, entering secondary school or transitioning into higher education, all are entering a very different type of teaching and learning environment than we, as parents or indeed educationalists, experienced ourselves.
21st-century learners are completely immersed in a whole new world. A world where information through technology is, and has always been, available. This has shaped how different their education is compared to previous generations.
To place this in context, Generation Z, born between 1995-2009, do not know life before the internet. Smartphones, iPads and laptops have made this level of technology available throughout their school life. Now consider Generation Alpha, born since 2010, who are younger than smartphones, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify!
Growing up in a world with this level of technology and information enables students to access any answer to a question in seconds or, indeed, teach themselves about any topic by watching a YouTube video! They are often termed digital natives. Students and children now use Apps and technology in the same way that previous generations turned the pages of books.
Our children are now connected instantly all over the world without leaving home. Today’s students will have countless new job opportunities when they reach the workforce. The professional world is no longer standardised. Employers now expect globally-minded, tech-savvy, multi-lingual individuals who can work anywhere in the world.
Consequently, successful meaningful education and outstanding schools have evolved. They deliver a 21st-century education, which acknowledges that today’s learners are skilled with technology, who, as global citizens, require a different skill set to succeed in the ever-evolving world that they inhabit.
A true 21st-century education is one in which parents and educators work in partnership to help our children make sense of this information and use it productively through the adoption of the four C’s – Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration. This does not, in any way, mean that traditional subjects such as English, Mathematics or History are no longer taught. Completely the reverse is true. Outstanding schools should be teaching all subjects with the four C’s intrinsically imbedded in their delivery and execution.
At our school, the curriculum is delivered through the use of Cambridge Assessment International Education, wherein one of the world’s oldest, most accredited educational establishments has recognised that Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration should underpin the teaching of every subject. Their educational philosophy has developed to embrace this ethos.
• Critical Thinking is the practice of solving problems, working through problems, solving puzzles and to question. Using critical thinking, students don’t just learn a set of facts or figures. They are encouraged to discover these facts or figures for themselves. They ask questions, become engaged in the world around them and ask why.
• Creativity is the practice of thinking outside the box. Children learn how to be creative by solving problems, creating new systems or simply through the act of trying new things. Creativity allows students to embrace their inner strengths, including planning, organisation and to be motivated to share their creativity collaboratively with others. The point of creativity is to encourage students to think differently than convention demands for a life of independence and purposeful thought.
• Collaboration is the practice of working together to achieve a common goal – a very important skill as we will all have to work with other people for the rest of our lives. Virtually every job requires someone to work with another person at some point. Being engaged in collaborative teamwork helps children understand how to address a problem, create solutions, and together decide the best course of action. Whilst also learning that other people don’t always have the same ideas, emphasising that everyone brings something unique to every conversation and situation, and that every voice counts.
• Communication is the practice of conveying ideas quickly and clearly. It is vital for all children and students to learn how to be able to express their thoughts clearly, and to communicate effectively.
It is our role as 21st-century parents and educators to ensure that Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication skills are developed so that our children will grow up prepared to face the challenges of this new world.
‘Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think’ – Albert Einstein