Educating for the 21st Century

What is 21st century education' It is bold. It is flexible, creative, challenging, and complex. It addresses a rapidly changing world filled with challenges and problems as well as exciting new opportunities and possibilities

Schools in the 21st century will be based on a project-based curriculum aimed at engaging students in addressing real-world problems, issues important to humanity, and questions that matter for our future culturally, socially and globally

"Schools" will go 'from 'buildings' to nerve centres, not limited by the four walls of the classroom, connecting teachers, students and the community to the wealth of knowledge that exists in the world.'

The teacher will change from being a dispenser of information, to becoming a facilitator of learning who helps students turn information into knowledge, and knowledge into a useful and practical tool.

The 21st century will require knowledge generation, not just information delivery, and schools will need to create a 'culture of inquiry'.

Bloom´s Taxonomy of Learning has now been modified in line with changes in the concept of Higher Order Learning Skills the ability to handle knowledge in an organized way is now considered a necessary skill and Evaluation is now replaced by the ability to use new knowledge in a creative way.

Whereas in the past a learner was a young person who went to school, spent a specified amount of time in certain courses, received passing grades and graduated. Today we must see learners in a new context:

Firstly we must maintain student interest by helping them see how what they are learning prepares them for life in the real world.

Secondly we must instill curiosity, which is fundamental to lifelong learning.

Thirdly we must be flexible in how we teach.

Fourthly we must motivate and excite learners to become even more resourceful so that they will continue to learn outside the formal school day.

What is a 21st century curriculum'

Twenty-first century curriculum has certain critical attributes. It is interdisciplinary, project-based, and research-driven. It is connected to the community ' local, state, national and global. Sometimes students are collaborating with people around the world in various projects. The curriculum incorporates higher order thinking skills, multiple intelligences, technology and multimedia, the multiple literacies of the 21st century, and authentic assessments. Learning through Service is also an important component.

The classroom is expanded to include the greater community. Students are self-directed, and work both independently and interdependently. The curriculum and instruction are designed to challenge all students, and provides for differentiation.

The curriculum is not textbook-driven or fragmented, but is thematic, project-based and integrated. Skills and content are not taught as an end in themselves, but students learn them through their research and application in their projects. Textbooks, if they have them, are just one of many resources.

Knowledge is not memorization of facts and figures, but is constructed through research and application, and connected to previous knowledge and personal experience. The skills and content become relevant and needed as students require this information to complete their projects. The content and basic skills are applied within the context of the curriculum, and are not ends in themselves.

Assessment moves from regurgitation of memorized facts and disconnected processes to demonstration of understanding through application in a variety of contexts. Real-world audiences are an important part of the assessment process, as is self-assessment. 

21st Century Skills

21st century skills are learned through a curriculum, which is interdisciplinary, integrated, project-based, and more, include and are learned within a project-based curriculum focussed on:

Core Subjects and 21st Century Learning
Learning and Innovation Skills
Life and Career Skills
Information, Media and Technology Skills


  • Collaboration ' the ability to work in teams
  • Critical thinking ' taking on complex problems
  • Oral communications ' presenting
  • Written communications ' writing
  • Technology ' use technology
  • Citizenship ' take on civic and global issues; service learning
  • Learn about careers ' through internships
  • Content ' conduct research and do all of the above.

Comparing 20th Century to 21st Century Education

20th Century
21st Century
Time-based Outcome-based
Focus. Memorization of facts Focus: what students know, can do, and are like
Lessons focus on knowledge,comprehension and
application of knowledge (Lower order learning skills)
Learning is based on Higher Order learning 
skills ' synthesis, analysis, evaluation, and creativity
Text book- driven Reasearch-driven
Passive Learning Active Learning
Learners work in isolation in the classroom Learners work in collaboration with classmates 
and others around the world (the Global classroom)
Teacher Centred. Teacher as the centre of 
attention and provider of information
Student-centred. Teacher is a facilitator/coach
Little or no student freedom Great deal of student freedom.
Fragmented curriculum Integrated and interdisciplinary curriculum

Lack of trust and respect.
Students de-motivated.

Student-teacher mutual respect.
Students motivated
Marks averaged Marks based on what has been learned
Low expectations High expectations
Teacher evaluates pupil ' judges performance Self 'peer, and other assessment. Public audience

Educating for the 21st century therefore requires a complete change of perspective from the traditional paradigm of education to a system which puts the child and the child's world and reality at the centre of the learning process. It goes beyond the simple acquisition of knowledge to a central focus on developing skills and attitudes ' thinking skills, problem solving skills, organizational skills, and positive attitudes, self-esteem, innovation, creativity, communication skills, technological skills and of course values, self-confidence, resilience, self motivation and environmental awareness. Above all the ability to handle knowledge effectively in order to use it creatively is vital to the skills needed by the 21st Century student. St George's College considers this to be our challenge, - to educate our students not for the past but for the future, to provide our students with the skills, attitudes, values and personal formation to face the future with optimism and achieve both success and happiness.


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