“21st Century Skills” is a term that is often used to describe education and skills needs in our science and technologically dependent society. What are these skills and why are they important? Several different definitions have emerged which generally describe an ability to collect, organize, manage, analyze, interpret, predict and communicate information.  The basic reality is that today’s global workforce relies on proficiency in math and science skills for a variety of reasons which include the ability to navigate daily life from an economic perspective, an awareness of how the fields of math and science are intrinsically linked to our global economy, and the reasoning and knowledge that understanding these skills leads to a more balanced perspective, individually, and collectively.

At WHY SCIENCE, we have defined what is meant by 21st Century Skills in order to be able to deliver on those needs.  Here are the core 21st Century Skills that a high school graduate should have for fruitful careers leading, discovering and innovating in a global STEM workforce.

By the 9th grade, all human senses of the student have been conditioned to be employed in scientific investigations and problem solving. Thus the student knows and understands how to

  • collect and find information to conceive, design and carry out scientific experiments and solve problems
  • carry out scientific experiments and solve problems
  • interpret data and determine what is scientifically relevant and important
  • design scientific experiments and carryout the experiments
  • organize results to uncover information for analysis

A 9th grade student with these fundamental knowledge and skills will be motivated to engage in, and choose activities to increase their understanding of science and problem solving. These activities will usually involve

  • strengthening critical thinking, reasoning and analytical skills
  • building mathematical skills for analysis and effective communication of information
  • developing skills for communicating science and other information to different audiences

Our definition reflect the recommendations of the  National Science Education Standards, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)and the New National Science Education Standards (NNSES) currently under development,  the culture and practice of science in academia, industry and business, and several years of research and testing of a science curriculum with students and teachers across a wide socio-economic spectrum.


3 Responses to What Are 21st Century Skills?

  1. I applaud your inclusion of COMMUNICATION as a fundamental 21st century skill required of our future leaders. No matter what the discipline, the ability to communicate your findings and ideas in a clear, concise and compelling manner is critical to advancing technology. People must understand what it means to them and communication is the conduit for that understanding.

    I would love to see good old fashioned public speaking return to our classrooms, vs. the current focus on creating fancy PowerPoint slides. Let’s not create a whole new generation of fearful speakers who hide behind their slides and bullet points.

    Time for 21st century skill building!

  2. Thanks Kathy! Scientist or not, communication is a fundamental 21st Century skill for success in life. Thank you for engaging!

  3. Neil Finney says:

    This is an important topic to discuss. It seems that the push for literacy skills has eclipsed the strength of our math and science programs in many schools, which has led to an overall degradation of our planning and programming in these key areas.

    Literacy permeates everything and it has a place within a well-grounded and specialized math and science program – but certainly should not take away teaching time and an overall emphasis from such engaging and rich curricular areas.

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