21st-century.jpgWe've heard a lot of talk in recent years about American students being unprepared for the work force post academia. Do we need to reform the American school system to ensure that our students have what it takes to work in today's evolving economy?

According to Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel, authors of 21st Century Skills, the building blocks are already there; we just need to give students the skills for working in a complex and connected world.

These authors aren't talking about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Traditional core competencies are still required. But today's students also need 21st century skills that include:
  • Learning and innovation: critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and innovation
  • Digital literacy: information, media and technology literacy
  • Life and career: initiative and self-direction, leadership, adaptability and accountability
By following the shift from an industrial age economy--where jobs are in manufacturing, agriculture, construction, etc.--to a knowledge age economy, Trilling and Fadel note that educational institutions have not kept up with this shift. The authors provide a framework for turning American institutions of learning into places that prepare students to work, lead, follow, collaborate, solve problems and create value.

Already Trilling says, they have seen schools begin implementing the 21 century skills with good results. The book even provides guidelines for training teachers, making assessments and making use of the 21st century educational framework.  

21st Century Skills, contend Trilling and Fadel, are essential to ensure students don't go into the work force as mindless drones but rather prepared to launch a great idea of their own if they so choose. It prepares them to be leaders, innovators and possibly even future captains of industry.