Four Cs of 21st Century Learning

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” –Alvin Toffler

Since the phrase ‘The Three Rs’ was first coined way back in 1825, reading, writing and arithmetic have become the cornerstone of education. However, in today’s  rapidly advancing world, ‘The Three Rs’  are not enough to suitably prepare our children for success in the modern world.  As we move from a manufacturing and industrial economy to a complex future of information and technology, creative thinking skills, adaptability and innovation are now top of the skill set list for many businesses, as they increasingly recognise that these are the skills that will keep companies growing and profitable.

As per the United States-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills ,  there are four skills required for 21st century learning. They are 

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration 
  • Creativity 

Critical thinking is all about solving problems. It is objective analysis of facts to form a judgment.  It empowers students to discover the truth in assertions, especially when it comes to separating fact from opinion. With critical thinking, students don’t just learn a set of facts or figures. Instead, they learn how to discover the facts and figures for themselves. They ask questions. They become engaged in the world around them.

Collaboration shows students how to work together to achieve a common goal. It is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. Whether students realize it or not, they’ll probably work with other people for the rest of their lives. Virtually every job requires someone to work with another person at some point, even if it’s for something as simple as what to get for lunch. Practicing collaboration helps students understand how to address a problem, pitch solutions, and decide the best course of action. It’s also helpful for them to learn that other people don’t always have the same ideas that they do.

Communication lets students learn how to best convey their ideas. It is the act of conveying meanings from one entity or group to another.  Communication is often taken for granted in today’s society. In the age of text-based communications — SMS, emails, social media, etc. — it is important for students to learn how to convey their thoughts in a way that others can understand them. That’s because text-based communications lack tone, which is critical to understanding the context of someone’s words. Still, even in situations where vocal tone is available, students need to learn how to communicate effectively. That includes minimizing tangents, speaking directly to an idea, and checking other participants to make sure they’re engaged.

Creativity teaches students to think outside the box. It is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. Students can learn how to be creative by solving problems, creating systems, or just trying something they haven’t tried before. This will enable them to look at a problem from multiple perspectives — including those that others may not see. Creativity allows students to embrace their inner strengths from big-picture planning to meticulous organization.

The Four Cs have been adopted and implemented into the curricula of schools, school districts, and professional development programs. These 4 skills are important for organizations today and will become even more important in the future. 

The Four C’s  skills let students create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. That may sound overly-generalized, and you may be right. But the skills themselves are so general that it’s difficult to pin down what, why, or how students should learn the four C’s.  It’s most accurate to say that students need the four C’s for any and every reason. A focus on Four C’s is essential to prepare students for increasingly complex life and work environments in the 21st century.

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