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21st-Century Skills for Students

Students need to get more experience in real-world problem solving and other so-called “21st-century skills” to improve the quality of their performance when they join the workforce, a study concludes.

“21st-century Skills and the Workplace,” a study by Microsoft Partners in Learning, the Pearson Foundation and Gallup, found a correlation between development of 21st-century skills in the last year of school, student aspiration and engagement in school, and higher quality of work later in life.

The seven 21st-century skills included in the study: collaboration, knowledge construction, skilled communication, global awareness, self-regulation, real-world problem solving, and use of technology for learning.

The researchers concluded that real-world problem solving and good student-teacher relationships are two of the primary drivers of higher work quality later in life.

In a survey of 1,014 people aged 18 to 25 who are either students or employed, those who have high 21st-century skill development were twice as likely to have higher work quality compared with those who had low 21st-century skill development. Real-world problem-solving was viewed as the significant driver of higher work quality, but only 63 percent of respondents reported developing this skill often in the last year of school; the figure drops to 39 percent for high school graduates.

Respondents aged 18 to 22 report slightly higher levels of 21st century skill development; this may indicate that teaching strategies are changing. However, high school graduates report the lowest levels of overall 21st-century skill development.

Although 86 percent of respondents say they used computers and technology to complete assignments or projects in their last year of school, only 14 percent say they used technology for collaboration, indicating that students are not developing the type of advanced technology skills that would be used later in the workplace.

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