Skills for a Changing World
National perspectives and the global movement
The Skills for a Changing World project presents evidence of a movement of education systems globally toward a more explicit focus on a broad range of skills that our 21st century society needs and demands. This movement can be seen in the vision and mission statements of education systems as well as through their curricula. Although clearly endorsed at the policy level, implementation is just beginning in some countries. The issues surrounding this, particularly in the context of within-country social and economic changes, are brought to light in this report by a study of education stakeholders in four countries—Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, and the Philippines.
We sought to understand the attitudes and perceptions of key education stakeholders by reviewing the education space in Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, and the Philippines, which have all recently extended mandated years of education and/or included a focus on 21st century skills in their offerings to students. Through interviews and focus groups, parents, community members, teachers, teacher trainers, and education administration and policy personnel answered two primary questions concerning skills most highly valued in their communities: (1) What are the skills you associate with a successful person?; and (2) What are the skills that are important for children and students to develop?
- Stakeholders across all four countries highly value 21st century skills for learners. This pattern is different from factors of success, where character traits and workforce and society characteristics are emphasized.
- Within each country, there appears to be tension between recognizing the importance of holistically-developed learners and the current structures of the education system that limits what is feasible to accomplish in classrooms.
- Attitudes and perceptions of key stakeholders reflect the priorities of each country. Countries may face similar challenges and emphasize the same kinds of skills, but the current context and priorities of each individual country drive the unique perspectives and the conversations surrounding educational issues.
- Stakeholder groups who work closely with the learner (i.e., parents and teachers), as well as government personnel, emphasize the importance of skills for success. However, the stakeholder groups in between (i.e., teacher trainers, representatives from nongovernmental organizations) were sparse in identifying the factors and skills related to success, despite the fact that these groups have a say in how to implement in classrooms and train teachers.