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Six Critical Skills for Today's Global Economy


Education Tips #9

Education Tips #9

Children and adults need to develop six important skills to succeed in the modern global economy.

This idea comes from two professors in the U.S. who study how people learn.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff recently published a book called "Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children."

The authors advocate for changing the education systems of many countries around the world, including the United States. They say modern schools need to help people develop a broader set of skills than just reading and math. Those skills all begin with the letter C.

They are:

  1. Collaboration: the ability to work with others, to have social-emotional control, and to form communities.
  2. Communication: the ability to develop strong reading, writing, listening and language skills.
  3. Content: competencies in subject areas, but also in learning to learn.
  4. Critical thinking: the ability to gather information intelligently and to weigh evidence.
  5. Creative innovation: the ability to use information in new ways and to solve problems.
  6. Confidence: the ability to learn from failure and to persist in a problem.

With these skills, children and adults can better function in the 21st century, say the authors.

What is success in education?

As a first step, Hirsh-Pasek suggests that we reconsider what success in education means. She says that most education currently focuses on reading, writing and basic math. As a result, she says, many people view educational success in a narrow way: a good score on a reading or math test.

One problem with this view is that children learn to be parrots rather than human beings. In other words, people learn to memorize and repeat, but do not learn to think creatively, find information, or collaborate.

Instead, Hirsh-Pasek wants to define educational success in a broader way. She says education should aim to develop people who will be the creators, collaborators and citizens of the future.

How do people learn?

Hirsh-Pasek and her co-author, Roberta Golinkoff, say they were inspired by education changes in Canada and a few other countries. They decided to study the science of learning.

In other words, instead of thinking about how teachers teach best, they tried to think about how people learn best.

Hirsh-Pasek describes what they found.

"The very most important thing in learning, especially in language, but even broadly, is to have a relationship with the person that you are learning from. We are human beings, and our calling card as human beings is to be social creatures..."

The idea, Hirsh-Pasek says, is this: Human beings will never be able to memorize information as well as a computer.

What humans do well is work together in teams, or collaborate. After all, we are social creatures.

Hirsh-Pasek says that collaboration is the starting point for human learning. Collaboration is also a highly desired skill in both public and private sector jobs.

What can you do?

Some good news is that people can build their collaboration skills – as well as the other skills the authors recommend – throughout their lives.

Hirsh-Pasek recommends that students evaluate themselves to understand what skills they have. Ask yourself: how well can I work with others? How well do I communicate? Do I think critically? How willing am I to make mistakes?

If you need to strengthen a skill, the most important thing you need to do is practice, says Hirsh-Pasek.

“You will never get better at speech-making if you don't give speeches. You will never get better at French, you will never get better at Chinese, if you don't practice it! And if you don't have another person to practice it with.”

So, if you want to improve your English skills, think about ways you can develop relationships with your English teacher or with English-speaking friends.

Hirsh-Pasek adds that students need to learn to look for experiences that will help them learn. She recommends being creative, and above all, not being afraid to mess up. Learning happens when people make mistakes.

I’m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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Words in This Story

advocate – v. to support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.)

function – v. to work or operate

narrowadj. including or involving a small number of things: limited

parrotn. a bright-colored tropical bird that has a curved bill and the ability to imitate speech

collaborate – v. to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something

broadadj. including or involving many things: wide

inspire – v. to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create

calling cardn. something that identifies a particular person or group

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