Sunday, December 9, 2012

Efforts to Define 21st Century Competences

This is my third post discussing the fine speech Secretary Duncan recently made to the Inter-American Development Bank. Among other stimulating portions in the speech, one finds this, just in front of his coda complimenting the bank's work in Haiti: "In fact, these [traits, discussed in my post of yesterday] are global competencies that we should want for all our students. A student with a world-class education should be able to use their knowledge and skills to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, recognize other's perspectives, and communicate their ideas effectively to diverse audiences."

I agree, and much thoughtful work has gone into defining the competences needed by the students who are leaving our schools today. I summarized them in the notes to a document I have written to support the charter of One World Secondary School, "Learning for the 21st Century":

"International efforts to define the educational needs of the 21st century have been proceeding for nearly two decades now. As early as 1996, the UNESCO International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, chaired by former European Commission President Jacques Delors, proposed in Learning: The Treasure Within that, building on the four pillars that are the foundations of education – learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together,  and learning to be – all societies should aim to move towards a necessary Utopia in which none of the talents hidden like buried treasure in every person be left untapped. The next year, the OECD’s education ministers recombined the knowledge, skills, and values implicit in the Delors pillars into the concept of competencies, and the OECD has done much work to define and select the competencies “for a successful life and a well-functioning society”, and has used them in designing its PISA (Programme in International Student Assessment) assessments. It has concluded that three categories of competencies are key in the 21st century: acting autonomously, using tools interactively, and interacting in socially heterogeneous groups. The APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) economies have developed a 21st century competency framework encompassing APEC’s priority academic content areas: English and other languages, mathematics, science, information and communication technologies, and technical education. Finally, the European Union has legislatively defined eight key competences for lifelong learning: communication in the mother tongue, communication in foreign languages, mathematical competence and competences in science and technology, digital competence, learning to learn, social and civic competences, a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness and expression."

Tomorrow I will reveal how these have been synthesized in the profile of the One World learners our school hopes to produce. 

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