Guide to 21st Century Skills, Education, and Competitiveness

Suzannah Herrmann, Ph.D.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills
Sept. 2008

Over the past 40 years there have been substantial shifts in the economy away from manufacturing toward the service sector. We're already well into this new economy and employers are demanding workers who can handle complexity, effectively communicate, manage information, and work in teams. The Guide (see here)-from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a collaboration of organizations and businesses-argues that, while the United States has addressed the education achievement gap domestically, the country has not addressed closing the gap between American students and students in other countries. To do that, American students must excel in the old core subjects-reading, writing, and math. Additionally, students will need to know how to take control of their learning and be able to learn and innovate throughout their careers.

But it's not all student-centered. Making it work will require tough standards, realistic assessments, demanding curriculum, better instruction, and constant professional development, all of which education reformers have been calling for (see here).

Key policy recommendations in the Guide include establishing infrastructure (for example, creating an office of 21st Century Skills in the U.S. Department of Education), funding $2 billion in education research and development, as well as enacting a national workforce development policy. Specific state and local recommendations are also provided.

Nine states (Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) have signed on with the Partnership to push these new learning skills.

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