21st Century Skills Don’t Exist. So Why Do We Need Them?

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Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner

If you Google “21st century skills”, you’ll get about 425,000 hits. Impressive, but: What are those 21st century skills? What’s so “21st century” about them? And why do education and business people shout from the rooftops that we need these so-called 21st century skills?

What are 21st century skills?

The glossary of education reform defines 21st century skills as “a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed … to be critically important to success in today’s world, particularly in collegiate programs and contemporary careers and workplaces.”

Andreas Schleicher, from the OECD Education Directorate, states in a blog on 21st century skills:

Education today is much more about ways of thinking which involve creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It is also about ways of working, including communication and collaboration…

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