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The 21st century skills

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

March 24th, 2021

Nikolas Zetouni


The 21st century skills

Many people are not aware that every period of time in human history had a specific need when it came to education. Just so we don’t go all the way back to ancient Greece, let's talk about the past 50 years. The 80s were all about bringing education to the masses so people could work in factories. The 90s pushed to education individualization and specialization – mainly focusing on higher graduate studies. The 2000’s brought technology into the mix by democratizing computers skills. 2010’s brought a whole new world of technical skills and the emergence of the internet into education. Now the 2020’s are asking for non-technical skills known as 21st century skills. But what are they?

Check out this infographic for an overview.

Credit: Kendra Wack’s blog

You might be wondering…”Where are all the science and engineering I studied?”. They are not there and for good reason. I believe this trend (from technical to creative-social skills) is happening because the market needs are shifting towards an entrepreneurial model. This means: fast growth, customer oriented service, and high performance teams. From my experience working in different industries, employers are taking technical knowledge as granted; they expect their employees to know the minimum. They went to College or University after all. However, employers do not know if the candidate will be a team player or add value to the team. Thus the need for 21st century skills. How does that impact education?

What school teaches vs what the market needs

In all honesty, I do not think this trend will impact education much. At least in North America, 21st century skills are an informal part of the formal education system. Students know about them, they use them every day, but they are not evaluated on it. So what is the point in becoming good at them?

The answer is… there is no point! The system does not reward students who are creative or collaborate well. A big share of the market, however, wants these communicative and critical thinkers. This gap between market and school needs leave students to fend for themselves. Students with natural affinity to these creative-social skills benefit the most. Naturally, this situation can be remediated.

We at Coded Minds Canada prepared a few tips for 21st Century skills for both students and parents here.

Tips for students

1) Understand that education is not something that happens only at school. Meaning, don’t aim to get straight “A”s on your exams while denying the benefits of the social aspects of school. Try to achieve a balance of developing yourself academically and socially.

2) How to develop yourself socially? I would say make some friends! Learn from them, understand their perspectives and adapt them into yours. This brings communication and collaboration to the mix! Want to pump up your creativity? Share your ideas without dismissing other people’s thoughts. Instead, build the idea together.

3) Finally, keep a growth mindset. That means, if you are being contradicted, not heard or left behind, try to understand why and strive to get better.

Tips for parents

I understand these might be slightly weird for some families, but they are definitely worth a shot!

1) Talk to your children about your issues at work and life in an open way. That will show them that adults have problems too. More importantly, if you handle problems well, explain to them. You are arming your children with the tools that you struggled to find to handle creative-social situations.

2) Celebrate your own achievements and explain why. If your communication flourished with friends, tell them! If you made a decision at work that saved the company money, tell them! If you were put in a team and you are enjoying the new workload, tell them! The bottom line is to give your children real life examples of the 21st century skills in your own life.

3) There is a trend in parenting that focuses too much on results rather than learning. If you are one of these parents, try to shift from grades to the importance of resilience, exposure to several creative-social situations, and how children can learn from their experiences.

The take home message

The 21st century skills are here to stay. They might not impact your children now, but they sure will when they are going to college, university or finding their first job. Learning these early in life early gives children a head start, practice makes perfect and adults/parents play a major role in it.

Hardcore bottom line – don’t let your children become a Homer Simpson. He is funny, but he has zero creative-social skills. We laugh at him but no one wants to be him :D


Nik Zetouni

Head of Operations, Team Canada

Did you know that Coded Minds Canada has learning sessions on Science and Technology that integrate the 21st century skills? Click here to learn more.



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