21st century skills: Changing the way a whole new generation thinks.
Business demands are rapidly changing and the pace of change is accelerating. The top 10 in-demand jobs today did not even exist five years ago. We are preparing for careers that have yet to evolve. We are gearing-up for technologies that are still to be designed. A significant proportion (some say over 50%) of today's school kids will end up at jobs that haven't yet been invented. To prepare for the jobs of the future, students need to become proficient at what are increasingly being termed as “21st century skills."
What are 21st century skills?
These are the skills that will help us conquer the 21st century. They fall into three broad categories:
Learning and innovation skills: This includes critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, creativity and innovation.
Digital literacy skills: This covers information literacy, media literacy, and information and communication technologies (ICT) literacy.
Career and life skills: Here students are taught flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural interaction, productivity and accountability.
We believe that children across social strata and regardless of economic background have the innate ability to think intuitively, reason logically, analyze creatively and do complex problem-solving. All they need is the opportunity and support to help develop and hone these abilities in order to grow and succeed in a rapidly evolving digital world.
We put this theory to the test at a recent Genpact-sponsored competition – and the young contestants came out with flying colors!
Armed and ready to learn
Globally, schools and colleges are looking for ways in which to adopt these new learnings into their curriculum and though in India we may still have a little way to go, the process has certainly begun. At Genpact, we are pushing for a change in every way possible – be it through our tie-ups with Ashoka University, our LEADearthSHIP program, or our Reach Higher program. The most heartening thing is that young children, regardless of their social and economic backgrounds, are innately equipped with the intuitive skills and thinking – all they need is the opportunity to develop them.
Putting it to the test
Genpact, along with its partner Thinkstations, ran a competition in the Delhi/NCR region for children from 32 schools (of which 15 were under-privileged schools). Thinkstations had conducted a training program for students of the 15 underprivileged schools, prior to the competition. The objective of the training was to familiarize the students with the format of the competition, and to teach them some basic skills, including research and presentation skills.
There were many rounds and many kinds of tests and challenges. The final activity required the teams to understand greenhouse gases, demonstrate it in an experiment, prepare an action plan and present their plan to the audience.
An overwhelming achievement!
Out of the shortlisted 8 schools, the winner was Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, one of the participating under-privileged schools! They were followed by Shri Ram School and Lotus Valley School. What an incredible achievement for this brilliant, all-girl team from Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya! And what an amazing attitude these five young women had! When asked about their opinion on the competition, one of them said: “We didn't look at it as a competition; we came to learn." Their level of collaboration, clarity of thought and attitude towards mastering the concept – all prime 21st Century skills – is what truly set them apart.
What goes around, comes around (And I say this in the best way possible!)
Before the competition, we had been afraid that the underprivileged schools would need special 'innovation' awards to encourage them if they lost, so imagine our delight when one of them emerged winners! For us this was a revelation, and it was compounded by the fact that the Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya team came from a class taught by a fellow from Teach For India – and that fellow had been sponsored by Genpact as part of our on-going relationship with Teach For India. We had come full circle, in a way, and in doing so, were able to prove what we had believed all along: that there is so much latent talent and potential in these children – all they need is the opportunity and support to truly tap it and put it to use.
It makes everything we do that much more meaningful. Even the fact that this was an all-girls' school was so heartwarming in the context of what we are trying to do to help empower women.
And so, as companies continue to disrupt and transform their industries, we will continue to find ways in which to help equip a new generation of talent with the skills that will be needed to meet their demands.
I have only optimism and excitement for the future – and for how we are going to help these young people change the world!