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21st century skills for 21st century kids

Imagine this : You are an upcoming marketer. You’ve been passionate about market research and analysis from the time you decided on a career path. You’ve consistently worked hard towards this goal and have finally received your MBA with distinction! You’re all set to start your career in a marquee firm as the head of marketing research and it feels almost like a dream. Now go back to the first word of this paragraph. Exactly. You can only 'imagine' your dream career now because by the time you graduated, marketing research jobs were taken by a storm by - wait for it - Artificial Intelligence! Apparently, AI is far more efficient and better equipped to perform exhaustive analysis. Bam! There goes your dream.

Now not very long ago when I was in school, parents and teachers would swear by the 3R skills - reading, writing and arithmetic. Thinking of it, feels like it must have been the prehistoric era! Although reading, writing and arithmetic are still foundational for developing higher order skills, they are just that - foundational. Only academic learning is a thing of the past and it does not prepare you for the jobs of tomorrow. We’re in a time where you may enter college pursuing a certain field but chances are, the field and the jobs will go extinct/become irrelevant by the time you actually graduate. The only possible way to beat this is to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist. Sounds crazy, right? That’s what I thought too. But in a world where technical skills become irrelevant in the blink of an eye, the benchmark for what’s necessary knowledge is constantly shifting and memorizing or cramming knowledge into one’s head is no longer rewarded, the only option left is to step-up and learn ‘21st century skills’ . Today’s children must adopt multi-purpose skills that they can apply to various professions, fields and areas of life.

Early Steps Academy, an initiative by a Harvard and IIT alumna, has developed programs based on the Harvard Case Study methodology for children aged 8-18 years. It teaches children of the 21st century to step-up and face challenges of the 21st century head-on. If you are a parent, you don’t want to miss out on this one. They teach 1000+ essential subjects (starting from crypto, entrepreneurship, finance to even space technology!) whilst developing the 4C skills - Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity. Children and parents in 7+ countries have loved it! Go check our courses and methodology and decide for yourself!

Meanwhile, I’ve curated a list of the top eight 21st century skills no one should go without:

  1. Communication - How many times have we seen not-too-bright candidates make it to breakthrough roles? Ever thought why that happens? Communication skills! A skilful communicator effectively conveys his/her experiences, negotiates the best deal and convinces even better. To cut the competition and make it to the top, communication skills have become even more important than technical skills.

  2. Collaboration - Nothing great is ever accomplished alone. To survive in the 21st century, this is especially true. Collaboration is key! You may be an excellent individual contributor but unless you know how to bring synergies to the group and work alongside people with their own niche/ expertise, it’s no good!

  3. Critical Thinking - To look beyond what’s visible, to arrive at judgements after exhaustive examination of the situation at hand and to see possible outcomes that nobody else can means you have excellent critical thinking skills. To foster critical thinking, kids need an environment that encourages an independent thought process.

  4. Creativity and Imagination - In a world that no longer respects years of mastering a single task and being an ace at it, constant creativity becomes important. Children have a gift of wild imagination that dwindles with growing age. By allowing them to be curious and by encouraging them to be imaginative through explorative tasks and unknown challenges, a strong foundation of creativity is laid.

  5. Problem Solving - This is a skill that guides us through life and that every single one of us makes use of without exception. As it's said - survival of the fittest. The definition of fittest though has changed to someone who can troubleshoot problems efficiently in a short time frame and can foresee problems long before they actually surface.

  6. Analytical Thinking - Analytical sharpness helps one in making rational, better-informed decisions. It helps you delve deeper and see detailed nuances to a problem. An often overlooked skill, it comes in handy the most on the path to success.

  7. Leadership - Leading the pack is not just about macho-ing around. It means you tactfully handle, convince and motivate people with all sorts of attitudes, issues, personalities and problems. You have it in you to resolve all the mess without too many folds on your temples, or at least not too many visible ones!

  8. Global and cultural awareness - Each child must be exposed to the world outside their own bubble to help them realize the diversity of people around them, to make sure they know how to respect these differences and to avoid the fear of the unknown. Many of today’s adults have very little of such exposure and this becomes a hurdle in their path to growth.

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