Need of the hour: 21st century skills!

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Dr. Ajay Kant Sharma
Principal, Mithi Gobindram Public School, Bhopal

There has been a shift of focus towards a skill based education, which would definitely make the education more relevant as it will enable the children to connect themselves to the society better and would also empower them to relate their knowledge with the real life issues which is missing in the present educational scenario.

The greater focus on skill development will open tremendous opportunities to schools as they would become the real centres of learning to life. Referring to four pillars of education, Learning to do, the schools will actually train the children to do so.

Challenges schools will face…

The major challenges which the schools will face would be; the availability of adequate resources, training of the manpower and changing the mindset.

The classroom model needs to go for a complete change. Accommodating flexibility, believing that learning does happens outside the classroom too is a necessity. The various learning points, the social touch points of a child which influence his mind, need to be tapped. The physical environment, the interactions, all impart learning and thus integrating the same for educating the child would be required. The structured classroom and structured curriculum approach need to take a backseat.

How to integrate skill-based education…

Dr. Ajay Kant Sharma
Dr. Ajay Kant Sharma

As of now, there is very little preparedness on the part of schools. Textbooks, which constitute the major learning tool, need a complete overhauling of the content and approach. I would like to quote that the NCERT Mathematics textbooks of primary classes do provide a scope of such practical and skill based learning approach and on the similar lines, the other textbooks should be developed. The administrative agencies will need to collaborate with the schools in setting up these supportive systems such as extensive teachers’ training centres and develop learning aids. All schools will require to be ICT equipped.

Classroom transactions must cater the individual needs. Teachers will require a lot of training of unlearning and relearning and change of mindset. The class strength should also be reduced as skill building will require a lot of personal attention. Teachers will require a lot of time for preparation and will have to have a multidisciplinary approach. Theme-based learning and project-based learning strategies will be helpful to deal with the new approach.

Start early…

Skill development has to start from the school level. At primary level, children need to learn the basic life skill; to be independent and self-directed learners, to be participative and collaborative, to be expressive besides the basic literacy, communication, Mathematical and ICT skill. At the secondary and senior school level, children need to develop the skills of collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem solving. They have to have flexibility and adaptability, global and cultural awareness, information literacy and leadership. They must develop social responsibility and ethics.

Cognitive vs. hands-on skills…

The cognitive skills and hands-on skills are complementary and both need priority. The focus is more on cognitive than the psycho motor skills, however a change in the existing model and curriculum design will be required to accommodate the later. Activity-based teaching and experiential learning will help child gauge an edge over textual learning. There is a need to develop more responsive education. The examination system’s model will also require a change for that.

Learning of skills and its empowerment can happen when the focus from textbook knowledge and classroom learning shifts to its application in real life. The acceptability and value orientation depends on the workability of the skills acquired. With the change of time, the schools need to impart 21st century skills which primarily enables the child with a constructivist approach and critical thinking skills.

Collaboration with the industry…

To increase the capacity of education and skills development systems, education and industry will definitely require closer collaboration, infact it should become an important feature for knowledge sharing and enhancing capacities, anticipating the change and matching skills demands and supply. The schools should offer internship programmes and tie up with the industries to provide hands-on training.

Importance of a life skills…

Of all the skills to be acquired, the life skills acquire predominant position. These are a must and need to be inculcated among the children. In this changing environment, life skills is an essential part of being able to meet the challenges of everyday life and to cope with the increasing pace and change of modern life, students need to develop creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, the ability to communicate and collaborate, along with personal and social responsibility that contribute to good citizenship.

Dr. Ajay Kant Sharma is the Principal of Mithi Gobindram Public School, Sant Hirdaram Nagar, Bhopal. He accomplished his Ph.D on the novels of John Steinbeck and has a passion for facilitating English learning. He works for strengthening the teaching learning skills through innovative methods. He believes that schooling should be stress free and children must get a happy environment. He is a very approachable person who works with transparency and is a team player. He feels blessed to be associated with the Shaheed Hemu Kalani society which is on a mission to achieve the dreams of Paramhans Sant Hirdaram Sahibji under the able guidance of Rev Siddh Bhauji.