Canada should to follow U.S. 21st Century skills program

In the United States, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) has emerged as a coalition determined to advance 21st Century learning agenda in that country. The P21 website states that: The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. As the United States continues to compete in a global economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the three Rs and four Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation). While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school.P21 consists of federal and state agencies, private sector businesses and non-government agencies that all recognize the need to advance 21st Century learning in the United States. 

John Kershaw

Canada would do well to emulate P21 and create a coalition of Canadians and Canadian organizations devoted to advancing 21st Century learning in this country. The Ministers of Education in Canada have taken an important step in declaring their commitment to work together; it is time for others to join the movement in this country and create a “coalition of advocates” for 21st Century learning.

Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Education in Canada recently committed themselves to explore the global 21st Century learning movement and its potential impact on public education systems. The Ministers met in Winnipeg on September 23/24th , 2010 to advance their Learn Canada 2020 agenda.

This comprehensive, pan Canadian learning agenda, the first in Canadian history, proclaims the education ministers recognition of the direct link between a well-educated population and (1) a vibrant knowledge-based economy in the 21st Century, (2) a socially progressive, sustainable society, and (3) enhanced personal growth opportunities for all Canadians.

In past articles I have highlighted key aspects of the global movement in 21st Century learning, and how New Brunswick is attempting to systemically shift its public education system to a 21st Century model of learning. Other provinces and territories are also exploring how best to create 21st Century learning environments, including incorporating 21st Century competencies, innovative instructional practices and new assessment regimes, while also producing ICT rich classrooms and schools. Canadian Ministers have now taken a profoundly significant step by publicly stating their intent to work together. Their communiqué from their September 2010 meeting states:

Ministers also discussed the global movement to integrate 21st century competencies into public education. OECD and other global economic and social think tanks have identified 21st century competencies such as creativity, innovation, collaboration, and digital competency as skills people will need in the knowledge economy. Ministers will explore what they could do together to advance the adoption of 21st century learning models in Canada.

Canadians need to understand that Canada’s future economic productivity and ability to address increasingly complex social and environmental challenges, in a global environment, will depend largely on our collective success in advancing the 21st Century learning agenda. In this, the knowledge and digital era, human talent is the key social and economic driver. More is now required for success than simply access to raw resources. As stated in earlier articles, the OECD and other economic think tanks and authors from around the world have identified the need for jurisdictions to move rapidly in incorporating 21st Century learning into all levels of their education systems to position their people and societies for success in the knowledge and digital era. 

John Kershaw is the former deputy minister of the New Brunswick Department of Education (Anglophone Sector) where he advocated for 21st Century learning, including the integration of ICT with pedagogy in public education. He is now co-president of 21st Century Learning Associates Inc., a firm committed to providing excellence in education consulting services and advocating for 21st Century learning.




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