What is 21st Century Skills, Definition, Types, Meaning, Need, Dimension

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The development of a nation and society goes hand in hand with the development of the individual. When the society and the nation

develops, it has a direct impact upon the development of an individual and vice-versa. With the coming of the 21st century, the entire world is witnessing a period of intense transformation in all areas such as education, global trade, economy, technology or society. The COVID-19 has also challenged the individual to cope up with its impacts. Thus, for such times when transformation is taking place quickly, a new and upgraded skill set is required for the students so that they are able to cope up with changing realities to face challenges in real life, leading to their comprehensive progress. The new 21st century skills would enable the students to contribute to the progress of the society and the nation.

Empowering our students with these skills is also a challenging task. The government has adopted and initiated several innovative policies and practices so that the younger generation of students can be empowered with 21st century skills.

The new education policy is a step forward in providing 21st century skills to the students. The Prime Minister has also mentioned the importance of inculcating 21st century skills in the students in his ‘Mann ki Baat program. He has focussed upon critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, curiosity and communication for the students so that they can be ready for facing the challenges of 21st century.

What are 21st Century Skills?

The term 21st century skills refer to a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed by educators, reformers, college faculties, employers etc to be critically important for success in today’s world. Simply, these skills are those skills that are required by an individual to face the challenges of the 21st century world which is characterised by a digitally transforming, globally active, collaborative, forward moving, creatively progressing and quickly adopting world. The students of 21st century will require skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and leadership, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneuralism, oral and written communication, information analysis etc.

On the basis of historical development of 21st century skills, these can be broadly divided into learning skills, life skills and literacy skills.

• Learning Skills

Skills required for the aquisition of new knowledge. Learning skills involve critical thinking, creativity and innovation, collaboration and communication.

• Literacy Skills

Skills that help in creating and gaining new knowledge through reading, media and digital resources. Literacy skills involve information literacy, media literacy and technology literacy.

• Life Skills

Skills required for successfully leading and living everyday life. Life skills include flexibility and adaptability, leadership and responsibility, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural interaction.

Defining the 21st Century Skills

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Critical thinking is the capability of an individual to objectively analyse a piece of information without any biases. It involves fairness and open-mindedness, being informed and active, being independent, willingness to question and to entertain doubts and recognising and assessing values, peer pressure and media influences.

Problem solving involves identifying relevant information by filtering out irrelevant data, and relating the set of information with another to solve the current roblem on the basis of previous experience. These skills enables the student to analyse and evaluate various perspectives and interpret available information to reach conclusions. It enables the student to solve real world problems by exploring and observing their surroundings carefully.

Creativity and Innovation

Creativity refers to new ways of seeing or doing things by generating new ideas (fluency), flexibility (shifting perspective easily), originality (conceiving something new) and elaboration (building on other’s idea). Innovation means creation of something new, unique which is an improved version of the existing idea and is distinctive.

These skills enables students to bring out new ideas by brainstorming. They are able to use all the available concepts to create useful ideas and simultaneously improve one’s creativity. The students learn how to communicate the new ideas to others.


It the ability to effectively work together with others. It involves working together, respecting other’s needs and perspectives and contributing to and accepting the final outcome. Collaboration broadens the cultural, social and environmental boundaries and helps a student to understand social and environmental concerns better.


It is the ability to express one’s opinions, desires, needs, apprehensions oneself appropriately in a verbal and non-verbal manner. Communication skills can be used by the students for a variety of purposes. They are able to effectively disburse their ideas to others as well as listen to others carefully to infer meanings. They are able to use several forms of media and technologies with ease and know their usefulness with the help of good communication skills.

Information Skills

These skills involve the ability to access information, media and technology to understand and critically evaluate different aspects of content and information and create and communicate with ease.

With the help of informational skills students critically access and evaluate information and manage information from a wide variety of sources. They are able to understand the sources of information and understand the issues they face.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Flexibility refers to person’s ability to change his actions and steps taken by him according to new situation and efficiently facing difficult situation without compromising on values. Adaptability is a person’s quality where they can modify or change oneself to suit a new environment. For our students, these skills are of utmost importance as they help them in moving forward in difficult times.

Leadership and Responsibility

Leadership is the ability to guide a team and be capable of managing a team in relation to real world. These skills enable students to be committed, resilient and confident. Responsibility means being a good citizen being aware of the important social and national issues that have impact on our daily life as a citizen and student and being aware of our Fundamental Duties and Rights.

Initiative and Self-Direction

Initiative means the ability to begin a task independently and self-direction refers to working with integrity on self-motivation skills enables a student to work readily with diverse groups. They are able to manage time properly and are able to critically analyse their past to make the future better.

Productivity and Accountability

Productivity can be understood as fulfilment of any task within a given time period. Accountability refers to the feeling of responsibility for any work done. It enables the students to set and meet their goals in times of obstacles and pressure. They are able to manage themselves punctually and patiently.

Social and Cross Cultural Interaction

These are the skills to communicate, work, collaborate in diverse social and cultural environments. It gives the students the opportunity to work with people of diverse background, behave respectfully and build a healthy team environment.

Need for 21st Century Skills

21st century skills in the students are required not only because they have to face the problems of 21st century but also because they are able to learn completely and comprehensively only when they can become excellent citizens and are able to perform and fulfil their responsibilities towards themselves, society and towards the nation. The goal of teaching 21st century skills is to enable the student’s potential by making them responsible human beings who are well aware of their competence and abilities.

Studying for exams is not going to be enough for the 21st century. It will not help the students face everyday life situations of 21st century. These skills will be allowing the students to face their real life issues with an effective strategy. The growth and development of students in 21st cer-ury can be complete with these skills. These skills are also required to bridge the gender gap in schooling and employment where there are more opportunities for male students as compared to females and other genders.

Children with special needs can be empowered with the help of these skills so that they can feel independent in their home, school and community environments. Because of the rapid economic, social change, schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that are still emerging and problems that humans don’t yet know and understand. These skills will also support the young and vulnerable adolescent population so that they can develop themselves fully, cope up with risky situations and manage daily life pressure.

Dimensions of 21st Century Skills

21st century skills in the students requires them to build awareness in Global issues, be financially, economically literate, have civic literacy, health and environmental literacy. These dimensions can be explained as

• Global Awareness 21st century requires a student to be aware of the global cultures and he/she should learn to work in collaboration with people from diverse cultures, countries and religion. They should understand the specific needs of people from different cultures.

• Financial and Economic Literacy Students must be able to make appropriate personal economic decisions concerning them. They should know the role of their country’s economy in everyday life so that it will enhance productivity and their career.

• Civic Literacy Students should be responsible citizens and shall effectively participate in civic life. They should exercise their rights and duties and understand the national and international importance of their civic decisions.

• Health Literacy Students should be aware and understand about basic health, safety and services that will improve health. They should be able to fully understand holistic well-being, including proper diet, nutrition, exercise and be stress free. They should be able to monitor personal health goals.

• Environmental Literacy Students should be aware of the impact of everyday life actions, like rising pollution, population on the environment. They should investigate and analyse issues affecting environment to reach out at solutions. They should be able to collectively act for addressing issues related to natural environment.


The world is changing of a face pace. We are supplying our students with skills that are not sufficient to address modern problems. Today due to rapidly changing economy, society, environment, technology, students are required to upgrade themselves and be ready for the current situations they face as well as those scenarios that they have never faced. Teachers should encourage their students to take on collaborative projects, engage them in extra-curricular activities and teach them to collaborate with their peers. Inculcating these new age skills in our students will require participation of teachers, government, parents, educators, technology creators and most importantly, the students themselves.

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