Revamp traditional classroom to impart 21st-century skills

Besides outdoor learning, the authorities should also improve the educational system, including the traditional learning environment, to help students further develop 21st-century skills ("OBS a must? Many parents back it but..."; last Friday).

The term "21st-century skills" is generally used to refer to vital skills needed to help students succeed in the workplace and in life. These skills include higher-order competencies, such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, digital literacy, cultural intelligence and teamwork.

These skills differ from traditional academic skills, as they are not based on content knowledge but on the demands of a changing world.

To help students develop these skills, we need to move further away from what educators call the "factory model" school system. This system is characterised by centralised planning, top-down management, classroom-centric learning, assessment-based outcomes and separation from the community and industry.

Cultivation of 21st-century skills is based on promoting self-directed learning and implemented through practical and hands-on project-based learning activities.

The layouts of classrooms are designed for greater flexibility to support various projects and promote collaborative learning.

There is greater availability and accessibility for teachers and students to use and leverage digital technology, including tablets and interactive projectors.

Schools also engage the support of the community and industry to help students learn sound values and competencies to become useful members of the economy and society.

Volunteers can complement teachers by training students on work-readiness, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and other skills, so as to to help them capitalise on opportunities in the 21st century.

These volunteers can bring real-world experience and wisdom through a variety of projects and programmes.

By helping students develop 21st-century skills, we can help unleash and channel their energy to become better leaders in the future.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 'Revamp traditional classroom to impart 21st-century skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe