21st Century Education

From the Three Rs to the Four Cs to the Workplace

Jan 26,2023

First published in the T-AB Journal of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand – Volume 2, June 2019 (pages 10-11)

Think about your job for a minute. What do you do every day? Do you face a series of routine, repetitive tasks? Or, does each day bring a new and possibly unique set of challenges that require you to draw upon your hard skill set, your soft skill set, or more likely a combination of the two to tackle these issues? If you are reading T-AB, odds are that you have mastered the ability to combine hard and soft skills and are in a role that recognizes your talents.

What about your teammates or your employees? What are they facing on a daily basis? Are they prepared for these challenges? Can they effectively combine their hard skills with soft skills to develop creative solutions to business challenges? Chances are you have wondered at some point about your employees’ soft skills, perhaps thinking that they lacked good judgment or good communication skills. If so, you are not alone. The recent Microsoft-IDC study of 101 businesses in Thailand, in fact, found that respondents named creativity (52%) as the most valuable in-demand skill for employees in the future, while the Future of Jobs Report 2018 from the World Economic Forum made clear that executives desired employees with critical thinking and collaboration skills above those with technical skills. Most employers are stressing the critical need for employees with soft skills but are finding the talent pool in Thailand to be shallow indeed.

four Cs of 21st Century skillsThe good news is that these skills can be developed and improved. The challenge is that the education system here in Thailand must do more to build the foundation for what education experts refer to as the four Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity), often referred to as 21st century skills.

Beginning in the early 2000s, education experts in the United States began to sound the alarm that the country’s education system was not doing enough to promote 21st century skills. This was the movement beyond what had traditionally been thought of as basic education needs, the Three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic), to include a host of soft skills needed for the modern workplace. These skills eventually evolved into the four Cs framework we see today. Many schools in the U.S. have effectively adopted these methods and moved away from rote learning so that students do more than simply memorize a math formula and instead learn to apply their lessons to real world situations. Data from the latest TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Assessment) test in 2015 show that U.S. students scored their highest marks in the 20-year history of the exam, thanks to these changes in education and the widespread use of high-impact teaching practices like inquiry-based science with emphasis on the four Cs.

Thailand has started on a similar, albeit more difficult, path to improve its education system, as a critical part of its human capacity development plans under Thailand 4.0. The challenge, of course, is how to change a system as large as Thailand’s, with over 30,000 public schools across the country under the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC). Change will take time, resources, and dedication.

3rs to 4cs workplaceRecognizing the enormity of this challenge, the government has reached out to the private sector and made a significant push for public-private partnerships (PPPs). In response to the government’s call, many AMCHAM member companies, such as Chevron, Boeing, and Microsoft, have all been making sustained investments in education, particularly related to combining the four Cs with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, which have borne impressive results.

Regrettably, some PPPs lack structure and effective mechanisms to ensure they are achieving their intended results and have taken up the valuable time of teachers for little tangible results. So, while it is good news that more companies are investing in education, it’s also important that the investment delivers results and builds the critical 21st century skills students will need when they enter the job market. Until the government can effectively monitor these programs, it will fall to each company to ensure their social investments and partnerships are actually delivering these skills to students. Are yours?

Download the original article in the T-AB Journal here: https://tinyurl.com/y5lsmlqu

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