21st Century Skills

About the project

Since 2013, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and the Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO Bangkok) have jointly organized a regional research on “21st century skills” in Asia-Pacific region. The research project is funded by Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Japan (MEXT). The objective of this research project is to explore the situation of “21st century skills” in the region in terms of integration of education policies (phase I), implementation in school level (phase II) and teacher training (phase III).

21st Century Skills/Transversal Competencies

Recently, importance of skills and competencies, in addition to academic knowledge and skills, such as creativity, communication skills, and problem-solving skills, are increasingly recognized as a key to nurture human resources that can adapt to knowledge based society. Such skills and competencies are often indicated as “21st century skills”. The growing trend to pay more attention to develop “21st century skills” can be seen in Asia-Pacific region. Indeed, multiple countries in the Asia-Pacific region have started to introduce policy and curriculum aimed at cultivating non-academic skills and competencies.

For example, in 2011, for the first time in its history, Australia developed the national curriculum including “general capabilities” that are essential for Australian citizens to cope with the changes brought by globalization and new technologies (Australia national curriculum). In 2008, the Office of Basic Education Commission of Thailand identified the components of “life skills” in its core curriculum, which intends to develop students’ comprehensive capabilities such as decision-making, problem-solving, creative thinking, creative thinking, communication skills, self-reflection, and empathy.

UNESCO suggests another term “transversal competencies” for the same concept, to reflect the varied language and terminology across the region. UNESCO’s working definition of 21st Century Skilld/Transversal Cometencies is presented below.

Working definition of Transversal Competencies
Working definition of Transversal Competencies (Source: UNESCO ERI-Net)

⬛ Resources

  • UNESCO’s introductory video on 21st Century Skills:

Project Background

There is a wide consensus on the importance of integrating “21st century skills” into education policies. However, a platform to analyze, disseminate and share the information on effective policies related to 21st century skills in education has not fully prepared. This was repeatedly pointed out during expert meetings hosted by UNESCO Bangkok as a missing link.

Regional Studies on 21st Century Skills / Transversal Competencies

With this context, Tokyo Tech and UNESCO Bangkok jointly conducted “Comparative study on 21st Century Skills in education policies in 6 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region and development of a participatory education policy database” (phase I), funded by Japan Official Development Assistance to UNESCO activities, MEXT. In 2014, Tokyo Tech and UNESCO Bangkok worked on the continuous project together as “Comparative study on 21st Century Skills in education practices in 6 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region and promotion of a participatory education policy database” (phase II). This project is also funded by MEXT. In 2015, Tokyo Tech and UNESCO Bangkok continued their collaboration in the following project as “Comparative study on 21st Century Skills in teacher training in 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region” (Phase III).

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