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21st Century Skills
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What are 21st Century Skills?

Download the Partnership for 21st Century Skills' Full Skills Definition Document 
Visit the Partnership for 21st Century Skills at


Mastery of core subjects and 21st century themes is essential for all students in the 21st century.

Core subjects include:
  • English, reading or language arts
  • World languages
  • Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Economics
  • Science
  • Geography
  • History
  • Government and Civics
21st century interdisciplinary themes

Global Awareness:

  • Using 21st century skills to understand and address global issues
  • Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts
  • Understanding other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages

Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy:

  • Knowing how to make appropriate personal economic choices
  • Understanding the role of the economy in society
  • Using entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options

Civic Literacy:

  • Participating effectively in civic life through knowing how to stay informed and understanding governmental processes
  • Exercising the rights and obligations of citizenship at local, state, national and global levels
  • Understanding the local and global implications of civic decisions


A focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future.


Think Creatively:

  • Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
  • Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
  • Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts

Work Creatively with Others:

  • Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively
  • Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate group input and feedback into the work
  • Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real world limits to adopting new ideas
  • View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes

Implement Innovations:

  • Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in which the innovation will occur

Reason Effectively:

  • Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as appropriate to the situation

Use Systems Thinking:

  • Analyze how parts of a whole interact with each other to produce overall outcomes in complex systems

Make Judgments and Decisions:

  • Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs
  • Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view
  • Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments
  • Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis
  • Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes

Solve Problems:

  • Solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and innovative ways
  • Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions 

Communicate Clearly:

  • Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts
  • Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes and intentions
  • Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate and persuade)
  • Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priori as well as assess their impact
  • Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including multi-lingual)

Collaborate with Others:

  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  • Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member


To be effective in the 21st century, citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.


Access and Evaluate Information:

  • Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
  • Evaluate information critically and competently

Use and Manage Information:

  • Use information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
  • Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

Analyze Media:

  • Understand both how and why media messages are constructed, and for what purposes
  • Examine how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded, and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of media

Create Media Products:

  • Understand and utilize the most appropriate media creation tools, characteristics and conventions
  • Understand and effectively utilize the most appropriate expressions and interpretations in diverse, multi-cultural environments
ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) LITERACY

Apply Technology Effectively:

  • Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information
  • Use digital technologies (computers, PDAs, media players, GPS, etc.), communication/networking tools and social networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in a knowledge economy
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information technologies


The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in the globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to developing adequate life and career skills.


Adapt to Change:

  • Adapt to varied roles, jobs responsibilities, schedules and contexts
  • Work effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities

Be Flexible:

  • Incorporate feedback effectively
  • Deal positively with praise, setbacks and criticism
  • Understand, negotiate and balance diverse views and beliefs to reach workable solutions, particularly in multi-cultural environments

Manage Goals and Time:

  • Set goals with tangible and intangible success criteria
  • Balance tactical (short-term) and strategic (long-term) goals
  • Utilize time and manage workload efficiently

Work Independently:

  • Monitor, define, prioritize and complete tasks without direct oversight

Be Self-directed Learners:

  • Go beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand one’s own learning and opportunities to gain expertise
  • Demonstrate initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level
  • Demonstrate commitment to learning as a lifelong process
  • Reflect critically on past experiences in order to inform future progress

Interact Effectively with Others:

  • Know when it is appropriate to listen and when to speak
  • Conduct themselves in a respectable, professional manner

Work Effectively in Diverse Teams:

  • Respect cultural differences and work effectively with people from a range of social and cultural backgrounds
  • Respond open-mindedly to different ideas and values
  • Leverage social and cultural differences to create new ideas and increase both innovation and quality of work

Manage Projects:

  • Set and meet goals, even in the face of obstacles and competing pressures
  • Prioritize, plan and manage work to achieve the intended result

Produce Results:

  • Demonstrate additional attributes associated with producing high quality products including the abilities to:
    • Work positively and ethically
    • Manage time and projects effectively
    • Multi-task
    • Participate actively, as well as be reliable and punctual
    • Present oneself professionally and with proper etiquette
    • Collaborate and cooperate effectively with teams
    • Respect and appreciate team diversity
    • Be accountable for results

Guide and Lead Others:

  • Use interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others toward a goal
  • Leverage strengths of others to accomplish a common goal
  • Inspire others to reach their very best via example and selflessness
  • Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior in using influence and power

Be Responsible to Others:

  • Act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind
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