Education systems failing to provide students with skills for success in 21st century
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Jun 1, 2015 - 11:42 AM

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Education systems are failing to provide students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century, a new study from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Google has found.

The EIU surveyed students, teachers and executives from around the world about their views on skills and teaching. All groups voted problem solving the most critical skill for young people today. Communication and team working were also highly rated.

The majority of students aged 18-25 say these skills are included in their education. But less than half (44%) say the education system is providing them with the skills they need to enter the workforce. Just under half of teachers (49%) say the biggest challenge to their ability to teach 21st-century skills is a lack of time within a strictly regulated curriculum.

Despite the perceived shortcomings of their education, the majority of students are confident in their career prospects. This shows that students are drawing on external sources to build key skills. Almost two thirds of teachers (62%) agree that students are becoming more independent in their learning.

Meanwhile, 85% say that technology has changed the way they teach. But students believe there is still ample room for improvement. Only 23% of students aged 18-25 believe their country's education system is effective at using technology. Tellingly, the majority of teachers (58%) believe their students have a more advanced understanding of technology than they do.

“Our new report shows that while there is consensus on the skills that students need to succeed, students themselves are not satisfied with how they are taught,” says Victoria Tuomisto, editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit. “Governments must therefore support teachers as they adapt their teaching style to the needs of the 21st century.”

The report says: "The greatest barrier to incorporating skills training more broadly into mainstream education appears to be the rigidity of existing curriculums: 49% of teachers find that the curriculum is too rigid to allow time for wider skills to be fostered. However, as Andreas Schleicher, director of the OECD’s Directorate for Education and Skills, highlights, skills can be taught through the traditional subject base—often more effectively than when they are self-consciously administered as a separate focus. He points to countries such as the Nordics and Singapore creating learning environments which strengthen both cognitive and character skills such as tolerance, resilience and leadership."

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