21st century skills – A learning journey for both of us: teachers and students

21st century skills – A learning journey for both of us: teachers and students

Have you ever wondered how Education has changed over the years? What challenges have you been facing, whether you are a student or a teacher? Moreover, what does the term “21st century skills” mean? So many questions.

As an educator working in an international school for the past 20 years, I have had the opportunity to discuss such issues with several colleagues as well as my students. We did not seem to reach a consensus, but there are a few points, which are worth highlighting.

Firstly, there is a growing number of learners that seem to be totally disengaged from their studies, simply because of their perception that education is not relevant in terms of their future or employability prospects.

Secondly, teachers and students are torn apart by the following dilemma: employers are constantly demanding higher order cognitive skills, but at the same time, the school systems persistently focus on a pedagogy and methodologies largely centred on knowledge, leaving aside skills and personal attributes.

And lastly, but not by far the least, due to the capacity for interaction that has changed so enormously through the developments in communication technology, it is a must to ensure that our students are taught the appropriate skills not only to utilize opportunities, but also question what they read and critically engage with what they learn.

Considering all that is at stake when we talk about Education: preparing students with skills, knowledge and understanding for jobs that have yet to be invented; ensuring that they also focus on their wellbeing and happiness, I dare to say that teachers have a mammoth job in the years to come. I dare to say that it is as challenging as the 12 labors of Hercules. lit is my understanding that the core pillars in a teacher’s practice to foster dispositions, skills and competencies amongst students are or should be the following:

-Learning to learn

-Learning to think (Critical thinking and problem solving)

-Collaboration (empathy, accepting diversity)


-Digital literacy



Teachers play a vital role in students’ lives; they are the biggest influencers regarding performance, behaviour, attitude, and disposition to learn. But it is also true that teacher’s improvements tend to plateau after teaching for a period of time. Inspiring students require modelling. It needs to come from us the attributes we aim to instill in our students.

As Dylan Williams says, “the hardest bit is not getting new ideas into people’s heads, it is getting the old ones out”.

We should be constantly asking ourselves “why do I teach the way I do?” and then, upon reflection, improve our own pedagogy. In addition, maybe taking a step to establish learning communities, where teachers could learn together by sharing experiences and best practice.


Selma Rio Gonçalves



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