Student competences in the 21st Century | Best Schools in Spain

One of the great challenges that face educators today is the need to train modern citizens to successfully live and flourish in the society they live in. The function of teaching has changed a lot throughout history and schools have evolved along with it. However, currently we are going through some momentous changes that we’ve never experienced before due to the accelerated pace in which the world moves, and we are witnessing how this rapid change affects our society. Teaching basic competences to students is a main educational objective, however, is it clear what these competences should be? Do we understand how they evolve? And in what way should we encourage and instil them in our students?

Competences have replaced old approaches to teaching, which in prior years were focused mainly on academic performance and results. These approaches were predominant when determining who the good students were and who would succeed in their university studies and professional careers. Luckily, in many schools a new approach is evolving in regards to the development of these new abilities, which focuses on less-generalised aspects and encourages the personal development of each and every student.

Competences are personal characteristics that are directly related to success in the professional, personal and social fields. This includes knowledge and skills, values, self-image, traits and motives… A broad spectrum of characteristics that shape the development of the young people who learn and grow in our schools today.

In the same way society has changed, schools and organizations are also evolving. The competences that are taught in schools today are under high demand due to the great influences of globalization, technology, diversity and equality.

It’s surprising to see how these competences have evolved over the last five years as a result of the exponential growth of the aforementioned social factors.


The seven basic competences of the Spanish school curriculum

At the educational level, the implementation of LOMCE (Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality) in Spain, resulted in many changes. One of these changes is the definition of the seven core competences of the Spanish curriculum, which are now called Key competences and are in keeping with the European frame of reference:

  1. Competence in linguistic communication
  2. Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology
  3. Digitalcompetence
  4. Learning how to learn
  5. Social and civic competences
  6. A sense of initiative and entrepreneurial spirit
  7. Awareness and cultural expression

However inevitably, education depends on a social reality that grows in a dizzying fashion and at times promotes an understanding of certain competences that don’t always have a direct correlation with what schools have in mind.

For this reason, the schools at Best Schools in Spain are dedicated to adapting their educational programming to the social demands of the present and to those of the foreseeable future.


Skills that 21st century students will need

Competencias alumnos

The World Economic Forum has stressed the need for an educational system whose aim is to educate citizens on how to evolve in a constantly changing technological world. An educational model limited solely to the development of mathematical, linguistic, scientific and artistic competences is therefore insufficient. On the other hand, competences related to critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance, cooperation and curiosity are equally, if not more important.

In fact, the World Economic Forum has warned us about the large number of students from all over the developed world who haven’t acquired many of the 16 key skills and are lacking the knowledge to be competent citizens in the 21st century.

So, what competences should a citizen of the 21st century possess? The World Economic Forum focuses on three general competency types:

  1. Basic competences(linguistic, mathematic, scientific, digital, financial, cultural and civic).
  2. Critical competences(problem solving, creativity, communication, cooperation).
  3. Personal competences(curiosity, initiative, perseverance, adaptability, leadership, and social and cultural awareness).

Failure to obtain any of these 16 competences is not only a problem for individuals who won’t be prepared to live and succeed in the modern world, but is also a problem for countries that will lose their competitive edge due to a lack of skilled professionals who are able to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century. For this reason, the school administrators, teachers, and educational and pedagogical programming developed at the schools at Best Schools in Spain Schools all work hard to embody these 16 competences.


Hard and soft skills

For some time now, the definition of these competences has been divided into two distinctions. In the professional world, there is talk of Hard Skills (HS) and Soft Skills (SS).

Hard skills are the competences and technical skills that we acquire during our educational experience. These skills require us to carry out certain tasks that are related to memory and pure mechanical development.

Soft Skills are what are considered to be social skills. These are interpersonal skills that are acquired in everyday life, and refer to the quotient of emotional intelligence. They include a set of personality traits, social skills, communication, language, and personal habits, all of which are integrated into our work environments and social relationships with others.

With this new approach in mind, a new line of work is being defined in our schools: the development and differentiation of Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills.

Hard Skills have come to be considered secondary to Soft Skills, especially when taking into account the implementation of Artificial Intelligence and other technological dynamics into the workplace in the coming years, which will consequentially affect students in a critical way.

Nowadays, Soft Skills are given much importance because with each day organisations find it more important for their employees to possess such skills. People who are versed in such competences are able to better adapt to the culture of the organisation and work better with the people with whom they share a workplace. These skills are the most difficult to find and develop, but are the ones that add the most value.

Studies carried out by the Stanford Research Institute and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation, involving 500 CEO’s, reached the conclusion that 75% of success in the long-term is a result of soft skills and only 25% comes from technical skills (Sinha, 2008).

While hard skills can be learned and perfected over time, soft skills are more difficult to acquire and change. Therefore, the future challenge that faces our schools’ educational programming has already been established. This, however, cannot be done without first analysing each school and program in depth in order to envision how these skills and competences can be properly integrated.

“The illiterate people of the 21st century won’t be those who are unable to read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” (Alvin Tofler)


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