Educational leaders, governments and international organizations have responded to the combined forces of globalization and socio-technological transformation by formulating new education frameworks to attempt to equip young people with an education relevant to the needs of today. Some of these initiatives, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) program have their emphasis on the healthy development of the individual within the context of sustainable community. Others, such as Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) focus more on individual competition with wellness and community being important but secondary motives. Many of the 21st century skill models that have been developed display progressive attributes. However, there is potential for criticism of them as well. For example, the basis of these reforms can be taken by some as stemming from neo-liberal trends that are commodifying education and people instead of supporting more cooperative mindsets such as those found in ESD. Also, the prioritization of traditional text types and registers within the classroom may be ignoring the potential to help contribute to a more engaging and authentic education for many students by recognizing the diversity of modes of communication through a multiliteracies approach. Another point for critique in this presentation relates to how assessment washback from standardized testing could actually be diluting the time spent to train the most important components of 21st century skills in the classroom, and how incorporating more process-oriented assessment that takes multiliteracies into account could be helpful in this regard.
Russell Hazard, Beijing Aidi Teaching, Learning, & Innovation Center, China
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