Globalisation, changing demographics and technological advancements are some of the key driving forces of the future. Our students will have to be prepared to face these challenges and seize the opportunities brought about by these forces.
To help our students thrive in a fast-changing world, the Ministry of Education, Singapore (MOE) has identified competencies that have become increasingly important in the 21st Century. These competencies, represented in the following framework, underpin the holistic education that our schools provide to better prepare our students for the future economy and society.
At the same time, home and the family are also important contexts for the student’s development in these competencies. Schools and parents need to work hand-in-hand to help our students develop 21st Century Competencies.
Framework for 21st Century Competencies and Student Outcomes
21st Century Competencies
Knowledge and skills must be underpinned by values. Values define a person’s character. They shape the beliefs, attitudes and actions of a person, and therefore form the core of the framework of 21st Century Competencies.
The middle ring signifies the Social and Emotional Competencies – skills necessary for children to recognise and manage their emotions, develop care and concern for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, as well as handle challenging situations effectively.
The outer ring of the framework represents the emerging 21st Century Competencies necessary for the globalised world we live in. These are:
* Civic Literacy, Global Awareness and Cross-Cultural Skills;
* Critical and Inventive Thinking;
* Communication, Collaboration and Information Skills
Together, these competencies will enable our young to capitalise on the rich opportunities of the new digital age, while keeping a strong Singapore heartbeat. The aim is develop in every Singaporean child, a confident person, a self-directed learner, a concerned citizen, and an active contributor.
Bringing Out the Best in Every Child
The teaching of 21st Century Competencies occurs across the entire school experience and not just in the classroom.
Infused in Total Curriculum
The 21st Century Competencies are explicitly infused into the teaching and learning in all subject areas. For instance, in Science, teachers use inquiry-based approaches that provide students with opportunities to engage with a problem, collect and make meaning of evidence, reason, conduct investigations and make inferences or decisions. In Social Studies, we reinforce the inquiry mindset, requiring students to examine evidence to support different points of view.
Schools offer a wide range of co-curricular activities (CCAs) in the arts, sports, uniformed groups, etc. to provide our students with a diversity of authentic learning experiences and more importantly, the opportunity to work in teams. Students often initiate, plan, and execute events or activities together, and then reflect upon whether they have achieved what they set out to do. This allows our students to learn to deal with less structured and more open-ended situations beyond what they would learn in a classroom. It gives them the opportunity to explore new areas, uncover new knowledge and skills, and try their hand at new activities. Through CCAs, they are able to go beyond the school to interact with the community around their school, further afield in Singapore or even overseas.
Character and Citizenship Education
In addition, schools have in place Values-in-Action (VIA) and Learning for Life Programmes (LLP) which support students’ development as socially responsible citizens who contribute meaningfully to society. These programmes also help students learn and apply values, knowledge and skills, and foster their ownership in contributing to the community. For instance, as part of VIA, students reflect on their experience, the values they have put into practice and how they can continue to contribute meaningfully. Many of the objectives of our character and citizenship education curriculum are achieved through explicit classroom teaching, infusion into the academic curriculum and leveraging teachable moments in CCAs.
Applied Learning Programmes
Complementing the core academic and student development programmes are the Applied Learning programmes (ALP) to help students develop thinking skills, connect knowledge across subject disciplines, stretch their imagination, and apply these in authentic settings. These programmes also aim to help students appreciate the relevance and value of what they are learning in the academic curriculum, and develop stronger motivation and purpose to acquire knowledge and skills.
Capable, Empowered Teachers
Our teachers are equipped with the necessary skills and resources to empower them to develop 21st Century Competencies in students. All our teachers now receive pre-service training from the National Institute of Education (NIE) based on the Teacher Education 21 (TE21) framework (introduced in 2009) with a strong focus on developing the competencies to teach 21st Century Competencies. On-going in-service training and professional development programmes are also available for teachers through the Academy of Singapore Teachers and specialised teacher academies, so that our teachers may sustain their learning and keep abreast of the latest in teaching and learning strategies.
Innovative Teaching Methods to Develop Depth and Breadth of Thinking
Across disciplines and activities, teachers make use of a variety of strategies to help students structure their thinking process. Some examples include the use of concept maps to help students construct the interconnections between different concepts, and thinking routines such as Think-Puzzle-Explore, where students take stock of their prior knowledge, identify puzzling questions or areas of interest to pursue and seek to find out more about the topic. Students also work collaboratively on various tasks and projects which support their development of thinking skills. There is increasingly greater effort to make learning authentic and relevant by situating learning in real-world contexts – through field-trips, hands-on lab and workshop studies. In the past five years, there has been a more pervasive use of information-communication tools to promote self-directed and collaborative learning among students.
Partnerships with Community
Schools work closely with the industry, Institutes of Higher Learning and the community to create many hands-on, authentic learning environments for their students to ensure they develop skills aligned to industry demand and future needs. They also guide students on the career options and possibilities available. Through our partnership with the community, we also enrich the diversity and depth of our CCAs, VIA programmes, LLPs and ALPs.