Students Want, But Aren’t Getting, 21st-Century-Skills Training

By Caralee J. Adams — May 30, 2013 2 min read
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A new Gallup poll shows that young adults recognize the value of 21st-century skills, such as problem-solving, global awareness, and communication, but say they didn’t get enough of an opportunity in high school or college to develop them. Those who did, however, reported higher job satisfaction.

The national telephone survey of about 1,000 18- to 35-year-olds in April found that 28 percent of those with a high school diplomas or less say they “often” worked on a long-term project that took several classes to complete, compared with 50 percent of college students or graduates and 65 percent of those with postgraduate work or a degree who say the same.

When it comes to applying classroom lessons to developing solutions to real problems in the community or the world, about 22 percent of those with a high school diploma or less reported they had, while 27 percent of college students or graduates did, and the figure was 37 percent for those with a postgraduate education.

Gallup worked with Microsoft Partners in Learning and the Pearson Foundation to developed a 21st-century-skills index that measured seven areas: collaboration, knowledge construction, skilled communication, global awareness, self-regulation, real-world problem-solving, and technology used in learning. There has been an increased demand to prepare young people with these skills to meet the demands of today’s knowledge-based, technology-driven, and globalized workplace.

Educators are picking up on the push for deeper learning and adapting curriculum, as reflected in the responses by age in the Gallup poll.

About 37 percent of younger adults ages 18 to 22 say they applied what they learned in school to solve real-world problems in their last year of school compared with 28 percent of respondents ages 23 to 35, the survey found.

Still, about 59 percent of all those polled say they “strongly agree” or “agree” that they developed most of the skills they use in their current job outside of school.

Many jobs today require collaborative technology skills, but the Gallup poll found many students are not being exposed to those in school. While 86 percent say they often used computers or technology to complete assignments or projects in their last year of school, only 14 percent say they often worked with others using video conference or online collaboration tools, and 39 percent of young adults say they never did.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.