How do we know if our students are gaining the skills they need to be successful in the 21st Century?

and what do we do about it…?

The world is continuously changing – and it is critical that education systems change as well. Countries worldwide increasingly recognize that transforming their educational system is crucial for global competitiveness. Access to quality education for all is the key to sustaining economic development and the social inclusion of students around the world. The holistic approach in policy reform, integration of ICT, along with changes in curriculum, assessment, research and evaluation, and teacher professional development, is critical in this process to equip students with 21st century skills that enable their full social and economic participation. Intel developed a model of this holistic approach and supports governments in more than 70 countries with 200 programs transforming education systems. The Intel Teach program, which has trained more than 10 million teachers in developing 21st century skills in their students, is just one example.

One of the biggest challenges that education still faces is the assessment of students’ skills, especially 21st century skills like critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, digital literacy and social networking. In 2009, together with Cisco and Microsoft, we founded ATC21S, – Assessment and Teaching for 21st Century Skills – a research project to investigate and develop cutting edge methods to support the teaching and assessment of 21st century skills in students. It is a collaborative venture involving more than 260 international researchers, developers, education specialists, practitioners, and other experts, headquartered at the University of Melbourne and led by Professor Patrick Griffin. It includes national governments  (Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States) and is supported by intergovernmental organizations (Inter American Development Bank (IADB), International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), The World Bank), researchers, teaching institutions, and commercial companies.

I’m excited to announce that the team will be launching an integrated system for assessment, reporting and teaching of 21st century skills in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on July 2, 2012 – on the eve of the International Test Conference.  The project represents an international effort to broker common standards, assessments and terminologies in 21st century skills.  Where previously people cited the importance of 21st century skills, ATC21S provides a system for understanding them, measuring them, and helping teachers to teach them.  This is a major milestone in helping our education systems successfully prepare students for the 21st century. It has been recognized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as filling a critical gap between existing basic research on assessment design and methodologies, and the implementation of large-scale assessments that provide reliable data at reasonable cost. 

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