Moving Toward the Future: Competencies and Education Systems
Competencies are demonstrated accomplishments inside or outside of the formal education system. Competencies are made up of combinations of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Under a competency approach, students demonstrate that they are able to use what they learn in different educational subjects or occupational areas to solve meaningful tasks and challenges.
Competencies respond to the “new division of labor” in the 21st Century Economy:
ICT is replacing workers in jobs requiring routine lower-level skills.
Technology is enhancing the value of people with higher-level competencies involving data analyses, interpretation, and problem solving.
Trade is increasing the economic importance of being competent in communicating in a foreign language through multiple modalities.
Multiple jobs and technological innovations are increasing the importance of broader occupational competencies.
In addition, technological changes are having fundamental impacts on society and the environment. The concern over global warming and the push toward a clean environment are two prominent examples. Moreover, technology is also exerting fundamental changes in how we live individually and in social networks. A 21st Century education needs to prepare students with the competencies to intelligently understand and manage their lives in society and the environment as well as employment.
The different elements of the education system need to be properly aligned to support students achieving the competencies and the component knowledge, skills and attitudes that support the competencies. Alignment starts with the standards that identify what students are intended to know about a content area in the context of the 21st Century competencies. Instructional topics and teacher preparation should be aligned to ground students in the education specified by standards. Assessment and accountability systems should include assessment items that are sufficiently authentic to cover appropriate learning of both information and the application of information to approximate authentic contexts. Trade in education services, real or virtual can facilitate an economy meeting highs standards through taking advantage of international expertise
ICT is increasingly an important part of a 21st Century education system. ICT is already an essential tool for students to use in problem solving in applied areas including mathematics, science and vocational education. But in the future, ICT can also be important for delivering instruction or professional development, as several symposium examples illustrate for language, mathematics, and science.
The knowledge, skills and attitudes so important to the 21st century workforce are known as 21st Century Competencies. These 21st Century Competencies have been distilled by APEC leaders into four priority areas:
Four Key Priority Areas
Results of the Symposium
At the end of the symposium, Ambassador Juan Carlos Capuñay, Executive Director of APEC, charged Member Economies to develop strategic action plans in each priority area that can be used as a resource for the Education Ministers’ meeting in June 2008. The result is a set of recommendations in each priority area developed by symposium participants and deemed to be feasible given time, financial, structural and other constraints. These recommendations focus on providing students in the APEC region with the competencies--knowledge, skills and attitudes--necessary to function in a 21st Century global economy.
APEC Economies were encouraged to develop their strategic plans within each priority area using the following framework.
Standards and Assessments
Standards should identify what students ought to know in core content areas and ensure that students are demonstrating the development of 21st Century competencies over time. Open-ended assessment items that measure content mastery and the application of knowledge learned to real world contexts through problem solving should be incorporated.
Teachers and Instruction
Teacher recruitment, preparation, certification and ongoing professional development should include instruction on how to embed opportunities for students to develop 21st Century Competencies in the core curriculum. Teachers should also be trained to implement and capitalize on ICT solutions that will, in the long term, facilitate systemic reform.
Policies and Research
Research on the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values most highly correlated with student success in the 21st Century economy should inform Member Economies’ domestic policies related to standards, assessment, teacher quality and instruction, and inform the direction of EDNET projects.
Resources and Tools
ICT, in particular, provides the opportunity for teachers and students to gain access to expanded knowledge, personalized instruction, and learn by “doing” through on-line simulations. Virtual and on-line exchanges are also useful for building learning communities and sharing best practices.