21st Century Skills

The other day, as I was driving home, I heard a segment on Marketplace on NPR about what the future holds for the job market, and thus, what skills our children need to learn in order to have a good chance at success. At first I was drawn in by the sounds of the baby, and my own personal connection to the story, but I listened to the whole story because it was promoting the values that guide us here at INTL*. It was discussing what many independent school educators are discussing these days – “21st Century Skills” and how best to teach them.

One of the experts they spoke to in the piece said, “This is becoming a borderless, global workplace. Children born today will spend a part of their lives abroad, if they are successful professionals, in the same way their parents moved to different states.” This clearly supports the need for learning languages, for even the most basic reasons. But the connections between INTL’s mission and the recommendations went deeper. Another expert went on to define the key skills that will be needed: “Analytic and quantitative skills; social awareness, social IQ as I call it; creative problem-solving; the ability to be adaptable; language skills, foreign languages; and then of course, communications skills.” These are exactly the skills we hold in high esteem at INTL, and that are part of what is learned in a bilingual immersion education. They went on to discuss how problem-solving, usually taught through group work, is key. While our students do need to learn basics, it is more important that they become strong problem-solvers than that they have memorized a lot of information.

Towards the end of the piece, they emphasized the importance of adaptability – “every rapid change means that it's going to be hard to be proficient at a skill that will take you through 40 years of workforce career. So your ability to be adaptable is going to be extremely important.” This sort of adaptability is one of the major attributes of a bilingual mind. Bilingual learners develop an internalized capacity to view a problem at hand from many perspectives, and to adapt to different situations more easily because they have an inherent understanding that there is not just one way to do something or one word to describe something.

Critical thinking, international awareness, and global citizenship are not just the central words in our mission, but are the foundations for success in the future world

 *In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.