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Reimagining Education for the 21st Century

The National Education Association (NEA), in partnership with the business community and policy makers, has published the 4Cs of 21st Century Learning to better prepare students for success in college and career in our globalized world. “In the modern ‘flat world’, the ‘3Rs’ simply aren’t enough. If students want to compete in this global society, however, they must also be proficient communicators, creators, critical thinkers and collaborators (the ‘4Cs’).” The 4Cs are meant to be integrated into the teaching and learning process to promote more active learning approaches in order to achieve a national competitive edge as a country in the global economy by preparing students to employ the 4Cs to “better serve customers, develop better products and continuously improve themselves within an ever-changing global economy.” Should a purely economic motive be the premise for reimagining education in the 21st century? Perhaps the more basic question is: What is the most fundamental goal of schooling in the 21st century?

Many parents’ greatest hope is that their children will go to college and start a promising career in the field of their choice, however choice is the key word here. How will they choose what and where to study for college? How will they choose their future profession and way of making a livelihood? And, beyond these choices, how will they decide who to partner and make a family with in their lives (if they choose to) and how will they structure this and other relationships? How will they raise their children (if they choose to have them)? The most basic question, incorporating all of the questions above is: How will they decide to live their lives?

The starting point for all learning should be real life and how knowledge can empower students to rethink how they live their lives and map out their plans for the future. Contemporary Education proposes a 5C Framework aimed supporting educators to reflect upon their pedagogic practices so that learning will directly impact the decisions students make in their present and future lives. Bottom line is education needs to be meaningful. What makes education meaningful? Let me introduce the Principles of Contemporary Education in 5Cs:To bring together real world situations and concepts across multiple disciplines to make more meaningful practical decisions in life based on a theoretical basis.To raise conscious awareness and deliberate/conscientiously reflect upon the origins of ideas, across historical periods and throughout different cultures, in order to critically evaluate the conceptual meaning that underscores how we act in the world. This goes far beyond the definition of critical thinking as high order cognitive skill, according to the 4Cs Framework.To deeply understand theory and practice from multiple perspectives and combine them in new, original ways that empower students to make their own (intentional/meaningful) decisions in life. This differs from the 4C Framework’s definition of creativity as the use of a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming) to elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate ideas and create new, worthwhile ideas.To fully contribute to a joint endeavor: giving ideas, being open to receiving ideas, deliberating with others to evaluate ideas and to negotiate a shared course of action, which all are co-responsible. The 4C Framework definition of collaboration is working effectively, flexibly and respectfully with diverse teams with willingness to compromise, taking shared responsibility and valuing the contributions of others. The main difference between these two definitions is the joint deliberation, evaluation and negotiation which is much more than compromise and necessitates more than respect.To show true empathy and genuine concern toward others, taking all possible measures to avoid harm and promote kindness and compassion. This conception of care is underscored by an understanding that we are all the diverse parts of one unified fabric – that we become who we are because of our relationships with others and because of that we are co-responsible for one another.

Communication is the other C of the 4C Framework but it is not part of the 5Cs of Contemporary Education because it is not considered to be a fundamental characteristic of 21st Century Learning, but rather woven into pedagogic and human activities, such as a school dialogue or formal presentation of a project that is characterized by these new basics to replace the old status quo of schooling. The 5Cs Framework of Contemporary Education is proposed as an alternative to traditional schooling which has been based largely on the competition amongst students, reproduction of standardized knowledge, obedience to rules that are beyond reproach, fragmentation of learning into unrelated subjects and tolerance, or a putting up, with others, especially those who are different than you. In summary, here are the old basics of traditional school alongside the 5Cs Framework for reimagining education in the 21st century.



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