Sixteen skills and competencies have been identified by the World Economic Forum as essential for today's students. The report by the World Economic Forum written in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reveals that students lack essential 21st century skills and that the solution lies in the implementation of education technology in the teaching of language arts, math, and science as well as for the honing of students' critical thinking, perseverance, and creativity.
According to the detailed report, the consequence of this skill gap is twofold, as students are lacking skills essential for their professional advancement and countries and companies have a hard time finding qualified, skilled workers.
The World Economic Forum's report adeptly titled, "New Vision for Education: Unlocking the Potential of Technology" classifies the core 21st century skills as falling into three main categories:
- foundational literacies (numeracy, literacy, scientific literacy, ICT literacy, financial and civic)
- competencies (problem solving, creativity, communication, collaboration),
- character qualities (curiosity, initiative, grit, leadership, adaptability and social and cultural awareness)
Indicatively, the report shows that US students have substantial learning gaps in numeracy and literacy when compared with the skills of their high-performing peers in Finland, South Korea and Japan.
An Education Testing Services (ETS) report on "Millennials and The Future" lists the results of a OECD survey on adult skills which highlights the same skill gap in young people:
"Our best-educated millennials—those with a master's or research degree—only scored higher than their peers in Ireland, Poland, and Spain."
Felix W. Ortiz IIII of the Huffington Post points out the glaring skill gap of US students when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math:
"Right now, our students, especially millennials, are losing ground to the rest of the world. . . In the age of rapid digital innovation, companies have huge demand for graduates with STEM skills."
Even the top-scoring U.S. millennials performed worse than the millennials in 15 of the 22 participating countries, the report by the WEF shows. For WEF, Education technologies can lower the cost of education and at the same time improve its quality. However:
"for technology to reach its greatest potential . . . it needs to be better integrated throughout the instruction process and focus on problems unique to each country's educational context." Mengyu Annie Luo, Head of Media, Entertainment, and Information industries at the World Economic Forum emphasized.
The solution WEF puts on the table includes a combination of personalized and adaptive curricula, open education resources, and the formal training and development of teachers in digital technologies. This requires the streamlined collaboration of policy-makers, ed tech providers, educators and funders, as is highlighted in the same report.
The World Economic Forum emphasizes the assessment and realignment of the systems in use and standards for the development of 21st century skills, and the funding of the piloting, transferring and scaling up of technology-enabled educational models.