What are 21st Century Skills?

Today’s students need different skills that were taught to previous generations, and cross-disciplinary skills such as writing, critical thinking, self-initiative, group collaboration, and technological literacy are essential to success in higher education, modern workplaces, and adult life. And why is that?


“In the past, when information had a much longer shelf life, learning was something that was done once in your youth. Then you were learning for life. . . Today, learning has become a lifelong process. Given the rapidly changing nature of our world, people of all ages must constantly learn and relearn what they need to know. What they learned yesterday may no longer be valid in tomorrow’s world. Tomorrow, they will have to learn again because today’s information will already be out of date.” (Ian Jukes, Ted McCain and Lee Crockett: Understanding the digital generation: Teaching and learning in the new digital landscape)


21st-century skills are a series of higher-order skills, abilities, and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required for success in 21st-century society and workplaces by educators, business leaders, academics, and governmental agencies. The skills have been grouped into three main areas ( Trilling, Bernie and Fadel, Charles: 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times):


Learning and innovation skills: critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, creativity and innovation.


Digital literacy skills: information literacy, media literacy, Information and communication technologies (ICT) literacy


Career and life skills: flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural interaction, productivity and accountability


An inquiry-based English language teaching approach builds the 21st Century skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. As Kathleen Kampa and Charles Vilina, co-authors of the Oxford Discover books say, it prepares students to communicate across cultures, across borders, across perspectives. As the world evolves and becomes even more interconnected, it is our students to whom we entrust the responsibility of building a better global society.


That leads to CLIL.


The expression CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) was first used by David Marsh (he has been working on multilingualism and bilingual education since the 1980s)

"CLIL refers to situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language."


Phil Ball, Keith Kelly and John Clegg in their book, Putting CLIL into Practice, distinguish Soft CLIL (where teaching and learning are focused mainly on language) and Hard CLIL (here, the focus is on the subject, so it is content-driven).


The 4C's - Content, Communication, Cognition, Culture - are essential principals to this approach. Content refers to the subject or theme of the lesson (e.g. mathematics, art, science, history). Communication refers to students using the target language to communicate their thoughts, opinions, feelings. They "learn to use language and use language to learn," says Coyle. Cognition has reference to critical thinking skills that students use to engage with and understand content, solve problems, and to reflect on their learning. Culture covers collaboration and cooperation. Its ultimate goal is to increase international awareness and understanding.

About CLIL


Hi! I'm Natalia!

Welcome to NatiEnglish where you'll find fun and engaging learning activities and ideas to encourage young English language learners in the 21st Century.


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