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21st-Century Life Skills that Schools Should Teach Students

21 Educators Share Life Skills All Students Need to Succeed in the 21st-Century
Eric Do Couto
May 4, 2021

What 21st-Century Life Skills should Students have Before Leaving High School?

During the second season of the Competentencies without a Classroom podcast, SpacesEDU interviewed 21 leading educators, teachers and education consultants on what life skills they wished they had been taught, or taught more of, before leaving high school. The answers we received were pretty interesting!

When asked about what 21st-century life skills they would ensure students in high schools today would be taught before leaving school, here were some of the answers.

  • Financial Literacy
  • Empathy or Social-Emotional Learning
  • Time Management
  • Mindfulness and Self-Awareness
  • Self-Advocacy
  • Losing Gracefully
  • Collaboration and Team Work
  • Self-Assessment and Reflection
  • Cooking
  • Digital Citizenship

Financial Literacy as a 21st-Century Skill for Students

How do I do my taxes? What about a 401K or Roth IRA account? How do I invest? What do I need to know to save up for or buy a home? How does cryptocurrency work? What are stocks? Bonds? Options?

Students leaving high school do not often have the answers to these questions. However, among the 21 educators who we interviewed for the podcast, a significant number of them suggested that financial literacy is required to succeed in the 21st-century.

It's been theorized that students' interest in learning about money is limited because they themselves do not have or are not earning significant amounts of money on their own. However many students often express frustration or bewilderment after graduation when they are then tasked with learning about taxes or savings after high school.

Time Management as a 21st-Century Skill for Students

Oftentimes, a student's time management skills are dictated by the schedules of their classes, parents and extracurricular activities. Some students may find that their time management skills might not be where they need to be once they hit college or start their careers after school. The newfound freedom associated with college life or their first full-time job may have young people now tasked with managing a lot more responsibility, and more choice in their schedules. Learning to prioritize responsibilities, break down significant tasks into smaller tasks and managing competing interests will help to prevent burnout and ensure the most important duties are taken care of.

Collaboration and Teamwork as a 21st-Century Skill for Students

Upon graduating from high school and entering college or the workplace, students will find out very quickly that their ability to collaborate with others in order to complete major projects and achieve significant goals is critical.

Collaboration and teamwork is a skill set that requires students to learn how to work with personalities that may be very dissimilar to their own. Coworkers' personalities may not synchronize perfectly with their own. The ability to learn to maximize a team's strengths, learn to be a team player and also be a team leader are critical for success in the 21st-century, and so many educators agree that teamwork and collaboration is a critical 21st-century life skill for students to learn.


Self-Assessment and Reflection as a 21st-Century Skill for Students

Another reoccurring theme among the 21 educators that we interviewed was self-reflection and self-assessment. Student portfolios are oftentimes a tool that students and teachers alike will utilize in the classroom in order to document their self-reflection, their work and their learning. Self-reflection allows students to record the process, progress and product or results of everything they've learned.

Ultimately, self-reflection allows for students to showcase the thought-processes behind their problem solving or classwork, enables reflection of the student's emotional processes and helps students to reflect on what they would do differently so that they can improve upon their work and skill set the next time they tackle a similar challenge.


What 21st-century life skill do you think is most important to learn for high school students?

Do you agree with the answers of the teachers we interviewed? What 21st-century life skill do you think is most important for students to learn today as they leave high school? Why?

And how would you change the curriculum to teach these life skills?

Tweet at @Spaces_edu and share your thoughts!

Eric Do Couto

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