Education for the 21st Century… How do we get there?

Written by Gilberto Pinzon & Ana Maria Fernandez on 16 April 2008.

The world is facing very important and dramatic changes. Globalization challenges individuals who are not only competing within their own countries and regions, but with other very well educated individuals from all around the world.

Manual labor has moved to less developed countries in South America and Asia. The development and research of new technologies and products is no longer limited to the industrialized countries like Japan, Germany, England or The United States. There are new players in the game; China, India, Korea and Eastern Europe and many more that will follow. Our education system was set over a hundred years ago during the beginning of the industrial era. The World has changed and so should Education. Our children need new competitive skills. Mathematics, language and science are not enough any more. The Arts are now playing a major roll when defining education for the 21st century. In addition, cooperative work, creative and innovative skills, adaptability and global awareness are now leading the way!

The question is how do we get there? Although it sounds complicated, the answer requires just a change of mind! In order to make this happen we all need to believe, support and incorporate more team work, art classes, drama, design, technology, interdisciplinary problem solving and musical education into the educational program. Of course literacy, math, science and social studies will continue to be a strong part of the educational curriculum; the key is to be able to integrate them and to be open minded, as well as understand that children need to be exposed to challenging, fun and creative though-provoking environments from birth and beyond.

The arts, in general, and specially music have proven to have many benefits on the development of  children. Music promotes discipline, concentration, determination, self-esteem, communication and creativity. It enhances mathematical thinking, intelligence development and helps individuals in real and substantial ways: socially, academically, and life in general.  According to the report from the Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances. Moreover, the College Board in New York considers music to be one of the essential subject areas students should study in order to succeed in college. The very best engineers and technical designers in Silicon Valley are, nearly without exception, practicing musicians. A research team (Shaw, Rauscher, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb1997) exploring the link between music and intelligence, reported that music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children's abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math, science and being able to solve problems making inter-disciplinary connections.

The right school is the one that provides an approach of multi-disciplinary areas working together to offer a curriculum designed for Education in the 21st Century. Consequently the goal is a school where children are understood to be global citizens, with a curriculum that must follow international and contemporary standards of education. Parents have to look for integration of the core areas and art programs where children learn in a fun filled way about art and the masters, and where children not only express their feelings freely through their creations but work cooperatively analyzing, discussing and following thinking patterns that lead them beyond the act of mixing material for a collage.

the key is to be able to work together, be opened minded, and understand children need to be exposed to challenging, fun and creative thought-provoking environments from birth and beyond.

Schools must encourage connections with multicultural experiences and promote the development of team skills, creativity, concentration, values, mathematical thinking, self steam like many other skills and it needs to start from early childhood on.

The commitment to strive for excellence in order to make a difference in children’s lives has to be a priority. Children need to stop being exposed to education as if we were still living in the industrial era. The 21st Century is already here and children need to be thinking outside the box, being creative for a purpose, thinking globally, learning to work and think cooperatively, being aware of multiple ways to find information, and learning key concepts that will allow them to make connections and think critically to adapt to such a rapidly evolving world. The fact is that the only way we will help our children get there is through the acceptance and incorporation of an international and global education program.