The 21st century is a more complex world than the one in which the previous generations grew up in. Educators define it as a VUCA world—volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous. The problems of this century are vastly different and more complicated than previously imagined. This means that the demands placed on the next generation workforce will be very different and they will need to be prepared to be more innovative. Compared to the previous generations where the knowledge required was static, the newer generations will need a different set of skills to solve the more complex problems being faced in the modern world.

Education today needs to be more practical and skill-based in order to equip students as skilled workforce of the future. In order for students to be successful in their respective careers, they need to have deep knowledge, the ability to solve complex problems, and also know how to practically use their knowledge and skills across different contexts. To build these life skills students need what is referred to as the four Cs of 21st century skills — Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication.

Critical thinking provides students with the ability to analyse information and as well as problem solving. In this age of information overload, where a lot of it is misleading, one needs to build thinkers who can learn to questions the information they are given in order to verify its accuracy, and accordingly apply it in the correct context. This enables students to stay engaged and ask questions, rather than passively consuming information.

Creativity means the art of thinking outside the box. This doesn’t mean we need more artists or writers in the world, but rather we need workers who can analyse the problems from various, different perspectives and lenses and in accordance come up with innovative solutions that one may not have considered before.

Collaboration is the ability to work together with other people. Almost every job, nowadays, require people to work in groups. However, not everyone possesses a dynamic personality necessary to confront and interact with all kinds of people. Being able to collaborate opens the door to different ideas, pitching solutions, facing rejection of their ideas or even learning from the ideas of others. The most important factor for students to take away from collaboration is that they may not always be right and that one can always be enlightened from the interchange of ideas.

Communication is just as important as the other aspects. Students have to be able to communicate their ideas/solutions effectively. This means that they must grasp the correct usage of tone, language, and understand the group of people they are speaking to and put their point across succinctly without losing attention.

It is only when these four Cs come together that one can make promising future leaders out of students. This provides them with confidence and agency to face the world and tackle all kinds of odds that come their way. By using these four Cs , one can prepare students as the future workforce in all and any capacity. As they grow in their careers, they will learn to adapt, innovate, collarbone and communicate and therefore be more effective leaders in the world tomorrow.

The writer is director, The Green Acres Academy.