Curriculum Innovation and the Nurturing of 21st Century Learners

Project Number
OER 54/12 TLS

Project Duration
May 2013 - March 2017


This paper proposes a study to identify the key elements in integrating 21st century competencies into the existing education systems. These key elements may have implications for substantial restructuring of curricula, modifications to pedagogical practices in the East-Asian forms of pedagogies and student acquisition of wider key competencies. Due to the emergence of highly sophisticated information and communication technologies, the 21st century workforce require skills that emphasize expert thinking, complex communication, effective pattern matching based on detailed knowledge, and metacognition. These are skills and tasks that computers cannot do (Dede, 2010). Thus, schools are pressured to restructure and rethink how to be relevant. Schools today are on the threshold of a ''tipping point'' (Kay, 2010) which requires radical reconceptualization of educational practices. The emergence of this ''tipping point'' is a result of technological advancement, together with the demand and tension of an assemblage of critical mass of circumstances brought on by globalisation and internationalisation of economy along with keen cross-border competition for talents. Since school is seen as one of the significant social agencies to prepare future employees and citizens, the assemblage of critical mass of circumstances has increased the urgency for schools to respond to this new status quo. Given this situation, there is compelling need for educators to ask deeper questions such as how do schools adapt to the 21st century stresses? What steps can schools take to build learner capacities and equip learners to meet the challenges of the 21st century? How can schools assess the desired 21st century competencies such as critical and creative thinking and incorporate these competencies as a part of overall student performance? How do we resolve the existing tensions between traditional classroom assessment and creativity? The continual emphasis on performativity in high-stakes examination has led scholars to question the relevance of scripted instruction (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Sawyer, 2004, 2006; Schwartz, Bransford, & Sears, 2005) and the practice of learning examination skills in the 21st century. Scholars even argue that school teaching results in learners acquiring fragile knowledge (Perkins, 1992), which is associated with poor thinking and an inability to solve real life problems. Although Singapore schools hold a track record of excellence in standardised achievement examinations (Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010), schools are facing the challenge of making waves in adapting the 21st century competencies into the existing education systems. Schools need to undertake two major tasks: firstly, they have to adjust the mind-sets of key stakeholders to value competencies beyond the high-stakes examination; secondly, they have to identify sociocultural leverages to inform practices in restructuring curriculum and processes; finally, it is to build teacher capacities in delivering a 21st century curriculum. To build the 21st century workforce, schools have to make a concerted effort to achieve the critical confluence of curriculum innovation, teacher learning and student outcomes. For instance, in response to the high demand for a creative workforce, the current discourse among educators and policymakers has turned to the creation of an environment that fosters everyday creativity and collective creativity rather than extraordinary creativity which is achievable by only a few outstanding individuals (Craft, 2003). Consequently, these demands and tensions have pressed schools to assume the role of a broker in nurturing talent rather than the sole agent in disseminating knowledge and skills. This study examines the structures and curriculum processes that broaden the IP learners' educational experiences and nurture creativity, criticality, and self-directedness for the 21st century.

Research Themes
Creativity/21st CC

Funding Source

Related Links
ReEd Vol 12 (2013): Curriculum Innovation: The Full Story
NIE Research Briefs No. 16-005: Curriculum Innovation and the Nurturing of 21st Century Learners

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