Wouldn’t it be better if we could change the way learning happens at schools? Do you believe that the days of rote-learning and banking on materialism are gone? Do you think that today’s children require more than just what’s written in their textbooks? In the post-Covid-19 world, we are yet to truly understand and examine the effect that pandemic has unconsciously done on the mental and emotional well-being of children.
There is an overbearing expectation for all children to be proficient at the same sets of academic competencies. Being conditioned to believe that textbook education is the only way for proper learning, a lot of us struggled and are still struggling with what we call 21st Century skills.
These are the skills that are focused on “how to learn” rather than “what to learn”. These are the skills that are focused on “how to think” rather than “what to think”. These skills are not something that can be memorised through books, nor can they be reproduced by all the children through our current examination system. Then, how can these skills be imparted in the appropriate way catering to the individual needs of each child?
Before we move on, we need to understand what these 21st Century skills are. As per various researchers and bodies, these include primarily learning skills with the 4 C’s, digital literacy skills and life skills.
- Learning skills enhance a child’s capacities to adapt to the modern world; they increase the child’s problem-solving abilities, foster creative thinking, help in understanding the dynamics of teamwork and communicating effectively (Check our blog on 6 times tested benefits of critical thinking in 2021 to build a better understanding of these points).
- Digital literacy skills promote the child to stay integrated as a part of the rapidly changing digital society. They involve understanding data and information; reviewing information to be factual and complete, and use technology for self-advancement. Cognizing information and technology is the most crucial skill in this age. With the boom of media platforms, it is also important to constantly be updated with the correct information; and be able to validate what’s the right source and deduce what’s the right information to consume.
- Finally, life skills involve those which are valuable for one’s personal growth but bleed into their professional lives as well. These skills encompass empathy, critical thinking, leadership qualities, cognitive & emotional flexibility, being persistent yet resilient, taking initiatives, being connected with society, understanding their role in society and contributing to society.
Our children need to catch up with this new normal world and imbibe these 21st-century skills that can be influential in both their future personal and professional lives.
It is not feasible to learn such skills in a set-up that only considers performance in conventional academia to be the benchmark for quality of learning. So, what could be the solution? The answer is – integration of play and activity/game-based learning with conventional methods!
It would be prudent to formally include game-based learning, which is defined as the approach that embodies a varied range of skills that can be operational in activating a learner’s academic, artistic, cognitive, social, and emotional capacities that can result in more effective learning. Thus, nurturing the learning potential of each child. It makes experience creation at the spotlight of learning and enriches relational values within the varying learning environments, for the holistic development of children.
With the turn of the century, holistic learning has steadily gained momentum and recognition as traditional styles of learning have become the subject of criticism. A learning environment that has a holistic approach, aims to cater to the individual needs of children, therefore being more inclusive in nature. The advent of the digital age has also propelled this approach so that from a very young age, children can gain worthwhile experiences helpful for their future endeavours.
There are numerous ways in which holistic learning can be facilitated to build 21st century skills:
- Experience-based learning – Children can be exposed to different learning styles through game-based learning and given the opportunity to figure out which style is best for them. Based on the style, they can be given problem-solving exercises or creative innovation tasks. This form of experiential learning can easily adapt to the preferred language of communication-based on the comfort of a child. This can also be used for making children work in groups to facilitate teamwork.
- Community learning – The educators can take the help of community members like family, social organisations, etc. to provide further opportunities to the children. This might include summer programs, game-playing sessions between adults and children, art and film workshops, and community outreach programs for hands-on experiential learning. It will help children to augment their relationships with society and community, and build various interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
- Encouraging relationships – This involves engaging parent figures and other guardians to take part in the learning process of children. When the educators become aware of the context of the child with the help of the parents, the child can be taught skills for their personal growth and improve their adaptive capabilities. Encouraging guardian involvement will also help the children to become comfortable with the different learning environments and deepen the educator-learner relationships.
- Integrating Emotional reflection – Mental and emotional well-being often get neglected in the traditional educational systems. Thus, a holistic approach can help the child to become aware of such emotional and social issues in a controlled environment of activity and play-based learning. A well-guided system that supports introspection and discusses such issues can provide an opportunity for children to be more connected to their own emotions and social behaviour. Thus, the educators should provide time for such emotional reflection and contemplation so that the children perceive their learning environment to be a safe space. It will not only inspire the children to engage more but will also hone their emotional and social quotient.
- Self-Guided Learning – A structured and thought through the integration of giving the children an opportunity to learn by self will promote holistic learning in a great way. It can be very effective in aiding children to become more adept with technology, evolving to a new challenge or life situation, critically source authentic information, and present their point of view based on rationale. It will also boost their confidence to indulge in creative thinking and gradually become self-reliant.
Play, activity and game-based learning as pedagogy is an area that is constantly evolving and developing to become increasingly inclusive. It looks at education from the STEAM model rather than its predecessor STEM approach. Therefore, this form of learning has emerged to be possibly the best option to integrate 21st-century skills in children. This approach to learning takes the outcome beyond merely academic achievement and enables a holistic learning environment that boosts a child’s self-awareness, imparts essential human values, develops cognitive and emotional flexibility, and promotes better life outcomes. Through its interdisciplinary mode of learning, the child is ready to take on the rapidly changing modern world that awaits.