Cultivating competencies and skills for a Future of Choices

With the digital age picking up speed almost daily, many of us are asking ourselves what 21st century skills are required to stay competitive in this tech-driven environment. Prior to answering that question, we must clearly understand that we are striving for such new skills in the midst of technological advancement across diverse dimensions and at a time of exponential growth.  Effective education and lifelong learning with innovations that use education technology (EdTech) is essential to our progress.  Yet the introduction of technology in schools has tended to focused on reinforcing traditional teaching and learning practices, when what is needed is applying, evaluating, and creating knowledge.

Research shows that three core dimensions in 21st-century Skills – foundational literacies, competencies, and character qualities –  are increasingly encouraged.  These skills are vital for a future that demands speed, flexibility, teamwork and participation in a complex and globalized world. The primary focus though must be on competencies and skills that can be further developed by EdTech innovations.  Creativity and innovative skills are considered as priority ahead of critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration and communication.

“Creativity is the art of combining a little idea with another little idea, you may have another little idea, and so on… at the end maybe a great idea will come up,” said Serge Bloch.  Others may have other definitions but it actually leads to something new with imaginative ideas. While some defines innovation as “a new idea, creative thoughts, new imaginations to come up with the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs through the provision of more-effective products, processes, services, technologies or business models”.

A big challenge is how we integrate creativity and innovation into education and apply creative methods and innovative solutions with digital technologies.   When used appropriately, technology has the power to support teachers and en­gage students, providing tools to create new knowledge and evaluate tasks previously considered out of reach and it all starts with choosing the right school. This facility must be fully aware of the digital evolution, have continuously invested in EdTech to create an inter­active classroom, offer real-time feedback, and allow stu­dents to creatively apply and evaluate what they have learned, while also focusing on ethical social interactions.

In Thailand, the Singapore International School of Bangkok (SISB) is one of the education choices that meets these criteria. Billing its mission as “To be a World-Class School that provides the students with holistic education to make the world a better place”,  SISB has grown continuously to a total of 5 campuses, 4 in Bangkok and 1 in Chiang Mai and today accommodates more than 2,500 students nationwide.   It strength lies in Singaporean and British curricula programmes, a renowned Singapore curriculum that is ranked top in mathematics and science, teaching in three languages – English, Thai, and Mandarin Chinese – and holistic education to develop students to their fullest potential.  To prepare students for the future, the educational programmes are regularly adapted to ensure students’ gifts rise to the fore and recognize achievements in character development, social responsibility, sports, aesthetics, and digital technology.   SISB believes that structures drive behaviours and teachers are the key to effective teaching and learning.  Lee Webster, ICT teacher and assistant principal to the Secondary section, tells Thailandtoday.co that SISB has been gearing up towards major digital transformations in 3 focus areas.

  • Students – apart from existing curricula programmes, ICT lessons in 3 strands, coding, creativity and digital citizenship, are added progressively, with Primary 1 to 3 students working on basic skills with playful learning experiences, Primary 4 to 6 students working on Coding and Robotics, and Grade 7-12 students learning hardware, network, computer science, and ICT subjects (if qualified). SISB has now introduced a BYOD policy under which Grade 9-12 students ae allowed to bring their own device to access school systems and data and is also in the process of upgrading its internet infrastructure.  A ‘Maker Room’ for physical computing and programming to grow creativity and computational thinking throughout the Secondary school is being built with hand-on experiments on robots and micro-processors.   Students can do research and build a project using multimedia tools  and tech.
  • Teachers – Using EdTech innovations to support teachers and to unburden them from administrative tasks so they can focus on pedagogy is encouraged. SISB has applied devices such as ChromeBook, Smartboard and web-based software on the Cloud to foster interactive learning, real-time feedback, track progress, encourage students to participate and collaborate within the classroom and personalize learning through individualized learning plans and projects.  This can be effectively used in remote campuses with shared data and contents and lower fixed cost for IT infrastructure. Training teachers by changing mindsets and building up the digital culture is constantly reinforced.

ACER’s marketing director Nitipat Praweenwongwuthi adds that ChromeBook’s devices and Cloud services are affordable and efficient for remote educational uses and controls.   Expect to see more and more tech devices and applications being introduced to unleash creativity and innovation.

  • Parents – Engaging parents with digital footprints and mutual responsibility to help their children to learn and improve.

Asked whether AI will be a threat to learning mechanics, Hero Lee, vice principal of the Primary section, commented that AI will never be able to be creative and show empathy but the teachers can and their role will change to that of a coach.

As author and educator George Couros put it: “Technology will never replace great teachers but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational”.