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I have spent most of my career advocating and working towards basic education for everyone, and above all for the poor. I had always thought that this meant getting kids into school and ensuring that they learned the curriculum – with it becoming increasingly clear in recent years that the learning was not happening, or not happening to a sufficient standard.
But our recent work at R4D has brought home to me that even learning the curriculum is not enough. That basic learning is essential, of course, and needs to be done better. But employers are also looking for other skills from school leavers: especially such things as punctuality, the ability to communicate, and to function in teams (skills that are variously known as 21st century skills or transferrable skills or non-cognitive skills).
This is perhaps the major finding of R4D’s work so far on skills for employability, through our Innovative Secondary Education for Skills Enhancement project. Today we release a series of papers we have written or commissioned with the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Lastly, demand-driven skills development initiatives are important, and we need to explore how to encourage a broader conversation among employers, educators and policymakers. In the next few months, we will be conducting an in-depth analysis on a selection of innovative models, and convening a regional conference of stakeholders in Asia to share our findings. We will report on these here in the future and hope such conversations can be a starting point to developing a longer, action-oriented agenda.
It is clear that skills – or their lack – are a hot topic right now. The World Bank’s 2013 World Development Report focuses on jobs and argues in favor of a strong basic education. UNESCO’s 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report takes skills as its special theme. Watch this space for contributions from some of these reports’ authors.
Authored byNicholas Burnett managing director at Results for Development Institute.