The 21st century child needs the 4Cs

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Today’s children won’t be graduating into a job that will last their entire careers – they will need to be able to adapt to the ever-changing challenges of the job market in the 21st century. Skills that will be rewarded include flexible thinking and an ability to learn as you go.

Educators frequently refer to these traits as the 4Cs – collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. In this beautiful short film, children harness the 4Cs to both literally, and figuratively, take flight. So, how then, as a parent, can you encourage these skills in your child?

Blogger and mother of three Deborah Gifford ( takes an unstructured approach. “I don’t use any activities on purpose at home in order to specifically develop these traits in the kids,” she says. “To me, we use all of those traits all the time just by being in regular conversation with them on a daily basis.” After all, she adds, not doing so runs the risk of raising a child who blindly follows her peers.

She likes to use each interaction with her children as a learning moment, by encouraging them to find their own answers to their questions. “All I do is ask ‘What do you think?’ or ‘What is your best guess?’ and insist on better answers than ‘I dunno’,” she explains.

Think of it as running your own inquiry-based learning sessions at home. Primary school science teacher and mother Grace Tan encourages her child to tackle her share of chores around the house. “It may seem trivial and time wasting. But it is a valuable ‘life experience’ for learning,” she says. It may even come in handy – Grace noted that the PSLE has asked questions about the best way to dry plates.

Grace also encourages her child to take public transport on her own, and to find her own projects to tackle, such as making crafts to sell at an art festival. Not only does this give her lots of life experience, it builds her resilience to adversity. “I don't want to wait until something big hits her and she doesn't know how to deal with it.”

Experts agree that a holistic approach is the best way to impart these skills. Scott Isaksen and Donald Treffinger wrote a key text about critical and creative thinking. While they utilise a more formal approach, they also note that creative and critical thinking cannot happen without collaboration and communication – how else can you look at different points of view, find novel solutions and make sound decisions?

It boils down to this: Model the 4Cs. Talk to your child. Ask questions. View each and every day as a chance for them to learn. For inspiration, check out this list of prompts or this approach.  Focus on the 5Ws – who, what, when, where and, most importantly, why!