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COVID-19 sparks an overdue discussion on education reform: An optimistic vision

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Elias Blinkoff, Helen Shwe Hadani, and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Brookings |

This editorial is in response to Jal Mehta’s December 2020 op ed in the New York Times, “Make Schools More Human.”

Today, career readiness broadly requires mastery of collaboration, communication, all relevant content knowledge, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving—a reframing of education for the 21st century that is likewise backed by the majority of educators in a recent survey. At the same time, researchers supporting this shift suggest that success will require that we think of a breadth of skills  across a breadth of ages (e.g., learning to learn and lifelong learning) and a breadth of contexts (e.g., apps, informal education).

Our version of the approach embraces what we call the 6Cs:

  • Collaboration: Getting along with others to promote community and controlling impulses
  • Communication: Speaking, reading, writing, and listening
  • Content: Reading, writing, math, science, social studies, the arts, and executive function skills, such as increasing attention and working memory
  • Critical thinking: Evaluating the quality of information received
  • Creative innovation: Using academic content and critical thinking to explore and build something new
  • Confidence: Taking reasonable risks, demonstrating persistence and adaptability when faced with failure

These skills are backed by scientific evidence, create a systemic approach to learning, and are measurable. These skills scaffold each other, beginning with collaboration. Evidence indicates that even learning how to read and do math builds on collaboration with others.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek is Senior Fellow – Global Economy and Development, Center for Universal Education; Elias Blinkoff is a Graduate Student, Department of Psychology – Temple University; Helen Shwe Hadani is a Fellow – Global Economy and Development, Center for Universal Education; and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff is Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Education, University of Delaware.

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