03 SES 11 B, Key Skills/Competence-based Curriculum
Confronting the challenges of the 21st century, such as rapid changes in technological advancement, globalization, migration, resource depletion, global warming and etc., the younger generations are increasingly propelled to acquire skills that help prepare them for the tasks of tomorrow, no longer of today (Voogt & Roblin, 2012; Alismail & McGuire, 2015; Freeman, 2016). These skills known as the “21st century skills”, “21st century competences”, or “21st century competencies” (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009; Bellanca & Brandt, 2010; Soland, Hamilton & Stecher, 2013), are defined somewhat differently across regions and fields, and in various scales.
In broader terms, the OECD (2005) identifies in its PISA framework for K-12 education the four global competences (i.e. examining issues, appreciating values, engaging cultures, and acting for the common goods) for students in meeting the needs of a rapidly changing world. Similarly, the Center for Global Education at the Asia Society suggests that global competences of the 21st century should entail an empowerment of students to investigate their surrounding environments, to recognize perspectives other than the self’s, to communicate effectively with others, and to turn their ideas into concrete actions (Asia Society, 2005). The New Zealand Ministry of Education also listed in their national curriculum the five core competences essential for the 21st century, i.e. “thinking; using language, symbols, and text; managing self; relating to others; participating and contributing” (MOENZ, 2014). Others, such as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Framework (P21) and the International Study of City Youth, have outlined more detailed sets of competences, including but not limited to information literacy, mathematics literacy, ICT skills, and leadership (Lamb, Maire & Doecke, 2017).
Initially, as shown in the above-mentioned studies, the discussions on 21st century competences mostly originated from the western societies. However, following the global trends, Asian countries have become actively involved in discussing the curriculum reforms aimed at cultivating 21st century skills in present-day pupils (Cheng, Jackson & Lee, 2017; Tan et al., 2017). Some changes made in the reconstruction of curriculum include a growing focus on information literacy (Chen & Huang, 2017). Furthermore, an increasing number of schools in Asia are adopting an internationally-minded curriculum designed for this millennium, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) program—886 schools in Asia-pacific regions are offering an IB education, as of 2018 (IBO, 2018).
To better understand the curricular developments among Asian countries countering the challenges of the 21st century, as well as to examine how they translate the two frameworks, i.e. Key Competences for Lifelong Learning (OECD, 2005), and DeSeCo (European Parliament, 2007; Commission for the European Communities, 2008), for their specific purposes, the present research attempts to closely review the reformed curricula of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. In addition, in-depth interviews are made with the regions’ forefront educators who are promoting a curriculum geared for the 21st century. In summary, this paper seeks to probe the following questions:
(1) How do Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan adopt and/or translate the two global frameworks in reconstructing their curriculum?
(2) How do these three jurisdictions implement the reformed curriculum to help students achieve the 21st century competences?
It is hoped that the findings benefited from this study may help us rethink and re-examine the implementation of curriculum in Asia and worldwide.
Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are chosen as subjects of research, since these three jurisdictions lack the natural resources to compete against an increasingly globalized world and thus attach great importance to developing human capital. Detailed explanations on the research processes are as follows: This study tries to explore the recent curriculum reforms in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore through document analysis and multi-site visits. First, the researchers employ document analysis to compare the similarities of and differences between these three jurisdictions in adopting and translating the two global frameworks for reconstructing their national curriculum. Two major frameworks for 21st century competences are identified and selected for document analysis based on the literature review. These two frameworks are the 21st Century Skills and Competences for New Millennium Learners, and the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. Comparisons between the national’s curricula and frameworks are made as well. Second, this study uses a multi-site visit approach, of which semi-structured interviews with school administrators and teachers from six international schools in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are conducted, thus contributing to data richness as well as the depth of this research. Semi-structure interviews investigate how schools perceive their national curriculum and implement them through an international lens. Their perspectives offer the previous document analyses a further connection of and comparison with the pedagogical, curricular and assessment practices that are shaping the education for 21st century competences within the Asian context. Interviews are recorded and fully transcribed, which are further analyzed using the MAXQDA software for qualitative and mix methods studies. The data analysis is based on a conceptual framework for curriculum design, in which the intended, the implemented, and the attained aspects of a curriculum are considered (Goodlad et al., 1979; Travers & Westbury, 1989).
Through close inspections on the two international frameworks and the three latest-reformed curricula, the preliminary findings reveal that Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore share the urgent needs to develop competences in areas of collaboration, communication, ICT literacy, social and/or cultural understandings, and civic responsibility. In addition, curriculum reform in these three jurisdictions is directed toward less rote-learning and more self-activated, inquiry-based learning. Moreover, interestingly, the core competences proposed in their national curriculum all reflect values of the Confucian philosophy, which is to be considered a unique cultural characteristic compared with the West. This school of thought transcends the scope of knowledge and skills, thus affecting the three entities to lay down their educational objectives for their K-12 students through a concentric approach, i.e. from the Self to the Others, thus cultivating self-directed learners who take an active part in responding to social and global challenges. The authors will conduct multi-site visits this March and April in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, exploring how schools in these jurisdictions implement the reconstructed curriculum. The findings collected will be used to supplement the results of previous document analyses. This comparative study on the interpretations and implementation of the 21st century competences made by these three jurisdictions in their curriculum will help the international audience gain a better understanding toward how contextual factors influences the curriculum adaptation and accommodation processes.
Alismail, H. A., & McGuire, P. (2015). 21st century standards and curriculum: Current research and practice. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(6), 150-155. Ananiadou, K., & Claro, M. (2009). 21st century skills and competences for New Millennium learners in OECD countries. https://goo.gl/ivVr5j Asia Society. (2005). What is global competence? https://goo.gl/DzkyMd Bellanca, J., & Brandt, R. (eds.) (2010). 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn. Indiana, US: Solution Tree Press. Chen, H. L., & Huang, H. Y. (2017). Advancing 21st century competencies in Taiwan. https://goo.gl/Yj37FF Cheng, K. M., Jackson, L., & Lee, W. O. (2017). Advancing 21st century competencies in Hong Kong. https://goo.gl/Ljxgmo Commission for the European Communities (2008). New Skills for New Jobs Anticipating and matching labour market and skills needs (Report No. COM(2008) 868/3). https://goo.gl/UhWLJC European Parliament. (2007). Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning (Report No. 30.12.2006/L394). https://goo.gl/jeymWD Freeman, I. M. (2016). Life skills for 21st century learners. International Journal of Education and Social Sciences, 3(10), 49-52. Goodlad, J. I., Klein, F., & Tye, K. A. (1979). The domains of curriculum and their study. In J. I. Goodlad et al. (Eds), Curriculum Inquiry: The study of curriculum Practice (pp. 3–76). New York: McGraw Hill. IBO. (Dec. 7, 2018). Facts and figures. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/nyGgV6 Lai, E. R., & Viering, M. (2012). Assessing 21st century skills: Integrating research findings. https://goo.gl/KJ8v9X Lamb, S., Maire, Q., & Doecke, E. (2017). Key skills for the 21st century: An evidence-based review. https://goo.gl/rg4ik8 Ministry of Education, New Zealand (MOENZ). (Apr. 4, 2014). Key competencies. http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Key-competencies OECD. (2005). The definition and selection of key competencies [Executive Summary]. https://goo.gl/blXBPM Soland, J., Hamilton, L. S., & Stecher, B. M. (2013). Measuring 21st century competencies: Guidance for educators. https://goo.gl/VnF7kV Tan, P. L., Koh, E., Chan, M., Onishi, P. C., & Hung, D. (2017). Advancing 21st century competencies in Singapore. https://goo.gl/BbeHAn Travers, K. J. & Westbury, I. (1989) The IEA study of mathematics I: Analysis of mathematics curricula. Oxford: Pergamon Press. Voogt. J., & Roblin, N. P. (2012). A comparative analysis of international frameworks for 21st century competences: Implications for national curriculum policies. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 44(3), 299-321.
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