Results of a Gallup/Microsoft Partners in Learning/Pearson Foundation study reveal that young people in the U.S. who learn and develop 21st century skills in their last year of school are more likely to report having higher work quality later in life.

In the study, “21st century skills” were measured via an index of seven specific areas: real-world problem-solving, global awareness, technology used in learning, collaboration, knowledge construction, skilled communication, and self-regulation. Participants who reported having an education strong in these areas also often reported excellent work quality (success relative to most Americans of their age, success in their current job, having a voice in decision-making and being a valued member of their workplace). Of the seven areas, real-world problem-solving has the strongest link to higher work quality.

The study also reveals the influence inequality in education has on future success. Respondents with postgraduate work or a degree (37%) were more likely to report having an education strong in 21st century skill development than college students and graduates (27%) and participants with a high school degree or less (22%). Students of a higher income are more likely to attend schools with the funding to support a comprehensive technological education and problem-based learning program and thus are more prepared for the workforce than students that are less economically fortunate.

What these results tell us is simple but critical for students’ future success. In order to truly prepare students for the workforce, we must provide them with an education that focuses on real-world problem solving. While a traditional education is valuable, students must also gain exposure and experience with following through on long-term projects, applying their knowledge to real-world problems, and using modern technology similar to how they will in future employment. Only in this way will they fully prepare themselves for what lies ahead, making themselves confident and knowledgeable employees for hire in a dog-eat-dog world. A technologically- and problem-based education utilizing programs such as eKWIP is incredibly important in raising our future leaders and workers, and we should look to integrate programs like this in all schools, regardless of area or income level, to promote equality and success for all students.

-Ashley Marquardt

Busteed, Brandon. “What Works in Schools Is Real Work.” The Gallup Blog. Gallup, 30 May 2013. Web. 31 May 2013.
Levy, Jenna, and Preety Sidhu. “In the U.S., 21st Century Skills Linked to Work Success.”Gallup Wellbeing. Gallup, 20 May 2013. Web. 31 May 2013.