News

Ten skills every student should learn

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor
August 11th, 2011

"The most important thing we can teach our children is how to learn on their own," said one reader.

What students should learn in school is at the forefront of the education reform debates taking place across the U.S. and elsewhere.

Ed-tech stakeholders for years have been touting the need for students to learn so-called “21st century skills” such as problem solving, critical thinking, and media literacy to prepare for the new global, digital economy, while others are calling for students to have strong math and science skills.

All of these skills are important—but what do educators and other school stakeholders think are the most important skills?

We recently asked our readers: “If you could choose only one, what’s the skill you’d like every student to learn?”

Perhaps surprisingly, while many readers did cite critical thinking as a skill every student needs, another skill was listed nearly twice as much as all other responses combined.

Need a hint? It’s a skill every student has needed since the days of the one-room schoolhouse: the ability to read.

Being able to read, though the most popular response, was certainly not the only one. Another skill that could be considered the most forward-thinking response is having “global empathy.”

Based on the number and quality of responses we received for each suggested skill, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 skills our readers believe every student needs. What do you think of these responses? What skills would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

According to readers, every student to be able to (in no particular order):

1. Read

“Would it not be reading? Even reading is required for math, which is very important, of course. But I have read recently of residents in poor African nations who are taught to read and are simply buoyed in other areas by their ability to read. It becomes an instant confidence builder.” —June Weis, consultant, SREB Educational Technology Cooperative

“I’d like every student to know how to read—to read deeply, and to truly understand each word. By reading, we can improve our knowledge. I speak from my own experience in studying English online. Now I want to help others to understand that.” –Cata

“If you can read, you can learn to do anything.” —Candace Kavey

“To read well. Reading is the first step to good writing. In order to learn social studies, science, and math, you need to know how to read. Reading is the gateway to all knowledge.” —Krista Bethke