Communication and collaboration: teaching children 21st century skillsGlobal Citizenship in the 21st Century

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Origen: Ashoka

Imagine trying to eloquently share and explain your greatest passion in front of an audience of peers, supervisors and community members. You have five minutes. You are expected to be clear, concise, and expressive. You know the exact intonation to use your voice, the best way to gesture, and strategically use illustrative metaphors to elevate and inspire others.

Now imagine you are 11 years old.


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School21 prepares all of its students for this very task sparking a revolution in how spoken communication is understood and taught. School21 believes that teaching spoken word is more than giving students public speaking skills. It’s a process of critical self-reflection, continual growth, and rooted in the deep appreciation of collaboration and humans’ ability to connect with others.

Supported by research conducted by multiple universities and trusts, School21 demonstrates the value of speaking skills for students as an educational goal but also for employability. Students with clear communication skills that facilitate collaboration and human connection are not only great students, but are employable.

Knowing how to speak to who, when and where gives these students not only the ability to express themselves and communicate their passion but also makes them increasingly employable in a 21st century world where human connections and interactions are critical skills in an increasingly automated workforce. Just “getting the job done” is no longer good enough and there is an increasingly gap between what schools are producing and what employers need across the country.


Ashoka, Virgin Unite, Education, Communication, Young People


 A 21st century education and employment requires spark, eloquence, expertise, and grit. By looking at the job areas which are growing fastest: those with human interaction, School21 can prepare their students for a 21st century job market.

A key facet of this preparation is speaking skills, or what School21 calls ‘oracy’. Oracy, a term coined by School21, is the study and learning of verbal communication much like literacy is to writing or numeracy is to maths.  

Oracy is measured in four strands:

-       Emotional: your ability to connect with your audience

-       Cognitive: the reasoning and rational behind your argument

-       Physical: the control over voice and body language

-       Linguistic: in relation to word and language choice.

Oracy is taught and integrated into the year's curriculum but culminates in an event at the end of the year: Ignite.  

Ignite is the culmination of a year's worth of work, effort, and learning. This unit culminates in pupils writing, redrafting and performing an ‘Ignite’ speech, a five minute presentation in which a set of 20 slides advance automatically every fifteen seconds while the speaker is talking.

Ashoka, Virgin Unite, Education, Communication, Young People

Ashoka, Virgin Unite, Education, Communication, Young People

Ushering children incrementally, year by year, to understand the process of creation, delivery, and ultimately eloquence, Ignite speeches move students beyond simply giving them a platform to speak and to be listened to, but empowers them to know how and why they should use their voice. Placing the core values of integrity and humanity at the forefront students learn to move beyond showpiece public speaking but truly reflect on what they can do with these skills.

Ashoka, Virgin Unite, Education, Communication, Young People

The most competitive skill of the 21st century? Collaboration. The ability to work with others, learn, share, express, and channel these efforts into powerful narratives that serve a greater purpose. School21 demonstrates this competitive edge inside the classroom but also amongst the faculty, the local community, and the country at large.

Only four years old, School21 is forging a path for new epistemologies and greater community engagement in education. School 21 hopes to change the way children are taught across the UK and beyond so by the time they finish school: “The question should be what does an incredible 18-year-old looks like rather than what’s going to get my 18-year-old the grades to get into university.”

By Tatiana Cary, Communications, Ashoka UK. School21 is a non-selective state-funded school serving children of all abilities, it was elected as an Ashoka Changemaker School and joins a community of over 250 educational institutions from across the world. For more information on Ashoka Changemaker Schools like School 21, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

This article first appeared on on 30th May 2016.