Partnership for 21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills: What Do We Do?

Every child in the U.S. needs 21st century knowledge and skills to succeed as effective citizens, workers and leaders. There is a profound gap between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need in typical 21st century communities and workplaces. To successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce, U.S. schools must align classroom environments with real world environments by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs:

    The 3Rs include: Core content, including English, reading or language arts; mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics; government; economics; arts; history; and geography.

    The 4Cs include: Critical thinking & problem solving; Communication, Collaboration; Creativity & innovation. 

As the 3Rs serve as an umbrella for other subjects and core content, the 4Cs are a shorthand for all the skills needed for success in college, career, and life (Source).


Founded in 2002, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) is the leading national organization advocating for 21st century readiness for every student. P21 brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers who believe that our education system must equip students with rigorous academic coursework and the skills to be successful employees and citizens (Source).

Elements of Learning

The six elements of 21st century learning are:

  • Emphasize core subjects
  • Emphasize learning skills
  • Use 21st century tools to develop learning skills
  • Teach and learn in a 21st century context
  • Teach and learn new 21st century content
  • Use 21st century assessments that measure core subjects and 21st century skills


P21 has developed a unified, collective and powerful vision for 21st century learning to strengthen education for all students nationwide. The Framework (below) presents a holistic view of 21st century teaching and learning that combines a discrete focus on 21st century student outcomes (a blending of specific skills, content knowledge, expertise and literacies) with innovative support systems to help students master the multi-dimensional abilities required of them in the 21st century and beyond (Source).                              

Learn more about the framework by reviewing this information. Be sure to become familair with the following elements.

21st Century Student Outcomes

  • Core Subjects (the 3 R’s) and 21st Century Themes
  • Learning and Innovation Skills
  • Information, Media and Technology Skills
  • Live and Career Skills

21st Century Support Systems