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The skills that youths will need to succeed in the 21st century

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HONG KONG - What do youths, especially those from poor families, need to thrive in Asia today?

Twenty-six years ago, that question had an answer. Near-universal literacy acted as the fundamental driver of lifting an unprecedented number of people out of poverty, according to the World Bank 1993 report “The Asian Economic Miracle.” But now basic literacy is not enough to assure success in fast-moving, information-rich economies.

This is an especially pertinent challenge in Asia, where youth unemployment and underemployment are serious problems. Throughout Asia, according to the World Bank and the International Labor Organization, youth unemployment is three to four times higher than the overall rate.

Governments know they need to act to create jobs for young people, but clear and coordinated strategies are lacking. Government policies around skills for youths are spread across ministries and agencies and have little to do with one another. In fact, there are important disconnects between government agencies on what the problem is and how to address it. In a 2013 McKinsey & Co. global survey, 72 percent of education providers believed their graduates were workforce ready. Unfortunately, in the same survey only 42 percent of private sector respondents agreed with them.

What needs to be done?

Not surprisingly, there is no longer one answer. What is clear is that rote learning and traditional teaching methods are not sufficient to imbue young people with the technical and problem-solving skills, the necessary understanding and resilience, to cope with and thrive in a rapidly changing system. Youths now need not just technical know-how, but cognitive ability and life skills such as interpersonal communication, financial literacy, teamwork and creativity. They need broader sets of........

© The Japan Times