Blog Parents Parenting Tips Lack of 21st Century Skills – Why Your Child Struggles at School

Lack of 21st Century Skills – Why Your Child Struggles at School

There will be struggles in life, and our schoolchildren are no exception.

While they are at the stage of building their self-esteem and self-worth, facing problems in school will add to their personal struggles.

Sometimes, achieving academic excellence might actually distract us from the fact that they could be secretly struggling due to a lack of certain skills.

Having a hard time making friends is a struggle due to a lack of communication skills. Unable to decide on the right dress to wear for an occasion is another struggle with poor decision-making. 

The best way to prepare them for future challenges is to have a holistic approach to their education. A good way to start is to set the stage for the development of 21st Century Skills.

What Are the 21st Century Competencies?

The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore identifies the 3 core areas for developing 21st Century Competencies.

These skills should help students not just survive but also thrive in a world full of challenges. The core areas are as follows

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  • Civic Literacy, Global Awareness, and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Critical and Inventive Thinking
  • Communication, Collaboration, and Information Skills

The holistic framework for 21st Century skills is something the schools could not provide alone. There are values that should start from home. Parents can help in the values formation like integrity.

Likewise, parents can take part in improving social skills by promoting active involvement in family talks at home. Meanwhile, schools can provide the platform for developing critical thinking skills through seat works and exercises.

MOE’s 21st Century Competencies

The MOE’s framework for the 21st Century Competencies focuses on boosting the students’ self-confidence. It also motivates students to become active contributors by participating in simple discussions.

The MOE believes that the students studying in the classrooms today are the future leaders.  They will be dealing with complex problems that require critical thinking and creative innovations.

To align with the MOE’s framework, schools integrate the formation of the 21st Century skills in their curriculum. There are learning sessions that enhance critical and inventive thinking

Some modules teach students about other cultures. By knowing the traditions of other people, they become more aware of their social duties to the global communities. 

Teachers also encourage active participation and group discussions to improve their communication skills. At the same time, assist them in using technology to their advantage and compete in a fluid environment. 

Some skills can help students cope with failures and enable them to pick themselves up in times of setbacks. Likewise, acquire the resiliency to adapt to any working condition. 

There are so many skills that comprise a holistic learning approach. But let us talk about the three major areas of focus in the 21st Century Competencies in preparing the students for what lies ahead.

Civic Literacy, Global Awareness, and Cross-Cultural Skills

Global awareness may help students properly function and make critical decisions. They will also understand how their decisions can impact the lives of worldwide communities.

One way of increasing global awareness in the classroom is through literature. Reading books written by authors from other countries can help. 

Another way is by learning a foreign language. They don’t necessarily need to be fluent in a second language other than English. They just need to be aware of another language or study other cultures. These things can open the possibility for students to see the world from different perspectives

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Critical and Inventive Thinking

Some students are good at analyzing and remembering the ideas of other people. But they could hardly come up with ideas of their own. If you observe this sign, your child could be struggling with poor critical and inventive thinking. 

Critical thinking is the framework for cognitive development. This is the core competency for the development of reasoning, analysis, navigation, and problem-solving skills. Schools have various classroom activities to promote good critical thinking skills among students.

Did you know that playing video games is good for the brain? Mobile strategy games like Clash of Clans and Hearthstone can help develop your child’s problem-solving skills. 

Likewise, First Person Shooter (FPS) games promote spatial visualization. They can also improve your child’s navigation skills. 

However, you must track the game hours to avoid phone addiction. Too many games may compromise other growth areas. The collaboration skills could suffer.

Communication, Collaboration, and Information Skills

Will your child become a future leader with a lack of communication and collaboration skills? That would be unlikely to happen. 

Future leaders are those who are able to communicate well with the people around them. This is not an inherent talent. Instead, it is a skill your child can learn. 

Schools can provide a platform for active engagement through group discussions. Parents, on their part, can help improve the articulation skills of the child to prepare them for oral exams.

Why Your Child Struggles at School

Traditional curriculums could no longer provide the competencies to make the students abreast of today’s competitiveness level. Schools today are no longer purely academic. Instead, they are institutions for holistic personal development. 

This involves incorporating values and encouraging a desire for patriotism. The improvement of social-emotional skills is another focus area. These are necessary to thrive in communities with diverse cultures.

Excellence in one growth area but lacks the right core values will still make the child struggle at school. So, let’s dig deeper into each possible area on why your child struggles at school.

Lack of Core Values

Values define one’s character, and they shape the actions, behavior, and beliefs of a person. Lack of values will make the student unable to fulfill their responsibilities to themselves. It will also compromise their duties to their families and the community.

Without the value of self-respect, they would hardly survive in a world that demands self-confidence. Likewise, integrity is important in long-term success. Achievements without integrity have shaky foundations to support long-term success.

Addressing the lack of alignment with the core values is a critical learning initiative. For this reason, you should integrate the core values into your child’s personal development. 

The school can help, together with the parents, form the foundation for values formation. There are critical growth areas for value formation in alignment with the MOE. They are as follows:

  • Responsibility
  • Resilience 
  • Integrity 
  • Care
  • Harmony

Lack of alignment in any of the above core values could result in some form of struggle. So, it’s important to monitor these values so you can help in the formation of your child’s growth.

Lack of Social-Emotional Competencies

Having the core values is not enough. Parents and schools should reinforce values with social and emotional competencies. A good combination of both skills can help the child grow their character by living out their values. 

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) provided by schools can help the child build positive relationships. They can also help develop the well-being and personal effectiveness of your child. 

SEL mainly dwells on character formation. It also helps the child develop thoughtful choices and neutral awareness. 

Unfortunately, some children still lack the social-emotional competencies that allow them to engage with the people around them. A poor learning curve in this area will result in relationship problems. 

Sometimes, this can result in poor decision-making. This will also lead to a lack of social awareness and responsibilities. 

SEL provides the framework for developing social-emotional skills. It focuses on 5 core competencies. They are as follows:

1) Self-Awareness

SEL can help your child understand their feelings and the impact of their moods on others which could improve their self-awareness. 

Schools can assist in identifying their strengths and weaknesses in a broad range of areas. Thus, helping the child make wiser decisions on various aspects of life. 

Recognizing one’s own thoughts and feelings can encourage the child to make positive changes in life. Parents can help by supporting the self-confidence of the child.

2) Self-Management

When your child shows signs of anger management issues, it could be due to a lack of self-management skills. 

The main focus of SEL on self-management is to enhance the ability to control and regulate thoughts and behaviors. The program also aims to strengthen self-discipline and improve organizational skills

Your child will become more responsible in decision-making as they will become more aware of safety concerns and the importance of academic performance.

3) Responsible Decision-Making

Not submitting homework on time, always arriving late, and poor eating habits are signs of poor decision-making skills. The consequences can be grave if you don’t do something about it. 

Students at school will have enough exposure to situational exercises. The child will learn how to make constructive choices based on social and individual factors. Likewise, they are aware of the consequences if they don’t submit their homework on time.

4) Social Awareness

If your child doesn’t understand the importance of wearing face masks during a pandemic, it’s another sign of struggle. It is possible that there is a lack of social awareness skills. This is the core competency behind empathy. 

Having social awareness skills will let the child understand the feelings and emotions of other people. Social engagement is very critical in times of a global health crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. 

By nurturing these skills, your child can become more socially responsible for the benefit and safety of everyone. They will also become aware of their role in the community.

5) Relationship Management

Do you wonder why your child has a few friends? Or, is your child having a hard time connecting with other people? These are symptoms of poor relationship management skills. 

Your child may need help by improving this growth area. Relationship management is one of the core social-emotional competencies. By encouraging active participation in group discussions, the child can acquire these skills. 

What Can You Do to Prepare Your Child for the 21st Century Skills?

As parents, there are several ways you can prepare your child for 21st Century skills.

Here are 3 things that you should focus on that will give a greater impact on your child’s holistic personal development.

Teaching 21st Century Competencies at Home

Every child’s learning starts at home. Likewise, nurturing the 21st Century Competencies should begin at home. 

However, it is still important to strengthen the conventional basic concepts of learning. These are reading, writing, and arithmetic. 

However, many experts nowadays recommend a change of focus to the 4Cs of child development. These are collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking. Parents can teach these skills at home. 

You can achieve this through family games and active participation in decision-making. You can also let them participate in solving problems at home. 

Letting the child engage in family discussions is very helpful. Likewise, reading books and watching foreign movies can help improve their global awareness skills.

Building 21st Century Competencies in Education

Schools have varying initiatives of integrating the 21st Century Competencies in education. They usually follow the guidelines of the MOE. 

You can enroll your child in a school advancing 21st Century Competencies. This way, you are preparing them better for their future

As a parent, you should reinforce this by fostering these skills at home. You should help create good habits and strengthen positive behaviors.

Advancing 21st Century Competencies in Singapore Through Home Tuition Agencies

Engaging tutors can help foster the 21st Century Skills of your child. They can better influence your child’s results

Tutors can encourage critical thinking through the lessons and help students discover the world without fear. They can quickly spot the signs if your child is struggling during the tutorial sessions. 

You can also enroll your child to learn a new language at SmileTutor. This is one way of helping them develop their civic literacy and global awareness skills.


Personal excellence and success are different now in today’s competitive landscape than they did in the past. Many achievers are opting out of the conventional job market to build businesses and create jobs. 

Other successful people prefer to live and work anywhere. Some would like to outsource the tasks they hate to do. 

Others would like to travel as often as they please and choose the most productive time to work. Some people prefer earning potentials without limits over a constant salary figure. 

So, it’s important to prepare your child as early as now. The best way to start is to equip them with 21st Century Skills for the greater challenges ahead. 

If you don’t act now, your child could end up struggling. They will have difficulty in keeping up with the pace of the more demanding economic environment of the future. 

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.