From the ‘3 Rs’ to the ‘4 Cs’ | Inquirer Opinion
The Learning curve

From the ‘3 Rs’ to the ‘4 Cs’

/ 12:14 AM January 28, 2017

Information technology (IT) is so pervasive that education as we know it has changed considerably. With renewed vigor, educators all over the world are grappling with the immense learning challenges and myriad opportunities that come with life in the 21st century.

At the higher-education level, the quest for relevance is deeply pronounced. Innovation and development in the workplace have outpaced the efforts of universities to develop courses that can prepare their learners for the competency demands of jobs and careers that have yet to be created. The Philippines is fortunate that the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHEd) leadership has been forward-looking. CHEd’s Instruction, Research and Sectoral Engagement (Irse) grants are now being implemented in earnest.


Irse promotes a healthy and continuous exchange of ideas and best practices between two distinct communities: industry and academe, with full support from the national government. From what I’ve heard, private companies and businesses especially in the technology-driven IT and business process management industry have been eagerly participating in Irse’s sectoral-engagement component. After all, faculty immersion in the modern workplace with clearly defined learning outcomes is absolutely sensible because the college instructor or professor will come away with a fresh perspective on the competencies that students should have when they eventually seek employment or go into business on their own.

But the real challenge as I see it is at the basic education level. It took a long time coming but mother-tongue-based multi-lingual education (MTBMLE) has finally come to our classrooms. In a country as culturally diverse as ours, where there are over 170 distinct languages, MTBMLE is a major step in significantly improving the chances of success of our young learners as they progress through education levels. Senior high school, with its multiple career specialization tracks and strands, is also a big help. It may not yet be evident at this point, but we’ll surely see the positive effects of the K-to-12 program on the next generation of learners.


In fact, acquiring the time-honored “3 Rs” has no longer been enough since the late 1900s. Today, our learners need the “4 Cs” of 21st-century learning—critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

The global conversation on the 4 Cs was initiated by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 by a group of business organizations, education organizations and government policymakers including the US Department of Education, AOL, Time Warner, Apple Computers Inc., Microsoft, Cisco, US National Education Association, Dell and SAP.

In its paper titled, “Preparing 21st Century Students for A Global Society,” the National Education Association cites the American Management Association’s 2010 Critical Skills Survey that says the 4 Cs would become even more important to organizations in the future. Three out of four (75.7 percent) executives said they believe these skills and competencies will become more important to their organizations in the next three to five years, particularly as the US economy improves and organizations look to grow in a global marketplace.

Additionally, 80 percent of executives believe that fusing the 3 Rs and 4 Cs will ensure that students are better prepared to enter the workforce. According to these managers, proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic will not be sufficient if employees are unable to think critically, solve problems, collaborate, or communicate effectively.

It would be impractical to look at the 4 Cs as school subjects. How, after all, does one teach critical thinking or creativity?  It will be better for teachers to embrace them as values that their students can emulate. As Mentoring the Mentors gurus Chinit Rufino, Eve Mejillano and Celia Adriano would put it, “Values are better caught, rather than taught.”

Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: arithmetic, CHEd, collaboration, Communication, Creativity, critical thinking, education, Reading, writing
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