6 Development of 21st century skills

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Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy

This is the text of the report presented to the New Zealand Parliament in December 2012

To maintain the integrity of the report, please do not edit this page

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We understand digital literacy is framed in a context of knowledge, skills, and understanding in the 21st century. Our schools fulfil many purposes, and digital technology is only one aspect of a learning environment. We recognise that schools provide an enormous opportunity for the development of a range of skills, including digital literacy, social, and non-cognitive skills. These will remain important in a modern world.

One submitter recommended that the definition of digital literacy should be aligned to the skills that will underpin the New Zealand workforce of the future. We acknowledge that NetSafe, in consultation with New Zealand teachers, has produced the following definition of a New Zealand digital citizen. A digital citizen

  • is a confident and capable user of ICT
  • uses technologies to participate in educational, cultural, and economic activities
  • uses and develops critical thinking skills in cyberspace
  • is literate in the language, symbols, and texts of digital technologies
  • is aware of ICT challenges and can manage them effectively
  • uses ICT to relate to others in positive, meaningful ways
  • demonstrates honesty and integrity and ethical behaviour in their use of ICT
  • respects the concepts of privacy and freedom of speech in a digital world
  • contributes and actively promotes the values of digital citizenship.

We acknowledge that this is one definition of the skills that could underpin the New Zealand workforce of the future. We recommend that the Government consider reviewing these skills.

Some submitters suggested that educational computer games should play a larger role in the future of education. We heard that such games can provide a number of benefits, both for the students and for their teachers. Games can provide immediate feedback to children. One of the advantages of an online environment is that there is potential for more people and tools to provide feedback to students. Educational games can also improve students’ engagement; we heard that students can become so engrossed in the game that they do not realise that they are learning. Teachers and schools can also benefit from the use of educational games. We heard that one possible advantage can be data provided through software. That data may contribute another source of information about how a student is progressing in a particular curriculum area.

We are aware that the ICT industry in New Zealand is experiencing a significant labour shortage, and that many occupations in the ICT sector are included in the Long-Term Skill Shortage List prepared by the Department of Labour. We heard from submitters that the future growth and success of the ICT sector will require more students who are excited by, and motivated to pursue, a career in the ICT sector. We are also aware that the report to the Prime Minister by his Chief Science Advisor in 2011, Looking ahead: science education for the twenty-first century, describes the challenges involved in delivering science education. These two areas—ICT skills development and science education—will require particular attention to ensure that our future workforce is able to meet the needs of the business sectors that will deliver economic growth in the 21st century.


19. We recommend that the Government review the definitions of digital literacy to consider a common definition that can be used across the sector.

20. We recommend that the Government review 21st century skills in the context of digital literacy in our education system.

21. We recommend that the Government consider research and the potential for a greater role of educational games as part of digital learning environments for 21st century learning and skill development.

22. We recommend that the Government consider enhancing the role of information science in the education sector.

23. We recommend that the Government better position ICT skills, knowledge, and understanding as educational options that lead to high-value careers.