The Four Cs: The essential skills for your child's education success

Since the phrase ‘The Three Rs’ was first coined in 1825, reading, writing and arithmetic have become the cornerstones of education. Children spent their school days seated in rows learning by repetition. In general, impromptu questions were discouraged.

As education rapidly advances into the digital era, you have to wonder if the 20th century educational mindset is still relevant. Does it suitably prepare today’s students for success in the modern world?

The skills students need beyond school

All parents want to provide their children with the best education. In 2002, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills began looking at the skills students needed to be successful citizens beyond the classroom. It identified four essential skills, called the Four Cs.

The main components of the Four Cs are communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Everyone must have these skills if they are to succeed in today’s world.

These skills are important to have on their own.  In combination, these skills enable students to solve their own problems, work together, and come up with solutions.

It is important for parents to encourage their children to develop in all of these areas if they are to be successful in school and beyond. Schools across Australia have shifted their pedagogy to address the new skillset. Students are encouraged to ask questions and apply their findings in active learning environments.

How then do you teach the Four Cs to your children?


Effective communication skills are highly valued. However, with the changing nature of literacy, being able to share thoughts, questions, ideas and solutions in ways others can understand is now essential to 21st century life. Children need to know and understand that communication comes in many forms. It is, of course, speaking verbally, but it can also be non-verbal (hand gestures, facial expressions etc.).

In a world where customer relationships are critical and immediate, communication is far more complex, requiring negotiation across many platforms. Employees need to be able to understand, listen, empathise and communicate in different languages and across several continents. Today’s students must be capable of clear, concise writing as well as effectively using new modes of communication such as video and multimedia tools.

As we living in an increasingly digital world, it is also critical to teach children the best ways of navigating digital spaces responsibly.


Due to globalisation and the rise of technology, collaboration has become critical to 21st century success. Teamwork is essential to achieving today’s significant work. In many cases those teams are global.

Most career paths require people to work together in some capacity. Kids should learn how to problem solve and tackle issues in which the bigger picture involves more than just themselves.

It can be especially difficult for younger children to acknowledge and accept someone else’s perspective. However, learning to build on one another’s knowledge and expertise involves respect, listening, and contributing.

Critical thinking

In high-achieving roles, critical thinking is a much-respected skill. It is vital in an information-driven society where individuals must sift through the array of information quickly to make decisions and find solutions.

Part of critical thinking is problem solving; asking ‘why?’ or working through activities that challenge the brain. Because we can access information at the click of a button, a large part of successful critical thinking is to be able to look at information and decide if it is credible or not.


Looking at the big picture, creativity is at the root of progression. Without creativity there would be no books,. no cars, no medical breakthroughs, and no space missions. It’s a skill that calls for curiosity, abstract thought, innovation and empathy.

The Four Cs go hand-in-hand with each other. Children who wish to succeed in their future, should be equipped in all four areas.

Written by Calista Bruschi

When she’s not moulding Play-Doh or dancing in the living room with her children, Calista Bruschi is an editor and writer. She has oodles of experience working on newspapers, magazines and websites. Calista likes to organise and be organised. She loves being a mum, Italian food, wine, sport and stationery. She hasn't sleep a full night in more than five years and is powered by coffee.

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