On Eduction

The Long Read

Some Background on Skills for the 21st Century


Education on all levels and in all fields underwent a major change at the end of the last century and still is changing. Due to the forces of digitalization, of globalization, due to the impacts of the transformations happening and the “big questions” of our time (climate change, fair distribution of wealth, justice, overpopulation, diversity), education becomes an important focus of and for various players and activities.

Within the educational field, a shift I is happening from learning a rigidly defined and canonized set of general knowledge to a volatile and flexible set of skills, knowledge, and experiences. This change is supported by a shift from lecture and teacher centric approaches to a learner centered approach; by a shift from passive knowledge acquisition to an active training and the application of something learned and experienced.

In short: the shift moves education from teaching to learning, applying and training; from institutions and rigid organizations to experiments, labs, and informal learning including the integration of experiential learning and life´s experiences. Finally, the shift takes into account that we need to define what this 21st century with all its global challenges would need.

© 2011 Institute for the Future for University of Phoenix Institute (http://www.iftf.org/futureworkskills/)

The reform of learning and training relies on a framework of skills / micro-skills and competencies plus a framing of learning outcomes as a result of of a defined frame (field of practice or knowledge or both, such as engineering, project management,  the Humanities, ...). These define active and activated capabilities of the individual learner on the general basis of taking actions in a daily or specialized setting (day-to-day life, job, science) as capacity building in the field of:

1) One basic meta-competency or skill: the ability to perform / act in a flexible way in known and unknown environment.

2) Five defining fields of competencies or skills:

a) Knowledge (the known and profound set of wisdom in a field and beyond

b) Methodology (to know how, and what)

c) Self-Competencies (time-, needs-, and emotional-management, IT and media skills)

d) Social Competencies (group and team capabilities, communication,)

e) Aesthetic Competencies (perception, ethics, flexibility, awareness, experiencing the unknown).


A mixture of competencies / skills in those fields is specific for the desired learning outcome, and thus defines the training / learning as well as the test on proving the outcome of training / learning. The interrelatedness and a cross-referenced state of these three fields (learning outcomes / learning, training and teaching methods / examination methods) is mandatory.


The afore-mentioned sets / fields of knowledge and practice can be divided into smaller learning entities: micro-skills. SABAA.education defines micro-skills as the breakdown of complex knowledge and practice systems into smaller entities, which are related to defined tasks and knowledge areas, which are related to each other, and which can be used as a building-block system of training. These micro-skills can be defined for each occupational field and each knowledge domain, then learned and trained separately and combined to a skills and competencies set, however and whatever and wherever needed.

Taking this into account, SABAA.education strives to develop and implement a set of skills and competencies, which focus on the field of management and entrepreneurship first, and which cater to and can be trained on various levels (pre-school / primary / secondary / university / vocational / without previous knowledge and training but with experience in the field of managing something or being an entrepreneur).


The development will focus on the needs of the Sub-Saharan African communities and their prerequisites. Stakeholders of various areas (in Africa as well as Europe / business, civil society, education, organizations, government, local authorities) are integrated into the development process, focusing on employability and personalized learning. The learning / training will be executed online and in blended learning settings (offline in various environments and with various and different partners / institutions / trainers / teachers).


Acquiring knowledge, competencies and skills takes place in a social environment. Thus, a local approach integrating a trans-local and trans-disciplinary approach is needed.

A local stakeholder approach is mandatory; a special focus will be on the training of women and girls.

A social business approach, that looks at organizations as solution providers for a limited set of problems in the service of its customers and its environment/society, and which does not focus on an organization being a vehicle for the enrichment of a few, supports this.


Fields and domains (besides self-awareness, sustainability, and entrepreneurship, which can be seen as cross-section or transformation skills) to be developed are necessary for all walks of trade and life (for example agriculture, health, creative industries, plus specific demands of companies and communities on the level of micro-skills).

SABAA.education hopes and is convinced that combining economics of scale, provided by Online-Learning (understood as Blended-Learning including on-site training face-to-face), and the chances of the developing technical infrastructure (internet, Wi-Fi, smartphones, computers, software), will achieve success in establishing positive results quicker than before and on a larger scale than before.

Some random thoughts on education

- Learning learning is key - not the acquisition of knowledge or formal grades.

- Proof of your competence is the application, not the paper a grade is written on.

- Educational institutions are there to act as enablers for and developers of minds, hearts, and attitudes.

- How to measure education? Ask: Does this education help the learner to be author of his or her own life?

- Education should prepare learners for jobs that do not yet exist in order to solve problems we don´t even know are problems yet (Karl Fisch).

- Cooperation is the key to a good future.

Some Specifics of the SABAA Approach to Micro-Skills

SABAA.education integrates:


A stakeholder approach

  1. Defining stakeholder on individual, regional, national, global lever
  2. Defining stakeholders in politics, organizations, in society
  3. Researching the various needs and wants
  4. Defining a taxonomy of the practical (work related) field in the humanities
  5. Benchmarking them with other national and international educational systems and methodologies and curricula
  6. Proposing a result
  7. Negotiating this result with various stakeholders involved

A learner centered approach

  1. Cater to the individual, the group, the village, the region
  2. Integrate a broad outlook (the nation, the organization)
  3. Look for the learner’s dreams
  4. Recognize specific needs
  5. Accept changing learning styles and cultures
  6. Be aware of specific communities of practice

A pragmatic and practical approach

  1. Define a profile passport showing the competencies of a person
  2. Integrate the specifics and the potential of the local environment
  3. Acknowledge the resistance against change processes
  4. Value the forces and insights of tradition
  5. Look at the market
  6. Create joy for the people working
  7. Evaluate and change if necessary
  8. Set up quality standards
  9. Go for the English, the French language – and recognize local languages

A technical / digital approach

  1. Look for digital resources
  2. Integrate IT and media skills
  3. Used media where feasible

 A pedagogical approach

  1. Researching learning and teaching methods
  2. Focusing on the didactics needed for this special situation on this special campus in Tanzania
  3. Use approved and internationally recognized competencies and skills schemes
  4. Develop Tanzanian skills and competencies schemes
  5. Produce a relevant learner centered profile passport
  6. Create didactic training programs for lecturers
  7. Use relevant pedagogical strategies

An employability approach

  1. Define and refine entrepreneurial skills
  2. Define and refine management skills
  3. Define and refine specific skills

A trainer/lecturer centered approach.