What skills?

Teaching the 2020 World Economic Forum skills

Teacher, journalist and trainer, Jackie Beere reviews the ‘must-have’  skills as defined by the World Economic Forum in 2020 and how we can teach them.

A new top 10

The World Economic Forum (WEF) constantly reviews the essential skills employers need both now and in the future – skills not always prioritised in our curriculum, but which should be. A new ‘top 10’ of essential skills released in 2020 reflect the way the world has changed since 2015, when the previous list was published.

Teaching them enhances the teacher’s own skills and adds a crucial personal growth dimension to the knowledge we deliver.  What are these skills, why should we teach them and how can we incorporate them into our already busy schedules?

Active learning and learning strategies.

To help students understand more about how their brains work, to become more effective learners

Firstly, how? We know that learning changes brains and according to Peter Brown et al. in Make It Stick, one of the most important discoveries about knowledge and memory is that active retrieval is the most powerful way to strengthen learning. Making a determined effort to recall your knowledge and test yourself on it works. We need to teach these skills with this in mind.

The top 10

Complex problem solving

To remind students that they are natural problem solvers and that there are many ways to tackle problems they face in their learning.

This skill is number 1 on the 2020 WEF list. Mike Berners-Lee said we have created an ever more complicated and complex world, demanding a challenging mix of interdependency and technical mastery. Luckily, children are born problem solvers. As infants, they worked out how to get fed, talk, walk and adapt to life. They did it through playing, watching, listening, copying, practising and learning how to learn, showing that we – as a species – are natural problem solvers who can follow our instincts to work out what to do next.

Critical thinking

To help students realise and practise how to think and reflect objectively so that they can make good judgements.

Number 2 on the list in 2020 (up from number 4), critical thinking is a crucial skill for success at school and at work in later life. It involves observing, analysing, assessing and evaluating evidence in an objective, open-minded manner. It also asks that we cultivate a sense of curiosity, to always be willing to ask questions and challenge for the truth.


To help students consider ways they can find the courage to take necessary risks to find new ways of thinking.

The WEF have raised this skill from number 10 in 2015, to number 3 in 2020. Not surprising when you think how much the world has changed in just 5 years. Creativity develops new thinking, different approaches and novel ways of solving problems, doing things and finding new answers. It takes courage to be creative because as we grow older, we get used to doing things in ways that make us feel comfortable.

Leadership and social influence

To help students develop the skills to lead and communicate effectively.

These skills reflect numbers 4 and 5 on the 2020 WEF list – ‘people management’  and ‘coordinating with others’. The vital social skills which are needed to get on with other people are key to success at school and in the workplace can be developed and nurtured by working as team members and leaders.

Emotional intelligence

To help students develop the self-awareness and emotional regulation that will serve them well at school, at home and in their future workplace.

Number 6 in 2020 and a new appearance in the WEF top 10. Emotional intelligence encompasses self-awareness and self-management skills which develop confidence, tolerance and success. It combines interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence and leads to the development of expert communication skills. Becoming emotionally intelligent helps students enjoy a challenge with less self-judgement or comparison with others.

Judgement and decision making

To help students identify their values and encourage them to make conscious choices for their own benefit.

Up one place from Number 8 in 2015 to number 7 in 2020, having good judgement and being able to make sensible decisions is essential. So why do some children (and some adults) make choices that endanger their health and happiness? Students need help to think purposefully about their personal values and how to use them to make good choices in life.

Service orientation

To encourage students to want to help other people and take pride in delivering high-quality outcomes.

Down one place to number 8, but still vital. The idea of being ‘in service’ can be seen as demeaning – perhaps reminiscent of domestic duties or outmoded class hierarchies. However, adopting the mindset of serving others is a powerful way to develop a generous spirit and the humility of true self-confidence.


To practise good listening and communication skills that empower students to develop healthy relationships.

At number 9 in 2020. Being able to negotiate involves effective communication and emotional resilience so that students can take an objective view and see all aspects of a situation. The gifts of patient listening and empathy creates great negotiators.

Cognitive flexibility

To help students be able to adapt to new situations and maximise their learning capacity.

Another new entry at number 10, this is the ability to change your mind and adapt to different circumstances by knowing when to have a growth mindset attitude to the struggle ahead. Vital.

Teaching the WEF skills

Teaching these skills requires planning lessons so that students can use them and see how they impact on their learning. I taught for decades in this way and discovered that when children understand themselves as learners, they can teach themselves, adapt to change and effectively self-regulate. The new ‘normal’ education must deliver this as a priority so our children can, indeed, find their place in the world.


Teacher, trainer, coach and author, Jackie Beere, OBE worked as a newspaper journalist before starting a career in teaching and school leadership.

Her latest book The Complete Learner’s Toolkit is a complete teaching resource for teaching the ten 2020 WEF skills. For more about The Learners Toolkit  see  https://t.co/8VFkoyZotJ?amp=1  or click on the book cover to order from Crown House Publishing.

Click on the book cover for Independent Thinking onTeaching and Learning to listen to Jackie on YouTube as she talks about her book.

Jackie can be contacted on jackieabeere@gmail.com


Further reading

  1. P. C. Brown, H. L. Roediger and M. A. McDaniel, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
  2. M. Berners-Lee, There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years
  3. D. Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ


Feature Image: by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay