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E.T.Y. Fong, M.W.T. Cheng

The University of Hong Kong (HONG KONG)
The move towards a knowledge-based society has created demands for graduates with high level of 21st century skills. International organisations and governments worldwide have introduced initiatives to address this and educational institutions and practitioners are also charged with more responsibility to develop the 21st century skills of their students. Despite the efforts, the education sector is still grappled with the challenges of embedding these skills, which we call ‘generic competencies’, into the already packed academic curriculum. Teachers and academics do not have the expertise and skills, and they also lack the resources and support needed to design a systematic and structured development framework.

Generic competencies are the skills, positive values and virtues that not only can enhance graduates’ employability, but also their whole person development and the betterment of society. Recognising the lack of an effective top-down approach to the development and implementation of generic competency, a Hong Kong university has developed a generic competency development programme targeting senior secondary school and university students. In a range of student-centred, interactive activities in and outside the classroom, partaking students are guided by mentors and presented with numerous opportunities to explore, act and reflect. The programme has been proved effective in raising students’ awareness of the importance of generic competencies and developing their teamwork and communication skills, self-confidence, resilience and social awareness.

This paper aims to discuss the core elements of the programme, provide some suggestions as to how generic competencies can be developed, embedded and assessed in the classroom, and illustrate the challenges we encountered in delivering the programme. It will offer implications for the design and implementation of a curriculum for 21st century skills, including pedagogies and assessment. We believe that students should begin to develop their generic competencies before they enter higher education, as they will have more time to reflect and learn and can be better prepared for their futures.