How is it that I just saw this Chinese proverb for the first time today? You'd think that someone who has been a student for 26 years and an educator for 16 years would have run across it. But no...
21st Century skills are not new to the 21st Century... well maybe the emphasis on ICT is... but the core of the "new" paradigm is being student-centered: differentiation, collaboration, inquiry. And here we have a Chinese proverb that summed it up ages ago. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said. "We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."
I think education is like that sometimes. We see returns to great teaching techniques of the past such as the Socratic Method and we are blown away by how much sense it makes for teaching critical thinking (another 21st Century skill.)
Do educational methods change because different times require different methods? Do methods change because we get bored with the old way? Most current educators shudder at the thought of rote memorization, as still practiced in many countries. How long will it be before we are memorizing again?