As defined by the international group of stakeholders involved in the OECD

 As defined by the international group of stakeholders involved in the OECD Future of
Education and Skills 2030 project, skills are the ability and capacity to carry out processes
and to be able to use one’s knowledge in a responsible way to achieve a goal. Skills are
part of a holistic concept of competency, involving the mobilisation of knowledge, skills,
attitudes and values to meet complex demands.
The OECD Learning Compass 2030 distinguishes between three different types of skills
(OECD, 2018[1]):
 cognitive and meta-cognitive skills, which include critical thinking, creative
thinking, learning-to-learn and self-regulation
 social and emotional skills, which include empathy, self-efficacy, responsibility
and collaboration 

 practical and physical skills, which include using new information and
communication technology devices
Cognitive skills are a set of thinking strategies that enable the use of language, numbers,
reasoning and acquired knowledge. They comprise verbal, nonverbal and higher-order
thinking skills. Metacognitive skills include learning-to-learn skills and the ability to
recognise one’s knowledge, skills, attitudes and values (OECD, 2018[1]).
Social and emotional skills are a set of individual capacities that can be manifested in
consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that enable people to develop
themselves, cultivate their relationships at home, school, work and in the community, and
exercise their civic responsibilities (OECD, 2018[1]; OECD, n.d[2])

Physical skills are a set of abilities to use physical tools, operations and functions.
They include manual skills, such as the ability to use information and communication
technology devices and new machines, play musical instruments, craft artworks, play
sports; life skills, such as the ability to dress oneself, prepare food and drink, keep oneself
clean; and the ability to mobilise one’s capacities, including strength, muscular flexibility
and stamina (OECD, 2018[1]; OECD, 2016[3]). Practical skills are those required to use and
manipulate materials, tools, equipment and artefacts to achieve particular outcomes
(OECD, 2016[3]).
Cognitive skills, such as creative thinking and self-regulation, and social skills, such as
taking responsibility, require the capacity to consider the consequences of one’s actions,
evaluate risk and reward, and accept accountability for the products of one’s work. This
suggests moral and intellectual maturity, with which a person reflects upon and evaluates
his or her actions in light of his or her experiences, personal and societal goals, what he
or she has been taught and told, and what is right or wrong (OECD, 2018[1]). 

While good
decision making and ethical judgement are encompassed in the concept of skills, these
competencies are addressed in the concept note on Attitudes and Values.
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OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 Concept Note © OECD 2019
The transfer of knowledge and skills takes place in social contexts
The concept notes on Knowledge and on Attitudes and Values mention that knowledge,
skills, and attitudes and values are not competing competencies but rather are developed
interdependently. The acquisition of knowledge requires certain cognitive skills. Those
skills and relevant content knowledge are not only intertwined, they also reinforce each
other. In addition, attitudes and values are integral to developing knowledge and skills – as
motivation for acquiring and using knowledge and skills, and in framing the definitions of
what constitutes “well-being”, good personhood and citizenship (Haste, 2018[4]).
The transfer of knowledge and skills from one situation to another takes place in social
contexts. Abuzour, Lewis and Tully (2018[5]) completed a study that supports this social
foundation of transfer. They find that, first, students must have sufficient basic knowledge
to be able to transfer skills. Then, support from colleagues and adherence to guidelines
helpsstudents transfer their skills from the classroom to the workplace. Reinforcement is an
important component of transfer as, without it, students and employees may perceive that
the transfer is not valued and thus not bother to apply learned skills in new contexts
(Benander, 2018[6]). Educators can help beginners apply routine skills, such as information
processing, in a range of unfamiliar and loosely defined situations. That will help learners
practice applying their knowledge and skills in different ways.
Some research has been conducted on the transfer of knowledge and skills through formats
such as play (DeKorver, Choi and Towns, 2017[7]) and project-based learning (Lee and
Tsai, 2004[8]). Considerably more research has focused on the cognitive and metacognitive
transfer between languages. For example, Baker, Basaraba and Polanco (2016[9]) review
the literature on student learning in bilingual education. They find that bilingual language
instruction helped students perform better in reading skills in both languages, although they
report that there are few studies on writing skills and bilingual programmes.
See Ciechanowski (2014[10]), Martinez-Alvarez, Bannan, and Peters-Burton (2012[11]),
Keung and Ho (2009[12]) for other studies.
Cognitive skills are essential; metacognitive skills are becoming so
Creativity and critical thinking are needed to find solutions to complex
Technology influences how we think about human intelligence and the demand for the
types and level of skills needed for the future. Over recent decades, computer-controlled
equipment has replaced workers in a wide range of jobs that consist of routine tasks – tasks
that follow well-defined procedures that can easily be expressed in computer code. Most
routine work, such as repetitive calculating, typing or sorting, and production tasks that
revolve around performing repetitive motions, have been automated since the early 1980s
(Figure 1). At around the same time, the demand for non-routine interpersonal and
analytical skills increased dramatically.

 The explanation is straightforward: as computer
technologies have displaced labour in routine tasks, they have also created new
employment opportunities for workers with non-routine cognitive skills, such as creativity,
and social and emotional skills (Berger and Frey, 2015[13]; Bialik and Fadel, 2018[14]).
Non-routine manual jobs at first declined in number then plateaued at a baseline level, an
indication that there remains some demand for the products and services these jobs provide.
6 │
OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 Concept Note 

© OECD 2019
Figure 1. Changing prevalence of types of tasks required for work over time
Note: This figure shows how the task composition performed by US workers changed between 1960 and 2009.
Source: Autor and Price (2013) in Bialik and Fadel (2018[14]), p.7,
Artificial intelligence (AI) is adding depth and scale to the challenges posed by technology.
Societies will need to determine what is wanted from human intelligence, how best human
intelligence can work with AI, how human and artificial intelligence can complement each
other and, as a consequence, what new knowledge and skills must be acquired and
cultivated. By creating AI systems that are able to learn in increasingly sophisticated ways,
human intelligence also becomes more sophisticated (Luckin and Issroff, 2018[15]).
Compared with other technologies, AI has an unprecedented range of applications that can
only be maximised through the creativity and imagination of the users and designers of AI.
This malleability is a major advantage for AI, robotics and big data; but the benefits of
these technologies can be reaped only if they are put to the service of original, visionary
ideas developed by humans (Berkowitz and Miller, 2018[16]). These advances will
profoundly affect the demand for skills by 2030 (Berger and Frey, 2015[13]). According to
some researchers (Avvisati, Jacotin and Vincent-Lancrin, 2013[17]), the skill that most
clearly distinguishes innovators from non-innovators is creativity – more specifically,
the ability to “come up with new ideas and solutions” and the “willingness to question
AI appears less likely to replace jobs that require creativity. Workers in jobs that require
originality – 

“the ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or
situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem” – are substantially less likely to
see themselves replaced by computer-controlled equipment, reflecting the current
limitations of automation. Art directors, fashion designers and microbiologists are thus
unlikely to be out of work anytime soon. In other words, although computers are making
inroads into many domains, they are unlikely to replace workers whose jobs involve the
creation of new ideas. Thus, in order to adapt to current trends in technology, many workers
and future learners will need to acquire creative skills (Berger and Frey, 2015[13]).
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OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 Concept Note © OECD 2019
Higher-order skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, goal setting and decision
making, overlap with other domains. Critical thinking includes inductive and deductive
reasoning, making correct analyses, inferences and evaluations (Facione et al., 1995[18]).
Components of cognitive skills are interwoven with social and emotional skills so closely
that it is difficult to tease apart and attribute the acquisition of these skills to one category
or another. For instance, critical thinking involves questioning and evaluating ideas and
solutions. This definition encompasses components of metacognition, social and emotional
skills (reflection and evaluation within a cultural context),

 and even attitudes and values
(moral judgement and integration with one’s own goals and values), depending on the
context. Critical thinking skills are also significantly affected by both traditional school
experiences and by life experiences outside the classroom (OECD, 2016[3]).
Citizens with critical thinking skills are also more likely to be self-sufficient and, thus,
less dependent on the state’s social spending (Facione, 1998[19]). They are more likely to
be equipped to give back to society, for example through social entrepreneurship and
prosocial behaviours (Peredo and McLean, 2006[20]). Critical thinking skills are seen as
necessary to enter the workforce. Critics of the quality of higher education frequently cite
the proportion of recent college graduates who are ill-prepared to enter the workforce and
deficient in critical thinking skills (Flores et al., 2012[21]; OECD, 2016[3])

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