Essential skills are the foundational skills people need to participate effectively in all areas of their lives – home, community, learning, and work. They are the building blocks, or the foundation, that let people learn new skills.
People benefit when they have essential skills
Essential skills help people to:
• learn new things
• achieve greater independence
• develop and improve their self-esteem and self-respect
• solve problems more effectively
• communicate more effectively
• have better health and well-being
• achieve higher levels of education and earn more money
• use new technology
• be flexible and able to adapt to change
What do we mean by ‘embedding essential skills’?
Embedding essential skills into a course means we intentionally add activities into the course that teach people essential skills. Almost all programs include literacy learning but it may not be intentional. Embedded literacy programs give people practice so they can master the essential skills. In a nutrition program for example, participants are intentionally asked to practice numeracy and literacy skills by reading recipes, measuring ingredients, and shopping for food.
Embedding literacy and essential skills means that there are three sets of learning goals in any learning situation, each clearly defined and each clearly addressed.
1. The first set of learning goals deals with the subject matter at hand and usually focuses on improving technical skills, increasing understanding of a topic, or raising awareness around an issue.
2. The second set of learning goals targets literacy and essential skills and strives to improve specific competencies.
3. The third set of learning goals is aimed at applying the knowledge and skills gained more widely, facilitating continuous learning.
Here are different ways of looking at essential skills: the nine essential skills that the Government of Canada uses, 21st Century essential skills, and essential skills from an Indigenous perspective (from Australia).
The Government of Canada’s Nine Essential Skills
21st Century Essential Skills (Pat Salt)
Essential Skills from an Indigenous Perspective
— Helen Balanoff