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Why project-based learning is key to real-world success

The world of work is rapidly changing and learners need to be equipped with the 21st century skills required to thrive in today's digital society. So what should educators be doing to prepare students?
Image source: Olena Yakobchuk –
Image source: Olena Yakobchuk –

The answer lies in project-based learning. E3, a Department of Basic Education’s programme in South Africa, is working with educators to prepare students to be solution-seeking active participants in the world after school through this method of learning.

We live in a project-based world. Think about it. Whether you’re planning a virtual field trip or creating the perfect work-from-home space, you’re working on a project. In fact, many of us organise our tasks by projects and work collaboratively with other teams and colleagues to solve problems.

To participate effectively in the increasingly complex societies and globalised economy that characterise today’s world, students need to think critically, communicate effectively, collaborate with diverse peers, solve complex problems, adopt a global mindset, and engage with information and communications technologies, to name but just a few requirements.

Because project-based learning is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying. Research also indicates that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach far more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning. In addition, students develop confidence and self-direction as they move through both team-based and independent work.

The primary purpose behind the creation of project-based learning methodology is that it encourages learners to think interdependently, communicate with clarity, manage impulsivity, take responsible actions and apply past knowledge to new experiences as they explore real-world challenges and apply what they learn in a dynamic classroom environment. The endgame is the effective creation of better work habits and improved attitudes towards learning, resulting in the long-term retention of skills. Project-based learning unlocks 21st century competencies and solution-seeking mind-sets so that the youth become employable, engaged and entrepreneurial.

With youth unemployment at an all-time high and so many young people not in education, employment or training, the time to shake things up in the classroom is now. The future of the education system may take on this way of learning to decrease the number of students who leave schools and struggle to find employment.

Working on projects is how we function in the real world—in both our personal and professional lives—and that’s why project-based learning is becoming increasingly popular in education. The teaching approach helps students build real-world skills like critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, and project management while tackling complex academic content.

Adopting a project-learning approach in your classroom or school can invigorate your learning environment, energizing the curriculum with a real-world relevance and sparking students' desire to explore, investigate, and understand their world.

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