The Possibilities of 21st Century Skills 2.0 by Systems Thinking Toward New Pedagogy

12 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2021 Last revised: 11 Aug 2022

Date Written: February 28, 2020


The sudden appearance of COVID-19 is becoming a driving force for change in the global learning environment. The challenge of this crisis has already been heightened in Japan since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, when the country was hit by the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant accident, and a runaway object of COVID-19 and the earthquake require a synchronic transformation of the two through the simultaneous interaction of individuals and society. In this context, 21st century skills need to be exercised and trained. At this time, systems thinking, which breaks the negative chain of connections by looking at the big picture of a phenomenon and changing the mindset to do so, has been expected to be an innovative pedagogy. However, since thinking and performance are highly socio-cultural practices prior to domain specificity, this concept must be formulated in a way that is linked to culture. The integral consideration of thinking and culture is one of the issues that are essential to the proper execution of pedagogy, but are not discussed in detail in the current 21st century skills. Therefore, the purpose of this study is "How can systems thinking as a socio-cultural practice be explained and observed in practice?".
First, the socio-cultural tendencies of systems thinking are theoretically examined from the perspective of the unique Japanese value system called "kankei (the Japanese word for inter-relationships)". The first author has prepared the figure of the doors of 20 (omitted in this abstract) by combining abstract jargon of pedagogical concepts, not just lectures in pedagogy textbooks, but project work towards deep learning. Kankei is centrally located as a world views. in Japanese culture, on the doors of 20 such as curiosity (individual development and characteristics) and innovation (social process and structure). Curiosity are therefore founded upon the value attached to kankei and the fundamental concept of ‘good living’. In Japan, social and learning interactions are considered ‘successful’ when they can be described as equitable, reciprocal, harmonious, stable and balanced. The emphasis on the quality of relationships promotes effective interaction, revealing the recondite knowledge of learners to their teacher, and to each other (Arimoto & Clark 2018).
These themes are pervasive in Japanese culture, naturally consistent with a persistent emphasis on equitable social- relationships (kankei) and holistic inter-connectedness (tsunagari). It is Japanese tradition that the sustainability of one's life, the perceived quality of one's existence as a 'connected being' are states of tsunagari. Such overarching philosophy impacts. not only classroom assessment (becoming more interactive/ verbal), but also how its application might transform the focus of curriculum design.
As such, young people should learn in environments founded upon carefully realised theories that go beyond the maintenance of a 'common' social connection (kankei). Kankei is, therefore, the traditional belief, or "background theory", that creates a 'spectrum of legitimacy'; sanctioning social-interactions to the extent that they are equitable, mutual, reciprocal, inter- subjective, or harmonious, stable and balanced. The Japanese classroom, as a microcosm of wider social life, is fully engaged with interactions that preserve kankei, assuring group connection and consensus (Clark, Nae & Arimoto 2020).
Next, the authors will elucidate the outcomes and possibilities of socio-cultural systems thinking practices, using examples from the author's own educational experiences at high schools and universities.
Finally, the author will point out the challenges of integrating context-dependent systems thinking, which is the impetus for a sustainable society, into educational design, and the issues to be considered in the future.

Keywords: coronavirus pandemic as a disaster for the world, kankei, pedagogy and visualization of worldview Risk of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), systems thinking

Suggested Citation

Arimoto, Masahiro and Nishizuka, Kohei, The Possibilities of 21st Century Skills 2.0 by Systems Thinking Toward New Pedagogy (February 28, 2020). OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 13, No. 02, pp. 55-66, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Masahiro Arimoto (Contact Author)

Tohoku University ( email )

SKK Building, Katahira 2
Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8577

Kohei Nishizuka

Tohoku University ( email )

SKK Building, Katahira 2
Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8577

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