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Everyone was very excited to meet each other. They were meeting after 25 years of student life. They were students of the same class. It was their promise to each other that they will meet on the same campus after 25 years where they shared all their hopes and aspirations for their future life.

Everyone was very excited to meet each other. They were meeting after 25 years of student life. They were students of the same class. It was their promise to each other that they will meet on the same campus after 25 years where they shared all their hopes and aspirations for their future life. Everyone reached in time as Mr X, who used to be the naughtiest and least scoring student, offered a reminder of the promise and followed up with every classmate to reach the venue in time. Slowly, everyone started sharing their life story. Ms. A, who was the top scorer, couldn’t make much out of her degree and was doing a job at a private firm with a very low package and was sharing all her miseries and disappointment with life. Ms. D who used to be an average student about whom no one had much expectation had by now become a world-famous entrepreneur and she seemed to be very satisfied with her family and even her financial status. Mr. K who used to trouble the teachers with all his ‘silly questions’ (so termed by their teachers) and back then had a lot of financial and family problems was narrating stories of his success and achievements which no one ever imagined. In short, the ones who were termed as talented and intelligent enough to face the challenges of life, worthy of getting good jobs and becoming successful in life turned out to be utter failures in their practical life. Some of the ones from whom there weren’t many expectations proved to be very successful in spite of the low marks and all other challenges.
What is the reason for this? One can say that it’s due to destiny or circumstances. But is that all? Don’t you think the education system also has a role? If the education and all the related activities focus only on acquiring knowledge, rote memorization and reproduction on exam papers within the given time one cannot get prepared for all the challenges in life. That is why experts say that Life Skills development should also be part of the curriculum. It is important not only for students but also for teachers. It has to be part of all in-service training programs.

Definition

According to the World Health Organisation life skills are “A group of psychological competencies and interpersonal skills that help people make informed decisions, solve problems, think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, empathise with others and cope with and manage their lives in a healthy and productive manner.”

What are life skills?

Life skills can be divided into three broad categories.

  • Thinking Skills
  • Emotional Skills
  • Social Skills

Thinking skills include:

  • Creative Thinking
  • Critical Thinking
  • Decision Making
  • Problem Solving

Emotional skills include:

  • Coping with stress
  • Coping with emotions

Social skills include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
  • Empathy

Altogether, there are ten life skills which are very essential for any individual in any field. But when it comes to the teaching profession, they are very essential as they affect eternity and there is no excuse for spoiling the future generation of a nation.

What is Life Skills Education?
According to UNICEF, it is an approach designed to address balance in the development of three areas:

  • Knowledge
  • Attitude
  • Skills

In his report submitted to UNESCO Jacques Delors refers to the following as the four pillars of learning for the 21st century.

  • Learning to know
  • Learning to do
  • Learning to be
  • Learning to live together

To this, a fifth pillar has been added by UNESCO, which is: Learning to Transform Oneself and Society.

Importance of Developing Life Skills

  • Promotes mental well-being and competence.
  • Improves self-image and self-awareness.
  • Improves constructive conflict resolution with peers.
  • Improves behaviour in any social environment.
  • Helps in gaining self-control and self-management.
  • Produces better results in learning.
  • Empowers to take positive action.
  • Promotes positive social relationships.
  • Enables a proper understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Reduces violent behaviour and enables impulse control.
  • Helps in balancing different roles in life, related to career, family, society and so on.

How to develop Life Skills
Life skills development is an ongoing process through different experiences right from birth, purposely created learning activities inside and outside classrooms, through experiences in private and public life and the overall environment as well as through purposeful lifelong efforts at the individual and collective levels.

The following are some of the activities that can be used to develop life skills among students as well as teachers.

  • Brainstorming activities. It can be an individual or group activity. If it is for students they can be given inputs, prompts or questions to think for a while and arrive at possible solutions, conclusions or answers based on the instruction prior to or after a selected lesson. For teachers also, there can be similar sessions in their subject groups or general staff sessions. Instead of all answers being given by the one who leads, let students/teachers get a chance to think on their own to arrive at answers.
  • Completion of stories or predicting the possible climax after reading part of a story.
  • Group/pair activities: They help in developing the skills of communication, coordination, interpersonal relationship and even understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses.
  • IDrawing, painting, art and craft activities.
  • Quiz, puzzles and spelling games.
  • Role play, drama, discussions, debates, case study analysis, club activities, parliaments, campus radio etc. All these should be part of campus activities for students and teachers together as well as separately.
  • Involving participants as planners, innovators, decision-makers, implementers etc. in organising events.
  • Games and sports activities. There should be such activities separately for students and teachers.
  • Gardening. Group gardening inside schools/colleges, in public places and at homes should be promoted as part of the curriculum considering its various benefits as well as developing life skills.
  • Field trips, picnics, visits (especially jails, old age homes, hospitals etc.), parties, community celebrations and so on.
  • Getting involved in social service activities like volunteering in palliative care, cleaning drives, community awareness programs against drug abuse and other such relevant and useful topics, raising funds for a good cause etc.

Golden Rules:

    • Be active and patient listeners.
    • Involve parents in a positive way.
    • Involve peers.
    • Use audio-visual aids and experiential learning methods instead of just textbooks and classrooms.
    • Learn the art of questioning.
    • Give enough strokes. Negative strokes are better than no strokes. Take care to give positive strokes in public and negative strokes privately as far as possible.

Most of you who are reading must be aware of all these. But the question is why these are not implemented. The following are the hurdles in this regard.

  • Lack of awareness of the importance.
  • Lacking awareness of the methods. Many believe that just by
    theoretical learning and advising life skills can be developed.
  • There is a hurry to complete the syllabus because of the pressure from authorities, parents and sometimes even students.
  • Lack of proper facilities.
  • Laziness

Solutions:

  • Sensitise and create awareness. Make it part of the discussion in staff meetings and PTA meetings.
  • There should be compulsory in-service training sessions and it has to be the main subject in all teacher education curricula.
  • Teachers should be trained on how to incorporate the recommended life skills development activities as supportive of completing the syllabus itself in a more effective and interesting way. If teachers are equipped well in this regard teaching and learning will be a more joyful activity.
  • It is the duty of the authorities to include more funds to this effect right from the central government to all local authorities. We are playing with the future of the nation. What is the use of a population packed with information but incapable of facing the challenges of life, misusing all the facilities available or full of negative thinking with no empathy for fellow human beings?
  • For many teachers, the classroom is a very comfortable zone. They are too lazy to take the risk of taking students to the playground or any other place for any kind of activity. It needs extra efforts to make such activities fruitful. So, they term them as mere ‘play’ and a waste of time. Even now the common notion is that the best classroom is the one that makes the least noise and the best teacher is the one who makes the students silent. In fact, the best teachers are the ones who equip their students with those life skills which enable them to break the silence at the right time in the right manner for the right cause.

It’s high time we changed our focus on the entire system of the teaching-learning process not just in theory but practically as we are getting prepared for a world which is – in the words of UNESCO – “increasing complexity, uncertainty and precarity.”

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