Academic circles worldwide have been highlighting the role of life skills for some time now. Discussions on such a role centre on expectations of a bright future for the child after he/she graduates and goes job-hunting. India is a country positioned as having the highest potential for job-seekers compared to Europe or America; and we, as adults nurturing children through our education system, have the onus of making them ‘life-ready’.
That, unfortunately, isn’t as easy as getting them ‘exam-ready’. I believe firmly that, with every generation that come to grow up, these expectations grow bigger because of the sheer exposure that children receive, as also the opportunities. Each child is meant to ‘stand out’ and become a mini-CEO by the time they hit the road to university.
I always worry about this. For some children, it may come naturally — knowing what to do, how to do it and how to ‘get there’, but there’s a huge percentage out there that needs guidance and not simply for academic milestones. Smart study buffs may crack examinations, but it’s more about how they emerge as individuals to cope with life beyond books and the reassuring comfort of their schools or homes.
Basic life skills
So, what are these life skills we’re referring to? Not rocket science, really. Just the basic skills that help individuals cope with situations overall. And it’s incredible how some of the most basic tasks or skills sometimes become difficult to embrace. From relationship management to communication, from collaboration to conflict resolution, from time management to project management and from personal and professional goal-setting to being disciplined — how many adults can claim they have achieved this to their satisfaction?
Ask HR professionals, or decision-makers. One of the biggest challenges recruiters face is that those eligible for employment are ‘paper-perfect’, with all the right degrees and qualifications, but, when it comes to taking decisions on variables, doubts creep in; when it comes to generating solutions, a blank is drawn; when it comes to innovation, the thinking process isn’t in place; and, most importantly, when it comes to managing uncomfortable situations, there’s an all-round lack of ability.
What good are those 99%, or A+ scores if the students placed in industry are incapable of applying their knowledge in meaningful ways? It means that the induction and training process that follows becomes longer.
Learning to take decisions
So, the importance of weaving these life skills as part of school curriculum and focusing on these at home through conversations could be the ideal foundations for life beyond. As a mother, I often feel that my protective nature doesn’t allow my child enough opportunities to cope with situations.
For instance, the natural tendency is to reach out and address the child’s problem, so that he or she is ‘happy’. But, by doing so too often, we make our children so dependent that, without us, they can’t take important split-second decisions in life!
As educators, we need to be open-minded to disputes inside classrooms
— or even playgrounds, for that matter.
We must let kids ‘deal’ with situations and find solutions on their own. This will help them work out cause and effect so that, the next time, they’ll know how to handle things on their own. How long should we intervene?
But just as we taught them to walk by holding their hands, we need to make sure we ‘teach’ them these life skills, too. The days of remarks, yellow cards and detention are over! Nothing significant, or meaningful, can emerge from them. It would be ideal if teachers could spend time and address the ‘root cause’ of the problems that lead to indiscipline and enable children to work out their next steps.
If children aren’t taught how to manage their tasks in time and are taken through the process from start to finish, they’ll never be able to lead projects in their work space.
Students, teachers work together
Simulation, along with academic content, is needed and so, kids and teachers should work hand in hand. And, perhaps, more importance should be attached to these skills. This seamless integration with a teacher’s lesson plans being executed in a classroom will allow children to become confident since these aren’t facts to be learnt. A solution generated in one situation may not apply in another and children need to be mindful of that. This, therefore, becomes a lifelong process, to be initiated as early as possible in schools.
The simple skills of independence, tolerance, waiting for their turn, being patient, allowing someone else to take a turn first, saying sorry, articulating what they like — or do not — in a manner that is not a tantrum, but appropriate communication, should be taught. And, generally, accepting that the world does not centre on them is important!
The primary years herald another development milestone for children as they exercise their rights and thoughts and strive to take risks. With the risks comes their own set of complications. But how does that translate into acceptance of failure as everyone in this age group wants to be a winner! Peer pressure leads to choices being made and, instead of reprimanding students, teachers can turn these into valuable lessons of relationship-building. These young children will then be in a better position to deal with adult relationships — at work, or at home.
Life beyond school corridors
By the middle and high school years, teenagers develop their own rationale and tend to have individual perspectives. This is the phase when we teach them to be open-minded and tolerant and to pick up the key skills of time management and envisioning a project from start to finish, besides also independently achieving tasks and goals.
I also believe this is the most crucial part of being a child. And, as adults, we should help them imbibe important skills. Relationship management and communication become even more important and taking children through these development milestones to meet these life lessons helps them cope with life beyond the school corridors with more confidence.
Life skills are irrespective of which industry the children find themselves in —medicine, law, finance, or education. And I’m glad that educators are voicing this openly, decision-makers are endorsing this and, by and large, parents are also recognising that attitude is as important as the outcome achieved.