Principal, The Indian Heights School, Dwarka, New Delhi
“Life Skills as the ability for adaptive and positive behaviour that enables individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of life.”
Education today is highly technical and data oriented. It has shifted base from being child -oriented to being achievement-oriented. This is a direct result of the disintegration of the joint family system and lack of traditional support systems. It has resulted in an increase in academic stress, violence, sexual permissiveness and substance abuse.
Our educational system has shifted focus to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which prepares students for course work and not for life. The onus, therefore, falls on the schools, who have assumed an important role in the society. The school has therefore, integrated Life Skill Teaching into the regular curriculum. Life Skill has become a part of every discipline and must be taught along with the subject.
Life Skills not only help a student in doing well in their academic courses and profession, but also play a critical role in promoting a well-rounded, comprehensive education. Life Skills are the building blocks of a person’s character. It helps a student to apply the knowledge they have thus acquired in school to real world problems and situations. This is also defined as soft skills- an ability to think abstractly, learn to communicate clearly and effectively. It helps the students in independent thinking, to socialise, to make new friends, to have a sound judgement and to exhibit good habits.
For example, how can Life Skills be a part of every discipline? The study of History can inculcate values like empathy and sympathy. Geography promotes creative and analytical thinking. The study of science induces curiosity, problem solving, scientific temper, resilience and perseverance. Dance/drama/art channelize emotions and help the students to experience them. Sports, which has become very integral to education is an important life skill. Yoga and meditation help in managing stress and to increase concentration. Sports and physical activity help in critical thinking and self- awareness. In all this, teamwork is very important. It results in self -awareness, improves inter -personal communication, enhances decision -making and inculcates empathy.
Holistic education can never be possible without the partnership between parents and the school. In teaching life skills, the parent’s role is very important. Charity begins at home they say and so the parents should teach the child sharing, caring, budgeting and gender sensitivity. Small jobs, which were traditionally thought to be women oriented can be assigned to the male child as well. Like, doing the dishes, or laying the table for dinner. Other household chores can also be assigned to children. The child should be taught to manage finances by letting him/her do small purchases, account for it and contribute to the family budgeting. Children can be asked to take care of pets and their needs. They should be taught to volunteer at community activities.
So, what are the important life skill lessons and how are they going to effectively help the individual students? Education has underlined some broad-based life skill lessons.
Communication:- Life is full of conflicts. The easiest way to get over a conflict is through violence. We need to teach our students to overcome conflict by working through it by using collaborative strategy, through effective communicative means, thereby turning conflict into something more productive rather than destructive.
Here, I would like to stress upon the importance of reading as well. Reading not only builds vocabulary and strengthens language skills. It aids in creative thinking, builds self-regulations, teaches empathy, improves concentration and offers exposure to diversity and differing perspectives.
Financial Literacy:- Every child by the time he/she is in the middle school should learn to manage finances and funds. How to budget, how to save, cost of essential commodities, to buy and sell are strategies that they must be aware of.
Emotional Intelligence:- The current generation of students are rather violent and unable to adjust and manage their emotions accordingly. Emotional intelligence is the ability to carry out accurate reasoning and to use emotional knowledge to enhance thought. Higher emotional intelligence is associated with higher quality relationships, far better academic achievements and a better sense of general wellbeing. Feelings do affect life and how to control your feelings must be taught, when they are very young. Yoga, meditation and physical activities help tremendously in calming the senses and bringing down aggression.
Nutrition:- A major concern dogging parents, academicians and the medical profession is the high rate of obesity, overweight, juvenile diabetes, rising blood pressure and low stamina amongst students. Teaching healthy habits and a healthy diet must be a mandatory part of the curriculum. Children should constantly be told about right and wrong eating. Healthier eating shows cognitive development, fewer behavioural outbursts, improves self-esteem and boosts confidence. The parents play a major role in this.
Civics :- Every student should qualify to be a good citizen. He/ she should follow the civic code and engage himself/herself in community activities. They should know about their rights as instituted in the Constitution. Our education should enable them to have an opinion, to solve the problem and be a productive citizen.
Chores:- Day today chores are important for survival. The child should be able to look after his/her personal needs like polishing shoes, ironing clothes, laundry and other basic requirements. The child should be able to get to and from home to school independently. They must follow road safety rules and know state emergency numbers in case of an emergency.
The children should be taught self defence to save themselves when bullied. Safety with kitchen items and electrical items are also an important lesson.
Empathy:- There is a pressing need in society today to be able to understand others and their needs. The school and the home must stress on qualities of sharing and caring for the less privileged in the society, thereby letting the children to experience the feelings of empathy.
Quite often, the biggest hurdle that we as educators face is the problem of overparenting and protective parenting. Even educators commit the mistake of either overdoing or underdoing life skill management teaching.
A set pattern, therefore, must be followed by the educators and the parents in order to carry out Life Skill learning effectively. It must be done in partnerships between the school and the home. A combination of academic excellence and good life skills will produce excellent students, who will be able to mark their journey and carve a niche for themselves in this global world.
Principal, The Indian Heights School, Dwarka, New Delhi