The education circles have been emphasising the role of life skills for some time now, and clearly the discussions around this stem from the expectations that await these children when they graduate and seek jobs. As a young country, positioned with the most potential for “job seekers” as compared to Europe or America, we have a responsibility as adults nurturing these children through our education system to be “life-ready”.
That unfortunately is not as easy as getting them exam-ready. I am a firm believer that with every generation, the expectations are higher because of the sheer exposure they receive and the opportunities at large – they are meant to be mini CEO’s by the time they hit the University applications, and meant to “stand out”. I always worry about this, as for some children this comes naturally – to know what to do, how to do it and get there. There is a large percentage that however needs guidance and not for academic milestones … smart study hacks or study habits will enable them to crack those examinations…. it is more about how they emerge as individuals to cope with life beyond the comfort of their protective school or house environment.
So what are these life skills we refer to? Not rocket science really, just basic skills that help an individual cope with situations at large and it is incredible how some of the most basic tasks or skills, sometimes are different to embrace. From relationship management to communication, from collaboration to conflict resolution from time management to project management, from personal and professional goal setting to being disciplined, how many adults can claim that they have achieved this to satisfaction. Ask HR professionals or decision makers, one of the biggest challenges faced by recruiters is that those eligible for employment are picture perfect or rather paper perfect, all the right degrees and qualification, yet when it comes to taking a decision with variables that are not ideal, there is hesitancy; when it comes to generating solutions, there is a blank drawn, when it comes to innovation, the design thinking process is not in place and importantly when it comes to managing uncomfortable situations, there is generally a lack of ability.
What good are those 99% percentages, or A*’s if the students placed in industry are incapable of applying their knowledge in ways that are meaningful. That means the induction and training that follows is a long process.
The importance of therefore weaving these life skills as part of the curriculum in schools, and also focused at home through conversations could be the ideal foundation for life beyond. As a mother as well, I often feel at times, my protective nature, does not allow my child enough opportunities to cope up with situations. For example, the natural tendency is to reach out and address the child’s problem so that he is “happy”. But by doing this often enough, we make the children so dependent that without us, they are incapable of making those split second decisions! For educators, we need to be open minded to disputes in the classroom or on the playgrounds, it is would we do to help those kids “deal” with them and find their independent solutions will go a long way in helping them work out cause and effect so that the next time, these children know how to handle it themselves. How long will be intervene but just as we taught them to walk by holding their hands, we also need to make sure we “teach” them these life skills. The days of remarks, yellow cards and detention are over! Nothing significant or meaningful can emerge from this. What would be ideal is if the teacher spends time and address the “root” cause of the problem that led to indiscipline and enable the child to work out next steps.
If children are not taught how to manage their tasks on time, and taken through the process from start to finish, they will never be able to lead projects in their work space. Simulations therefore along with the academic content they need, therefore needs to do hand in hand and perhaps a bit more importance attached to these skills. This seamless integration with a teacher’s lesson plans being executed in a classroom will allow for children to grow in confidence as this is not a fact learnt. A solution generated in one situation may not apply in another, and the children need to be mindful of this. This therefore becomes a lifelong process initiated as early years in a school. Simple skills of independence, tolerance, waiting for their turn, being patient, allowing someone else to take the first turn, saying sorry, articulating what they like or do not in a manner that is not a tantrum but appropriate communication and generally accepting that the world does not centre around them!
Primary years heralds another developmental milestone for these children, as they exercise their rights, their thoughts, and strive to take risks. With risks come 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, if these can be turned into values lessons of relationship building, these young children will be in a better place to deal with adult relationships, be in at work or at home with their spouses and extended families.
By the Middle and High School years, the teenagers have developed their own rationale and tend to have individual perspectives and this is phase we build on them being open minded, more tolerant and pick up key skills of time management and envisioning a project from start to end, and also independently achieving tasks and goals. I also believe this is the most crucial part of being a child, and as adults we would do well to help them weave in important skills. Relationship management and communication become even more important and taking children through these developmental milestones with the aim of making these life lessons will make them cope with life beyond the school corridors with more confidence.
Life skills are irrespective of which industry do children find themselves in – from medicine to law, from finance to education, these skills come in play. And I am glad that educators are voicing this openly, decision makers are endorsing this and by and large, parents are also recognising that the attitude is as important as the outcome achieved.