The Role of Life Skills in 21st Century Education

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand if you don’t have self-awareness if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” -Daniel Goleman
It is widely recognized that 21st-century skills consist of three main skill sets: Learning, Literacy, and Life Skills. Let’s take a closer look at each of them:
  • Learning Skills: These are the skills required for acquiring knowledge.
  • Literacy Skills: These skills aid in gaining knowledge through reading, media, and digital resources.
  • Life Skills: These skills are necessary for successfully navigating everyday life.
It is increasingly evident that individuals who thrive in life don’t merely possess the requisite learning and literacy skills but also a wide range of life skills that enable them to become well-adjusted. In simple terms, life skills are essential to equip individuals to face the challenges of the rapidly transforming 21st century, where the ability to adjust and adapt is critical to success. WHO recognizes 10 essential life skills that go a long way in ensuring true success and happiness.
  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Problem-solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Coping with stress
  • Coping with emotions
As the above list suggests, life skills are characterized by a wide range of emotional, psychosocial, and cognitive skills that aid in improving self-regulation, making informed decisions, and building supportive social relationships. It isn’t difficult to see how these skills can add value, especially in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. Importantly, these skills must be incorporated into life early and have a solid role in education. The role of life skills in students is to equip them to thrive in the classroom and the world beyond. They help students navigate familiar and unfamiliar situations confidently and with a social conscience. As the world becomes more complex and unpredictable, these skills will give students a head start, as they will be able to handle uncertainty with enhanced mental strength.

Role of Life Skills in Students

Benefits for the individual

In everyday life, the development of life skills helps students:
  • Find new ways of thinking and creative problem-solving.
  • Teaches them to take responsibility for their actions, which prevents individuals from feeling powerless and living like victims of circumstances.
  • Analyze options, make decisions, and understand why they make confident choices.
  • Develop a greater sense of self-awareness and appreciation for others.
  • Work well as part of a team.
  • Have agility and adaptability in different situations. The importance of agility and adaptability cannot be overemphasized in a scenario where the whole world went through an unprecedented pandemic.
  • Help them lead by influence.

Benefits for society

It helps to build a more tolerant society where diversity is valued. The ability of individuals to empathize with others helps to create resolutions, as opposed to people holding resentments toward each other.

How is life skills education imparted?

Considering the array of life skills that education encompasses and the necessity for leading a fulfilling life, they must be imparted through interactive and participatory teaching and learning methods. These are skills acquired through observation, understanding, experience, and practice. Some of the ways this can be implemented in the classroom include:

Creating an inquiry-based environment

These essential life skills can be imparted by encouraging curiosity in students and creating an inquiry-based classroom environment. Notably, a curious mind will remain self-motivated and thus progress on the learning path. This is as opposed to lecture-based classroom learning, where the students do not question anything. Instead, they focus on committing facts to memory and reproducing them during exams.

Encouraging collaboration

It always works well to ensure that students collaborate in their learning journey. To this end, helping them form small groups helps instill skills in collaboration and cooperation. These skills will go a long way as they step out into the real world and need to live and work alongside a wide variety of people, each with different opinions and life experiences.

Development of critical thinking skills

It is imperative that learning is not restricted to memorizing facts alone. To achieve this, activities that promote critical thinking must be undertaken. Critical thinking, in turn, will significantly assist children in analyzing situations and reaching conclusions.

Encourage creativity

What is equally important is to encourage creativity so that students can think out of the box and synthesize knowledge. While adults must provide the necessary scaffolding, it will also help students take the lead in their learning. This ensures they become lifelong learners rather than merely ‘studying’ under duress. At Pragyanam School, one of the top CBSE schools in Gurgaon, our life skills-based curriculum is delivered through a healthy mix of new and traditional methods. This includes courseware, but also a blend of structured and unstructured co-scholastic activities such as dance and drama. Students are also given opportunities to showcase their learning. Here’s to raising students who are learners for life!

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May 2024