Beyond Academics: The Importance Of Developing Life Skills In Students
While as adults we are extremely focused on academics & the fact that our children should build great careers for themselves, the focus may not be as strong in ensuring that they are able to navigate the various twists & turns of life with confidence & positivity. This is exactly where life skills for students, come in. The fact that we live in a VUCA world that is changing at breakneck speed makes it even more important that students are equipped with the necessary life skills.
What are life skills?
What really are life skills? According to the World Health Organisation, life skills are “ “A group of psychosocial competencies and interpersonal skills that help people make informed decisions, solve problems, think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, empathize with others, and cope with and manage their lives in a healthy and responsible manner.”
The core life skills listed by WHO include:
Let us look at each of them a little closely:
Self-awareness- This involves a fair understanding of one’s own self with respect to our own strengths & weaknesses, likes & dislikes. A good understanding of our own self and our motivations is the stepping stone to understanding & interpret the world around us.
Empathy- It is important to be able to understand, appreciate and care for other people’s needs & feelings. Empathy is also a very strong ingredient in developing interpersonal relationships.
Critical thinking- This is the ability to analyze aspects objectively. It allows you to think clearly & rationally even in the face of overwhelming odds.
Creative thinking– This refers to the ability to think outside the box. This includes the ability to generate ideas, be flexible, and more.
Decision making– Aided by critical thinking this life skill helps you come to rational decisions.
Problem-Solving– This life skill enables you to deal constructively with any issues that you may face. A part of this skill is the ability to break down a problem into its components, listing possible solutions & then deciding which one is appropriate.
Effective communication– This involves the ability to express ourselves both verbally and through body language. It includes several aspects such as being able to express opinions, also needs & fears. It also includes effective listening as also to weed out areas that become barriers to effective communication.
Interpersonal relationship– These skills help us relate positively with people. In turn, this helps with our mental & social well-being.
Coping with stress– This involves recognizing sources of stress in our lives & working on our internal coping mechanisms to deal with it.
Coping with emotions– Again this means being able to identify various emotions in us and being aware of how they influence our behavior. It is also important to understand that while all emotions are acceptable, all behavior may not be.
To put it simply, these life skills help children navigate life with confidence and competence. It is through these life skills that children can adapt to circumstances & thrive in any challenges that may come their way. As parents we may want to prepare the road for the child, however, the true value lies in preparing the child for the road ahead. It is through these life skills that children will also grow up to be responsible citizens. The pandemic has been a rude eye-opener for the need for these life skills. The need for resilience, empathy, and more cannot be overstated in light of the global pandemic that we just witnessed. Whether it is right decision-making, critical thinking, coping with emotions, and more, these skills go a long way in helping students live a balanced life and to do justice to their full potential.
In fact, the New Education Policy (NEP) also recognizes the need to teach these 21st-century skills in schools so that the foundation of these skills is built early. A World Economic Forum study also found that over 50% of employers list communication skills, problem-solving skills, and more as being extremely valuable. While so far these have been clubbed as soft skills and by contrast, the focus has always been on acquiring technical skills, the world is increasingly waking up to their importance.
Let us specifically look at the importance of life skills in students & why these skills should be taught in schools
Importance of Life Skills in Students
Overall to say that these skills teach confidence, resilience, independence & more to students will not be an exaggeration. Let us look at some specific benefits.
Personal Well-being– First things first. We are all aware of the mental health epidemic that the world at large is facing. The effects are even more pronounced in students as they face academic pressures, deal with peer pressure, and more. Acquiring these life skills goes a long way in ensuring the personal well-being of children. It helps them find the right solutions, helps them communicate effectively, improves self-awareness, and more. Additionally, it helps them cope with external changes as well as with the myriad emotions that arise on account of the many changes that they need to contend with. The skills help them cope with stress, which has become ubiquitous in today’s world. While the external conditions may not be in their hands, these skills help them develop a robust coping mechanism. In times when so many precious student lives are lost to suicide, the importance of these life skills cannot be overstated.
Making the right decisions– With an emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving & decision-making, students are taught the framework of thinking things through, early in life. These skills once built stay with them way beyond their student life & help them take effective decisions in life.
Build a caring world– With students being guided to develop empathy as well as effective communication skills, it can go a long way in creating a kind and caring world.
Needless to say therefore that with these life skills learned early, students are set up for success not just academically but in the context of life.
To sum up
The importance of life skills education is only increasing. In a constantly changing world, it is through ineffective learning of these life skills that we can hope to have a fulfilling life. At Pragyanam, we work at the holistic development of the child using the W.H.O recommended Life Skills based Curriculum. Various activities at school are aimed to nurture these life skills and to help students thrive in their lives.