What are life-skills?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined life skills as abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour, that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. (Reference: Life skills education for children and adolescents in schools, Program on mental health, World Health Organization)
Why are life-skills important now?
Through the 18th century, the world (developed and developing both) has moved from agrarian economy to industrial economy to information age. The challenges of these economies were known and education was tailored to deliver skilled workforce to meet the economy needs. Schools evolved from educating the classes to inclusion of masses for one-size-fits all education approach. The 21st century is going to be the conceptual age of creators and collaborators. Given the rapid pace at which technology and globalization are growing, and the excruciating demand on natural resources, we do not know what kind of challenges lie ahead for the future generation to succeed in the 21st century. The question that then arises is how do we prepare this generation to face unknown challenges?
What we do know is that in the 21st century, individuals will have to locate and assess new information quickly, communicate and be effective in collaborative & multi-cultural work environments, be adaptable, creative, problem solve innovatively and be able to view systems holistically. And such skills will enable the future generation to deal with demands and challenges of everyday life. Hence circling back to the definition of life skills by WHO, there is an increased emphasis on life skills education for 21st century.
Who should learn life skills?
Life skills are for all. A common misconception about life skills is that these are for the consumption of the elite classes. In fact, research shows that when poor children are given access to life skills education, their life outcomes improve considerably.
Why start at school age?
Life skills are abilities that children should learn either in school, at home or in their communities. A misconception is that life skills are optional and should follow basic language and numeracy education only if resources are available. However, learning life skills at school age along with academics (maths, language or science), enables children to transfer the theoretical concepts to other real life situations early on. If life skills are left to develop when older, children will already have become passive recipients of information, and would have developed ways of civic interactions by mimicking adults. As children mature into adolescence and adulthood, these skills put them on a path of life-long learning and emotional well-being.