After the Union government’s focus on skill development of school children in the Budget 2022, Haryana’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recently announced the state government’s decision to mandate life skill development as a compulsory subject for classes 9-12.
Khattar said the larger focus of the Haryana government will be to make students “cultured and self-reliant so that they make significant contributions in making India a global leader again”. While technical skills are a more emphasised category, the importance and effectiveness of life skills education for students’ social, emotional and cognitive development have also come into the picture in the post-pandemic era.
What are life skills?
While there’s no definitive list, some of the major examples are time and money management, effective communication, interpersonal relationship, stress management among others
Unicef says life skills are a behaviour change or behaviour development approach designed to address a balance of three areas—knowledge, attitude and skills. Meanwhile, WHO defines life skills as the ability for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.
Why is teaching life skills in the early years important?
Maneesh Dhooper, the co-founder of the communication skills development edtech platform PlanetSpark, said young people are brimming with untapped potential and they need dedicated skills that empower them to bring out the best in themselves.
“Consider a group of young individuals who have excelled in school but have no idea how to deal with the realities of life. What if they weren’t able to communicate clearly? Or they were always in debt because they couldn’t manage their money? It’s both disturbing and all-too-common at the same time. While no one can deny the value of good grades, they are insufficient without the requisite life skills,” Dhooper highlighted.
Vishal Gupta, the founder and CEO of Little Leap, said the need for life skills is present across age groups. However, the importance of some skills becomes relevant at a certain age. “For a 4-6-year-old, morals, ethics and values, and self-image along with language and expression is the most important skills whereas confidence and problem solving becomes more important in age 8-10 onwards after the base of other life skills has been built,” Gupta pointed out.
Rise in awareness among parents, schools
PlanetSpark’s Dhooper said millennial parents are more aware of the importance of life skills given their own experiences. “With the technological advancement and availability of online platforms, the accessibility and awareness towards life skills have drastically improved in the last 10-15 years. With less time to spend with their child, millennial working parents enrol their children in life skill classes for the development of both scholastic as well as co-scholastic areas of their children’s lives,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mukund Rao, the co-founder of muvin, a pocket money app for teens that provides financial literacy lessons said, “With changing times and the advent of digitisation in India, young Indians are becoming financially independent a lot earlier than even the previous couple of decades. We have seen that due to the penetration of finance pages on social media, teens have an initial interest and basic awareness in understanding personal finance from an early age.”
“It is important to visibly demonstrate financially responsible behaviour in front of your kids in order to teach them important money management lessons from an early age,” Rao added.
Pandemic-induced demand for life skills education
Little Leap’s Gupta said as online learning became a new normal during the pandemic, parents became more aware of the other activities and skills their kids can be enrolled in.
Dhooper of PlanetSpark also seconds the claim stating that tremendous changes were witnessed in the pre-and post-pandemic era. “The need for soft/life skills was present well before but the demand accelerated post the first Covid induced lockdown. The number of enrolments on our platform increased almost 150 times in the year 2020-21 with the majority of parents wanting to enrol their children in communication skills classes,” added Dhooper.