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Imbibing life-skills in the present generation

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

By Mahesh Tejwani, President of Vivekanand Education Society, Mumbai

For all practical purposes, the Indian education system has always laid emphasis on textbook learning. At the core of this process methodology, the aim is to create an employable person, an earning member for the family and an asset for the economy. Modern-day curriculums should also place focus on developing the life skills of students.

Life skills have been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with demands and challenges of everyday life”. To put it simply, it involves inculcating in the student the attitude and the skills to face the rapidly changing pace and increasing stress of everyday life. Imbibing a social mind-set is maturing on a social and emotional level and developing critical life abilities such dealing with stress, balanced thinking, awareness about surroundings, taking decisions and empathy.

Teaching social skills from the kindergarten level is paramount to developing the overall personality of a child. The teachers need to realize and appreciate the fact that imparting problem solving skills and positive social norms in students will help them to grow into responsible citizens. Students also need to be taught to develop clear communication abilities which will help them respond to real-life situations in a pragmatic and mature manner. This will also lead to plugging of communications gaps and steering clear of misconceptions about dangerous addictions such as drugs and alcoholism. Rather than looking at life from a competitive prism and viewing fellow beings as rivals, ingraining of social skills is pertinent to adopting a humane approach in dealing with everyday situations, a hallmark of a civilized and progressive society.

Academic institutions and teachers need to expose students to real life situations to help them augment their social skills. Children should be encouraged to participate in community development projects such as teaching slum children, attending old-age homes and spending time with aged people and organizing blood donation camps. Coming into contact with the outside world, tackling issues head on and becoming an inclusive part of social change helps a student become a better human being and a model citizen. Teaching of positive skill sets from a young age also helps students in dealing with negative emotions such as anger and depression. Rather than have an impulsive view of life, skill-based education enables students to analyze their thought process in an analytical manner and arrive at a rational judgment based on reasoning and not emotion.

If academic subjects help students to get jobs and improve their economic prospects, skill-based learnings help them develop a creative outlook and a balanced personality. Rather than laying emphasis on a rote-based learning system, policy makers and educational institutions should concentrate on laying a value-based education policy which will help in making students humane professionals rather than professional humans. Skill-based training can prove to be the much-needed catalyst in bridging the gaps between diverse sections of the society and unifying communities through the noble ideals of kindness, empathy and tolerance.

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