Friday, October 24, 2014

Life Skills

Recent reports in newspapers show worrisome condition of the youth, especially their emotional aspect. Newspapers are full of reports which reflect a significant rise in the problems faced by the youth, for example, serious emotional disturbances have increased and resulted in disturbed relationships among students in schools because of decrease in emotional intelligence among them which pushes them to the greater use of alcohol and other drugs from an early age. All this clearly result in increase in aggression, suicidal tendencies, drugs use, and depression cases. This scenario shows the struggle that the youth go through and emotional problems they face. So providing an educational experience that could strengthen their coping abilities to counter environmental stress is an important call of present time. One of the best approaches for contributing to the overall development of children is the life skills approach. A key aspect of human development - as important to basic survival as intellect - is the acquisition of socio-cognitive and emotional coping skills. Today the behavior of a student is influenced by a lot of factors with Information Technology as one of the major factors. In a fast moving and fast changing world human interaction and relationships have become all the more important than anytime in the past. Information Technology is playing an important role in ways people interact with each other reaching across borders, ethnicity, religion and race. These interactions and relationships among people are largely influenced by the life skills acquired by them, so life skills have become more important than anything else in student’s life. The life skills acquired by people differ among them and these skills play an important role in the overall development of a person.
Meaning of life skills lie in the word itself i.e. skills that make life enjoyable and meaningful. For most children of India life skills were imparted so that they could lead a life with the motto "कर्मण्येवाधिकारमस्तेाf फ़लेषुकदाचन"-In the present scenario Indian families are moving away from joint families to nuclear families which have affected the development of children negatively, so this is imperative on the part of schools and teachers that they play an important role in imbibing value based education or life skill based education.
“Life skills mean the essential skills developed through a higher order thinking, that enable a person to perform effectively in his or her life and thus making him a socially acceptable and successful person’’. From this definition it can be clearly understood that life skills are acquired by a person mostly during his early stages of life, though it is a continuous process. With the help of Information Technology, the world today has shrunk in a small laptop or a mobile phone and that enables a person to interact with different societies, different people and acquire whole lot of skills for his personal development. Life skills are more about a person’s presentation and his attitude towards life. These interactions may bring positive as well as negative life skills in a person’s life. This is a time when close family members, friends and teachers should play an important role in bringing positivity through these interactions and develop life skills. In some situations students come across different problems, stress and their weaknesses and find it difficult to come out of these situations. Life skills teach a person to face peer pressure, analyse situation and always see a ray of hope in adverse conditions. Life skills also teach a person not only to be positive, but also show him his strength, weakness, empathy and creativity thus making him an effective communicator. As it is written in Bhagwad Gita, “Man is made by his belief, as he believes, so he is.”

Role Of Teachers In Imparting Skills
Teachers play a very important role in inculcating these life skills. To impart the highest value skills in students, it is important that teachers should have a complete understanding of life skills. Teachers themselves should practice what they preach. Some of the aspects of life skills are self-awareness, effective communication, creative thinking, critical analysis etc.

Role of peer group
During teenage, students are inspired the most by their peer group. They automatically acquire traits of reasoning. If the group is exposed to positive traits they will be inclined towards positivity.
Role of parents
Healthy environment develops a positive attitude in child.Mutual efforts of parents and teachers develop different life skills in children. If a child is exposed to a healthy life style at home, he becomes healthy, like, if everyone at home starts the day with physical exercise he starts respecting his body too .If someone at home narrates him stories, he learns to analyse situations and learns to show empathy.
Role of Media
Nowadays media plays a significant role in building one’s perspective and in acquiring life skills. Schools opt for different newspapers and magazines so that students can read about their own age group as well as poets, article writers and achievers. They get invaluable suggestions and opportunity to express them.

Role of the schools
Schools and teachers can play the most important role in the life of the children because they are seen by the students as motivators, torch bearers and support. Some of the aspects of these strengths are creativity in writing, games, culinary skill, dancing, singing and oratory skills.
One of the most important modes to impart life skills is communication. Communication consists of listening and speaking. Communication is a two way interaction where an underlying message is clearly understood by the recipient. A person must be able to listen and understand what someone is asking or telling him and also be clear about what he is asking or telling others. Everything related to the universe communicates in the verbal or in the nonverbal forms. Even nature communicates its aggression to people.  Expression of life skills is its communication skill. An important question that arises is whether these skills can be acquired easily by listening and speaking. Teachers play significant role in developing the skills where the teacher and student both are empowered.
ओमसहनाववतुसहनौभुनक्तु ,
This is an excellent example of communication and harmony where teachers and students pray for their mutual growth.It is effective only when it has significance to a person. Communication is a weapon which can bring the desired changes in a person and his surroundings.Mahatma Gandhi’s example is suitable here, how even a shy boy came over his shyness and made effective communication of freedom. This basic understanding helps a student in the long run and makes a student an effective communicator. Breakdown in communication is one of the important factors in emotional disturbance. When communication breaks down then misunderstanding comes in and people might become aggressive or uncooperative towards each other.
This term has a wide meaning but it is best defined as per Vedant ‘’अहम्बह्मsस्मि'’ that is nothing but more about self-awareness. Today students are moving away from this fact and many of them are not aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Due to this confusion and peer pressure they tend to miss and identify themselves. Developing self-awareness and knowing self so that one changes and understands what stops him from making progress. It is very important for one to realize one’s weaknesses and one should work towards overcoming them so that it doesn't hinder his life. Sometimes people are more worried about their inabilities and forget their capabilities. So it is necessary that one should focus on one’s strength and accept his weaknesses too. Some of the important basic needs of a person that he must be aware of are food, health and shelter. A person must be aware that shelter is must to protect him against environmental hazards. A person must recognise and be aware that he must eat and drink and respond to a good quality food otherwise, the body may not function as efficiently as it should and may become prone to infection and other illnesses. A person must remain aware of his priorities and goals and always strive to find ways to achieve those. Using these goals, he must lay down the roadmap and framework to achieve these goals and plan to get over the obstacles and objections that may come up against during the course. One of the important aspects that a person should always be aware of is    to know what is important in his life. This can help him to move forward and live the sort of life that is important for him .This will help him to interact with others with integrity and authenticity. Believing in one’s own capabilities is one of the most important dimensions that bring out the best positive outcome in the personal development. Self-awareness of this dimension not only helps a person to remain focused but also creates a positive environment in a team and surroundings. So all these life skills are important to cope with life and help one to become a successful person. Life skills always help in making a positive person in the society who can contribute in his own personal development as well as that of the society. But with the varying levels of intelligence and grasping power in individuals it may not be possible that the recipient receives the intended message. In these cases innovation and teaching methodology play an important role in imparting life skills depending on each individuals capabilities and learning styles. 
Critical thinking and creativity
This is a very important aspect of lifeskills. Whichever skill one acquires to sharpen the acquired skills, one has to develop critical thinking.Critical and creative thinking are two sides of the same coin which help a person to deal with different situations of life successfully.  They can be inculcated through an effective curriculum. They can be practiced in everyday teachings by developing questioning and reasoning skills in the students.
Some of the modes that can be used to teach life skills are:
"योगश्चित्तवृतिनिरोध "
Healthy practices like yoga and meditation help in the learning of life skills. Nowadays yoga isn’t related just to physical and breathing exercise but has a broader aspect  of mental stability and the state of mind too.Practicing both the habits bring positivity and energy for the body as well as the mind. The mind is like an energy factory which produces thoughts. If the mind gets the fuel of positive vibes it will be beneficial for oneself as well as for the society thereby contributing in its progress.
It is a purposeful conversation proceeding towards a certain objective. Discussions involve exchange and sharing of ideas, experiences, facts and opinion on given topics. The conversation can be used in large or small groups. Discussion can be used when:
·               Clarifying concepts
·               Clarifying attitudes and values
·               Gathering opinions from others
·               Building consensus
·               Gathering ideas
·               Learning new skills like listening critically and discussing sensitively. 

3. Debate
A debate is a discussion which involves two opposing parties with each group expressing opinions or views about a given topic or subject. Each group competitively attempts to win over the other. At the end of the debate the group with more points is declared the winner. To develop critical thinking debates are organised.Current topics are chosen for this type of activity. Those who participate in it develop the critical, analytical and logical thinking, an important aspect of life skills. With this skill they learn to respect their opponents’ understanding that they have a right to express themselves. Today the schools and teachers are well aware of multiple intelligence, in which each and every child is considered unique in one way or the other. Debaters are word smart and are blessed with logical ability. So to cater to the needs of word smart children, teachers emphasize on life skills based on word or language skills.
4. Role Plays/Just a minute
These are short drama episodes in which the participants experience how a person feels in a similar real life situation. Role plays can be used when:
a)               Developing specific skills such as negotiation, assertiveness, communication and self-awareness
b)              Demonstrating how a skill can be applied in a given situation.
c)               Organizing different programmes to express gratitude to the grandparents, parents and other members of the society. Schools for example, can organise special days for grandparents and like that. Such programmes make grandparents feel proud by seeing their grandchild’s thrilling, emotional and message giving performance. Here teachers need to be careful while selecting the theme. Through this programme students learn to perform in groups, learn to praise each other and are able to feel the emotion of characters.
Independence Day/Republic Day- participating on this day helps them to realise that they must contribute in the country's progress. Students analyse current situation of the country and give different ideas to move ahead in form of self written poems, essays and plays. By this they are developing creativity, thinking skill and communication skills.
Annual functions are platforms to make people aware of social, environmental and political changes. Students get opportunities to raise current topics of the society like save girl child, save water 'जल जीवन है ' etc.
5. Story telling
Stories are the best equipment to inculcate good habits and moral values.Through this way of lifeskill one can successfully generate empathy towards the needy or any other person.Story telling involves telling of narratives with a particular theme, based on actual events.Students get detailed information about an event of life situation in an interesting way while also getting a moral message. Stories can be composed, collected or based on specific themes on life skills for example assertiveness, negotiations or decision making. When reading or telling stories they should be dramatic and larger than real life experiences. The stories could be presented in a variety of ways for example, tone variation, use of facial expression, involvement of audience. Animal and human characters can be used in presenting the stories atthe primary level.

For middle and secondary school students, teachers need to choose a story from the community which provides incidents where a character has to make a decision. The story line should follow the character and show the consequences of the decisions made. If it was a wise decision, the character should be portrayed as a winner. If the decision made was a poor one, the story should show the character suffering as a consequence of this.

The students could be encouraged to come up with their own stories from their communities or any other. A teacher should choose an interesting and lively story. The story should follow logical and systematic steps, and should highlight incidents that are familiar to learners

Puppets can be used to make stories more dramatic especially if the story is being told rather than read. When stories are being told one should vary the tone and use different voices for each character in the story. You may also use puppetry as a method of presenting sensitive messages in an interesting way.

6 Sports -Multiple intelligence plays a vital role in a child’s life.To cater to the needs of kinesthetic children one should plan activities of their interest. They need different games to channelize their energy in a constructive way.Through these activities they learn how to keep themselves in shape, to utilise time and energy wisely. They develop sportsman spirit in them. Good sportsman has team spirit too which help him to contribute in the progress of the society.
7 Songs and Dances
Songs are musical compositions on topical issues and themes, which convey messages on contemporary issues in the society. The same helps in character building and values and reinforcing them.
Songs and dance can be used to develop and strengthen life skills, for example self awareness, communication skills and conflict resolution. Songs are useful when one wants to pass sensitive cultural and patriotic messages in an interesting manner. The teacher can compose a song, or ask the learners to compose some or use the already existing ones. The songs should be interesting, appealing, easy to learn and familiar to the students. The songs can be re-enforced by use of puppetry.Dancing involves co-ordination of body movements which generate joy and cheer among the participants. These flow activities create positive environment and help one to enhance his personality.

There are many skills and sub skills which are not mentioned but all those are included in C3 - creativity (culinary, gardening, story writing, presentation etc.), critical thinking (projects, experiments, problem solving assessment) and communication skills. There are two key elements for achieving C3, one simply setting objectives and breaking the objectives down into easy to accomplish tasks. The second element involves training one’s mind to think positive. Positivity will be generated by reading, listening to positive thoughts and practicing good habits.Dr APJ Abdul Kalam is an excellent example of combination of C3. He has put vision and mission for us to achieve life skills for ourselves and nation -:

"As a young citizen of India
Armed with technology, knowledge and love for my nation

I will walk and sweat for a great vision
The vision of transforming India into a developed nation
Powered by economic strength with value system

Iam one of the citizens of billions
Only the vision will ignite the billion souls
It has entered into me;

The ignited soul compared to any resource 
Is the most powerful resource on the earth 
Above the earth, under the earth

I will keep the knowledge of light burning
To achieve the vision developed India

May the divine peace of beauty enter into our people
Happiness and good health blossom in our minds and bodies"

At last I would like to mention that the reforms introduced by CBSE is an earnest attempt to develop life skills and teachers get ample opportunity to make the students learn that. Assessment of speaking and listening skills, PSA etc are the tools to achieve the goals of life skills .But, we should remember that only test would not enhance life skills but for that teachers will have to work hard and motivate children by providing them conducive environment with holistic approach

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