How to teach life skills far beyond syllabuses
The art of teaching should be selfless; it should reach new frontiers of knowledge, given the fact that we are now living in a global village. In both schools and colleges, teaching of life skills, that is, skills that are far more common across all specialisations, is essential. Some dimensions of life skills that are particularly relevant to be taught in schools and colleges are discussed in this article.
Life skillsThe concept of life skills is relevant to both school and college students. These are skills that have a big background in psychology and some basic skills. How these apply to any child in a school or young adults in colleges, can be easily observed in any setting. In the main, these life skills are a) Positive Mental Attitude b)A spirit of inquiry c) Basic skills like electrical and plumbing and so on d) Basic knowledge of banking operations and finance and so on e) Inter-personal skills and e) A pugnacious spirit that never accepts failure.
Positive Mental AttitudeThere was this session in a famous Coimbatore College in Western Tamil Nadu, moderated by a well known Motivational Speaker. The session was conducted in both Tamil and English. The topic naturally went into the terrific hard-work of icons. The two icons of Mahendra Singh Dhobi and Rajnikant the superstar came up for discussion. The "keep it simple" strategies of Mr. Cool as he is often referred to, was mentioned by the students. The speaker went on to emphasize how Dhoni never showed any anger on the field, whatever be the situation the Indian Cricket Team found itself in. Numerous examples were given by the speaker, a die-hard fan of the SuperKing of Chennai Super Kings(CSK), the most famous IPL team in India.
And then the discussion went on to a recent interview of the famous film director, Shankar, whose film "Enthiran" went on to become a super- duper hit. Since most students had not read the interview published in a Tamil magazine, the entire audience was spellbound when the speaker quoted the director as having said that the Superstar did not remove a make-up that he had to bear for 28 hours. It was pain and any human being would feel the itch. But Rajnikant would not even murmur a single word. That was his dedication.
Positive Mental Attitudes always flow out of passions and hard work. And our of optimism and the art of identifying opportunities when none seem to exist; it also comes out of an attitude that combines patience, control of anger, looks beyond immediate concerns and has a big focus on values. Once people get this right, everything else follows so naturally. That Rajnikant and MS Dhoni had all these was well-known at all times.
A spirit of enquiryThis naturally follows from the first life skill. If any student does not know about everything that happens around him or her, after the ninth standard, he is unlikely to succeed. Teachers who teach them everything are the big role models. For example, in a big group of schools that have many branches throughout India, a teacher of Mathematics shared his method of teaching. There was no complusion, but on a school holiday, he would visit the houses of two students of those who studied in standard ten and encourage them to understand what is meant by demonization. He would share such knowledge the next day and the particular students would chip in. After noticing his interest another teacher even conducted a special class about how the American economy is the largest in the world. The teachers deliberately did this to encourage the spirit of enquiry in young minds. This is no more a choice. It is imperative and should be followed from day one.
Basic skills like electrical and plumbing and so onThe CBSE school chain referred to above, would ensure that each student, after class eight, would be compulsorily taught how to fix a fuse, change a tube light, get a new ceiling fan mounted and so on. In a particular college in a town in North Tamil Nadu, the teacher, who had a background in organic farming( his parents have been doing this for decades) taught twenty students the basic. And when the students met with a graduate in Agriculture, who did professional farming in a nearby village, they were able to get additional inputs as well. This also motivated the students to take up tree planting in four nearby villages, with the active support of a social organization, wedded to the cause. The name of the college is not mentioned here, on the request of the particular college authorities.
Such training should become a natural process of learning after the ninth standard and also in every arts and science college, across India.
Basic knowledge of accounts and finance and so onShould not a tenth standard student know how to open a Savings Bank account, open a recurring deposit, know-how banks give loans and so on? Should they not know what a cheque is and what is meant by a mutual fund and so on?
This is exactly called exposure. We cannot create an entire generation of students who do not know even such basic facts. It is but natural that such basic knowledge will spur the student to know a little more about such matters on his or her own; seek such knowledge from whatever source is near him and also explore the internet to gather relevant information. Such knowledge can form the basis of life skills that can make a vital difference to the student in his later life.
Inter-personal skillsIt is a wrong idea that Inter-personal skills are relevant only for adults. The reality is that Inter-personal skills are so natural even at home. Every single teacher needs to know how to impart the basics of all. To give a simple example, how should the child remain calm if the parents fight among themselves? How should a girl child, anywhere in India, handle strangers? How should any student, who is the eldest son or daughter shoulder some responsibility and get things done? In terms of management of emotions, how should the student react to different situations?
It should be noted that the teachers are the most important secondary contact persons in any student's life at school or college; in the case of parents where both parents are too busy in their daily lives, it becomes all the more essential for teachers to have a big role in enabling every student to understand different dimensions of Inter-personal relations; control of anger also becomes extremely important in today's conditions. The students are exposed to a lot of stress and frustration at the same time, as they are sometimes unable to bear the tensions of the educational system or economic difficulties of parents at some point in time or the other. Quite apart from the fact that a vast majority of students in urban areas lack the security of a joint family, that gave a distinct meaning to Inter-personal relations just four decades ago, the extremely sharp changes in our entire society in the recent years has effectively demolished the Inter-personal fabric in all families; there are situations where many lose their temper at all times.
The students need to teach the nuances of effective Inter-personal relations at home and the immediate neighbourhood, by making them learn from common-sense observations; this can be easily done by the teachers concerned.
A pugnacious spirit that never accepts failureA pugnacious spirit is one that says never-say die; one that never accepts no for an answer. Any student in school or college has to compulsorily develop this spirit in him or her. Inspirations can be found anywhere. From famous film stars, musicians, sportspersons and so on. The students need to constantly encourage to do better every single day of their lives and develop such a spirit. This can enable them to take on the challenges of the unknown on a later date in their lives. This will also enable them to survive and grow in totally new environments. For example, how to cope with the complexities of living in a dynamic metro like Mumbai and so on. Or for example, to plan to study for the civil services examination on a later date.
ConclusionA few dimensions of what may be called life skills are discussed above; there are too many life skills that one needs to possess. However, once the student starts doing the things that are required to acquire life-skills, he or she will grow to acquire many more life skills at any point in time.
This is one good article elaborating need for practical education along with the usual academics. In 1972 when I did my PG in Physics with specialisation in Electronics, I felt myself a learned and knowledgeable person and was selected for an executive job in a big company and was posted in Assam state. I was asked to join there in an electronic laboratory where some specialised electronic equipments were repaired time to time whenever the users found problem in their working. It was a big laboratory and it had some mechanical machines and some electrical machines to help us to fabricate or design or use them in connection with the repairs of the said equipment. As I was new, I was associated with a senior person and was asked to help and assist him so that after some time I would be able to attend the jobs independently. It took a few days for me to understand what is what and where are the various tools kept and where are the various spare parts or assemblies were kept so that we could take it and use it. If we do not have that item we would go to our stores and get it or ask them to buy it from the market or get from outside like Kolkata the nearest big place for technical material.
I started to assist my senior who was telling me how to make a wire coil for an equipment where it was to be replaced. He asked me to go to the next room and bring 36 gauge enamelled copper wire. I went and opened the Almirah and saw that so many rolls of copper wires of various thickness were there but could not understand what he meant by 36 gauge. I was feeling sorry about my lack of knowledge and went to him with a sorry face. He simply smiled and came with me and showed the rolls and told what it meant by 36 or 18 or 24. I simply nodded but felt much on my lack of knowledge. For about 3 months there were so many things that I did not know and then I realised that there was some big lacunae in our education system. Theoretically, I was very proficient but practically I did not know many things and all my pride that I had just after completing my PG went to the ground.
So, it is necessary that students should be exposed to these practical things during their education itself.