Assessments Key To Infusing Life Skills Into Mainstream Education

Assessments are pivotal for all interventions, especially in the education space. To ensure life skills are here to stay for India’s education system, we must commence by assessing our readiness to embrace, teach and learn life skills

The National Education Policy 2020 seeks to 'ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all' by 2030. It states that the goal of education must go beyond cognitive growth to include character development and the creation of holistic and well-rounded individuals with relevant 21st-century abilities.

While the importance of life skills for young people has been established through numerous studies, the past couple of years has re-emphasized the importance of building life skills in our children.

The way we learn, work and navigate our lives has now been altered. Perhaps the deepest impact of this transformation has been on children and young adults who grappled with adjusting to the lockdown-imposed realities. A recent study conducted by 'Save the Children' across 46 countries, including India, highlights the devastating impact of Covid on children’s wellbeing. The study found that children were 57 per cent less happy and 54 percent more worried owing to social distancing with friends. Now more than ever, children need the ability to cope with stress, focus on their emotional wellbeing, and be resilient in the face of sudden and long-lasting change. They must be enabled to find a way to manage the after-effects of the pandemic and thrive in life.

While mainstreaming life skills education is an aspirational goal, one we - the government, society, individuals - are all working towards, it is significant to understand if we are ready for this step up?

Building the life skills pathway

In India, the life skills conversation is at a nascent (but growing) stage where we are still trying to figure out how to teach these to our children. Assessments (and not examinations) are pivotal for all interventions, especially in the education space. To ensure life skills are here to stay for India’s education system, we must commence by assessing our readiness to embrace, teach, and learn life skills.

Though the National Education Policy 2020 put a refreshing spotlight on life skills education by calling out the need to move beyond content and ‘adapt, innovate, and absorb’, the challenge still remains - where do we begin?

Assessment tools for the Indian context

We begin by assessing our readiness to teach life skills to our children. The existing policies on life skills offer guidelines on how life skills shall be taught. These are implemented at the school level. But, do we know how these policies are being implemented by the system and how equipped are our teachers to transact them in the classroom?

Once implemented, it is also necessary to understand the effectiveness of these policies. The policy implementors - the teachers - have a decisive role to play in enabling our children with life skills. Do they need additional training to support their efforts? Most importantly, we need to closely monitor the impact of these teachings on children. Do they feel more prepared to deal with day-to-day changes?

Some frameworks to measure life skills have been defined by organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labor Organisation (ILO). However, none of these has been developed or contextualised for Indian application. And while the importance of life skills in a child's holistic development is universal, the application of these life skills is very contextual. And, hence need to be understood and taught in the Indian context.

India beautifully blends and acknowledges varied social, economical, cultural, political and linguistic realities. With 28 states and 1652 mother tongues (Census of India 1961), India speaks many languages and communicates through many more. Life skills education and assessments in India would never work if they were only being created with a siloed focus to implement.

There is a growing recognition of the need to build a contextual life skills understanding for India.

Getting India’s future-ready for the future

The need of the hour is a collective effort to ideate on, develop, test and implement life skills assessment tools designed for the Indian context and in local languages. It is also imperative that these tools are backed by statistical models capable of offering in-depth analysis. 

The focus on life skills in India is at an exciting stage with the increasing involvement of various stakeholders (government, funders, CSOs, assessment bodies), all recognising the importance of mainstreaming life skills. There is also a growing effort of using assessment tools as the medium to assess our readiness to do so. India’s children could greatly benefit from a system that assesses holistically, adjusts and reinvents itself with a focus on preparing them for anything the future may bring. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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