The India Glossary - Leveraging Conversations Around Life Skills

The importance of the holistic development of children has been mentioned in many position papers and curriculum frameworks in the past. But in actual practice, they have tended to pay mere lip service.

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” - William Gibson

This 2003 pronouncement couldn’t be more appropriate now. We live in a world that has been battered by a virus just as we ushered in the second decade of this millennium. As school education systems grapple with ‘normal functioning’ in a post-pandemic world,  one thing that remains certain in an uncertain future is the necessity and importance of life skills.  It is, therefore, imperative to catalyse a better distributed, more humane re-set for India's youth and the public Indian Education System. 

But what are life skills?

 Life skills are vital processes that help a person navigate through familiar, unfamiliar, and challenging contexts with a sense of personal confidence, social conscience, and professional competence.

The Need for Life Skills Today 

The ‘Social Cohesion in a Post-Covid World’ Report by the University of Auckland’s Centre for Informed Futures  (2020) states, “A resilient society is one that not only addresses the challenges created by crises but finds opportunities to transform positively, in order to thrive in a changing environment... At the same time, we must also acknowledge the unaddressed issues that existed before the crisis and give greater emphasis to addressing these.” 

For India, one of the neglected issues has been the genuine focus on whole child development. Indeed, the importance of the holistic development of children has been mentioned in many position papers and curriculum frameworks in the past. But in actual practice, they have tended to pay mere lip service. More recently though, the National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020 has explicitly stated the importance of fostering social-emotional development of our children and developing their life skills, including critical thinking and creative thinking. This is an opportunity that needs to be grabbed, to make right the decades of wrong that has been meted out at our youth. India’s children have been going through an education system with a distorted emphasis on rote-based academic knowledge. The time is ripe to champion the cause of and need for developing life skills. And in this connection, the Life Skills Collaborative (LSC) is eminently suitable to be the levers of change,  as it is a group of organisations that have dedicated decades to improving the quality of learning offered to children.

There is a notion that life skills are abilities that one can automatically pick up as one goes through school and college. This is completely misguided and is based on a small percentage of children from privileged backgrounds picking up these skills quite seamlessly. However, the vast majority of young people, especially from severely disadvantaged communities, need competent, caring support to build their life skills so that they get a fair chance at thriving in a complex, crisis-ridden and uncertain world. Life skills like adaptability, coping with stress, empathy, grit, leadership, resourcefulness, amongst others, can be potent tools to manoeuvre through life that may be unpredictable but also empowering!

Now is our opportunity to advocate for the integration of life skills into mainstream education.

Steering the Life Skills Conversations Forward 

Admittedly, to introduce a life skills-focused curriculum, we need a common vocabulary on life skills that highlights the key definitions, related skills, actions in which the Life Skills get manifested, and appropriate phrases/terms (in regional languages).

In this regard, the LSC’s work on developing an India Glossary of Life Skills is a significant milestone and a propellant for life skills conversations in India. The first version of the Glossary promises to be the touchstone for developing young India’s human potential. It will help both, amplify and enrich nationwide conversations around Life Skills.

It is pertinent to note that there is no existing framework for life skills that comprehensively defines each skill, provides how each skill could be demonstrated by a person, and what the other related life skills are! Hence, the LSC India Glossary is not just a vital resource for India, but also for the entire South Asia region.

LSC’s India Glossary has the potential to catalyse and consolidate the various dispersed conversations happening about life skills across the country. Having a resource of comprehensively defined skill terms makes it easier to have meaningful discussions using a commonly understood vocabulary. The Glossary could serve well as the north star for empowering India’s young people to thrive and succeed in life. 

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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