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"Two things which education must give if it is to be education at all-first a certain intellectual habit and attitude of mind, second a view of life. If education can give these two things, right view of life and the right mental habit it will have given us the chief equipment which we need for our voyage through the world."
Education is a process of human enlightenment and empowerment for the achievement of a better quality of life. It is true that education is a necessity for better life. The world in which we live has witnessed rapid changes in the last twenty years and at a mind-boggling speed. These rapid changes have far reaching consequences on education and child development especially the youth. Today's youth is exposed to more information and cultural alternatives than in earlier periods. This provides them with culturally diverse choices, which cannot be easily exercised due to economic dependence. Rapidly changing social, moral, ethical and religious values have ushered in certain 'life styles' in the present society especially among the youth. Among the most affected are the adolescents.
Adolescence, a vital stage of growth and development, marks the period of transition from childhood to adulthood. It is characterized by rapid physiological changes and psychosocial maturation. Adolescence is also the stage when young people extend their relationships beyond parents and family and are intensely influenced by their peers and the outside world in general.
As adolescents mature cognitively, their mental process becomes more analytical. They are now capable of abstract thinking, better articulation and of developing an independent ideology. These are truly the years of creativity, idealism, buoyancy and a spirit of adventure. But these are also the years of experimentation and risk-taking, of giving in to negative peer pressure, of taking uninformed decisions on crucial issues, especially relating to their bodies and their sexuality. Stress, difficulty in making decisions and peer pressure become almost inevitable. Adolescence is thus a turning point in one's life, a period of increased potential but also one of greater vulnerability. Following are the issues and concerns of adolescents in developing their identity:
Self-Image and self-awareness: Adolescence is described by Erickson as particularly a period of identity formation. At this stage a person begins to place himself in ego-space-time. Self-awareness helps adolescents understand themselves and establish their personal identity. Inadequate information and skills prevent them from commendably exploring their potential and creating a positive image and sound career perspective.
Adolescence is a period of heightening of all the emotions, hence they have frequent mood changes reflecting feelings of anger, fear, shame, sadness, happiness, guilt, and love. Very often, they are unable to understand the emotional uproar. They feel that they do not have a supportive environment in order to share their concerns with elders. In the words of Ross "the adolescent leaves an intensively emotional life, in which we can see once more the rhythm of positive and negative phases of behaviour in his constant alteration between intense excitement and deep depression."
As a part of growing up, adolescents redefine their relationships with parents, peers and members of the opposite sex. Parents and other adults have high expectations from them and do not comprehend their feelings. Adolescents need social skills for building positive and healthy interactions with others including peer of opposite sex. They need to understand the significance of mutual respect and socially defined boundaries of every relationship.
Resisting Peer Pressure
According to Horrocks and Benimoff (1970) Peer group relationship plays a substantial role in the life of adolescents. As adolescents develop a strong sense of loyalty towards group, they find it difficult to resist peer pressure. Some of them may yield to these pressures and engage in experimentation which involve greater risks with regard to physical and mental health.
Lack of communication and negotiation
Discussion of issues concerning adolescents is considered to be a taboo in certain societies. The widening gap in communication between adolescents and parents and also with the teachers is a matter of great concern. Parents and teachers still feel inhibited to discuss issues frankly and sensitively with them. Sometimes these gaps result in dire consequences.
Sex related issues
Sexually active adolescents face greater health risks. They may also face mental and emotional problems related to early sexual initiation. Sex education is considered to be a sensitive issue and hence there is a growing disagreement on imparting it formally. Fear and hesitation prevents them from seeking knowledge on preventive methods and medical help if suffering from sex related issues.
Impact of mass media
Media has had significant impact on the life of adolescents in the recent years. Exposures to media and mixed messages from the fast changing world have left adolescents with many unanswered questions which occupy them during this time. Left with no other reliable source, adolescents seek information from their peer group who are also ill informed and some may fall prey to quacks.
Hence the stress faced by the adolescent in such a challenging situation is enormous. This is reflected by growing crime among youth and raise in the depression and also in suicidal rates among adolescent. There is an urgent need to provide today's youth with new sets and systems to face the challenges and to deal with these rising demands of life. The host of factor that promote such approaches is education. Education, formal or informal, must serve as an instrument for fostering the creation of good citizens; equip the youth with practical approaches so that they must function with greater clarity and skills in the modern world. Education, at such a crucial stage plays a perpetual formative role in the adolescent's development.
Education, basically school programmes, should provide opportunities to strengthen and accelerate existing health promotion activities in school life as coping with stress, fostering self-esteem, caring, decision making etc. School education must instil youth how to live. For young people to develop a healthy and responsible life it is not sufficient for children to learn only theoretical aspects and other activities but it is equally important learning how to cope with life challenges.
A sound effective education results in unfolding of the learner's potentialities and enlargement of his or her competencies. Equipping an individual with such education also ensures a health society and a healthy world. If adolescents are to face a new world of rapid changes they need to be drilled in the life skills.
Life skills education is a value addition programme for the youth to understand self and be able to assess their skills abilities and areas of developments. It allows the youth to be effective persons who can make a difference, socialize with other people, be able to adjust with their environment and come out as a self-reliant productive citizen.
1.1 Life skills
A skill is a learned ability to do something well. Life skills are abilities that individuals can learn which will help them to live a fruitful life. In other words life skills are those competencies that assist people in functioning well in the environments in which they live. Skills are learned in sequential steps related to the age and stage of development of the young person.
Life skills are "the abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enables individuals to deal effectively with demands and challenges of everyday life" (WHO, 1997). It further encompasses thinking skill, social skill and negotiation skill. It also helps the young people to develop and grow into well behaved adults. Life skills enable individuals to translate knowledge, attitudes and values into actual abilities. Life skills are abilities that enable individuals to behave in healthy ways, given the desire to do so and given the scope and opportunity to do so. Effective acquisition and application of life skills can influence the way we feel about ourselves and others i.e. the self-concept, and equally will influence the way we are perceived by others.
Life skills are problem solving behaviours used appropriately and responsibly in the management of personal affairs. They are a set of human skills acquired via teaching or direct experience that are used to handle problems and questions commonly encountered in daily human life. The subject varies greatly depending on societal norms and community expectations.
Life skills include psychosocial competencies and interpersonal skills that help people make informed decisions, solve problems, think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, empathize with others, cope with everyday stress, and manage their lives in a healthy and productive manner. Essentially, there are two kinds of skills - those related to thinking termed as "thinking skills"; and skills related to dealing with others termed as "social skills". [i]
While thinking skills relate to reflection at a personal level, social skills include interpersonal skills and do not necessarily depend on logical thinking. It is the combination of these two types of skills that are needed for achieving assertive behaviour and negotiating effectively. Apart from this broad categorisation, "Emotional" can be perceived as a personal skill not only in making rational decisions but also in being able to make others agree to one's point of view. To do that, coming to terms first with oneself is important. Thus, self-management is an important skill including managing/coping with feelings, emotions, stress and resisting peer and family pressure. Young people as advocates need both thinking and social skills for consensus building and advocacy on issues of concern. [ii]
1.3.1 Life Skills - A conceptual foundation
WHO, UNICEF, and other agencies, provides a conceptual foundation for Life Skills approach based on human development-
The World Health Organization has defined life skills as, "the abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life".
The World Health Organisation (WHO) categorizes life skills into the following three components:
a) Critical thinking skills/Decision-making skills - include decision making/ problem solving skills and information gathering skills. The individual must also be skilled at evaluating the future consequences of their present actions and the actions of others. They need to be able to determine alternative solutions and to analyse the influence of their own values and the values of those around them.
b) Interpersonal/Communication skills - include verbal and non-verbal communication, active listening, and the ability to express feelings and give feedback. Also in this category, are negotiation/refusal skills and assertiveness skills that directly affect ones' ability to manage conflict. Empathy, which is the ability to listen and understand others' needs, is also a key interpersonal skill. Teamwork and the ability to cooperate include expressing respect for those around us. Development of this skill set enables the adolescent to be accepted in society. These skills result in the acceptance of social norms that provide the foundation for adult social behaviour.
c) Coping and self-management skills- refers to skills to increase the internal locus of control, so that the individual believes that they can make a difference in the world and affect change. Self-esteem, self-awareness, self-evaluation skills and the ability to set goals are also part of the more general category of self-management skills. Anger, grief and anxiety must all be dealt with, and the individual learns to cope loss or trauma. Stress and time management are key, as are positive thinking and relaxation techniques. [iii]
The Mental Health Promotion and Policy (MHP) team in World Health Organistion's (WHO) Department of Mental Health has produced this definition of life skills: "Life skills education is designed to facilitate the practice and reinforcement of psychosocial skills in a culturally and developmentally appropriate way; it contributes to the promotion of personal and social development, the prevention of health and social problems, and the protection of human rights". (WHO 1999)
UNICEF defines life skills as "a behaviour change or behaviour development approach designed to address a balance of three areas: knowledge, attitude and skills". The UNICEF definition is based on research evidence that suggests that shifts in risk behaviour are unlikely if knowledge, attitudinal and skills based competency are not addressed.
UNICEF promotes the understanding that the life skills approach can be successful, if the following are undertaken together:
a) The Skills-This involves a group of psychosocial and interpersonal skills (described in section 3) which are interlinked with each other. For example, decision making is likely to involve creative and critical thinking components and values analysis.
b) Content - To effectively influence behaviour, skills must be utilized in a particular content area. "What are we making decisions about?" Learning about decision making will be more meaningful if the content is relevant and remains constant. Such content areas as described could be drug use, HIV/AIDS/STI prevention, suicide prevention or sexual abuse. Whatever the content area, a balance of three elements needs to be considered: knowledge, attitudes and skills.
c) Methods- Skills-based education cannot occur when there is no interaction among participants. It relies on groups of people to be effective. Interpersonal and psychosocial skills cannot be learned from sitting alone and reading a book. If this approach is to be successful, all three components, life skills, content and method should be in place. This effectively means that life skills can be learnt through the use of certain methods and tools.
The Pan-American Health Organization defines life skills as social and interpersonal skills (including communication, refusal skills, assertiveness and empathy), cognitive skills (including decision-making, critical thinking, and self-evaluation), and emotional coping skills (including stress management and increasing an internal locus of control.
The OECD has adopted a more generic definition of life skills in the context of the DeSeCo project (Rychaen and Salganik 2001). It defines life skills on three general criteria, namely that a) key competencies contribute to an overall successful life and a well-functioning society, b) they are instrumental to meeting important challenges in a wide spectrum of relevant contexts, and finally, c) they are relevant to all individuals. These key competencies are: a) functioning in socially heterogeneous groups, b) acting autonomously and c) using tools interactively.
Life skills defined in a general way mean a mix of knowledge, behaviour, attitudes and values and designate the possession of some skill and know-how to do something, or reach an aim.
The International Bureau of Education (IBE) derives its understanding from the Delors four pillars of learning - learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together - and defines life skills as personal management and social skills which are necessary for adequate functioning on an independent basis.
International Youth Foundation (IYF)
The cognitive, emotional, and social skills needed to make a successful transition from childhood into adulthood. These skills influence the choices young people make and help them become caring, confident, and responsible adults. http://www.iyfnet.org/document/1139
The skills necessary for successful living. They can be thought of as falling into six main areas: self, family, job, community, leisure, and spirituality. Essential life skills include such things as being able to recognize and describe one's feelings, giving and receiving feedback, recognizing assumptions, setting realistic and attainable goals, and employing problem-solving strategies.
A large group of psychosocial and interpersonal skills which can help people make informed decisions, communicate effectively, and develop coping and self-management skills that may help them lead a healthy and productive life. Life skills may be directed toward personal actions and actions toward others, as well as actions to change the surrounding environment to make it conducive to health.
Working definition of Life Skills for SEAR countries: "Life Skills for adolescents are abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable them to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life within the family, community and cultural context of the South East Asia Region".
"â€¦life skills (are) not a domain, or a subject, but cross-cutting applications of knowledge, values, attitudes and skills, which are important in the process of individual development and lifelong learning. They are not just a set of skills, nor are they equal to survival skills, livelihood skills, or vocational skills but part of these skills." 10
4 The Ten core Life Skills as laid down by WHO are:
1. Self-awareness 2. Effective communication
3. Critical thinking 4. Creative thinking
5. Decision making 6. Problem Solving
7. Empathy 8. Interpersonal relationship
9. Coping with stress 10. Coping with emotion
The Ten core Life Skills
Self-awareness includes recognition of 'self', our character, our strengths and weaknesses, desires and dislikes. Developing self-awareness can help us to recognize when we are stressed or feel under pressure. It is often a prerequisite to effective communication and interpersonal relations, as well as for developing empathy with others.
Empathy - To have a successful relationship with our loved ones and society at large, we need to understand and care about other peoples' needs, desires and feelings. Empathy is the ability to imagine what life is like for another person. Without empathy, our communication with others will amount to one-way traffic. Worst, we will be acting and behaving according to our self-interest and are bound to run into problems. No man is an island, no woman either! We grow up in relationships with many people - parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts, classmates, friends and neighbours. When we understand ourselves as well as others, we are better prepared to communicate our needs and desires. We will be more equipped to say what we want people to know, present our thoughts and ideas and tackle delicate issues without offending other people. At the same time, we will be able to elicit support from others, and win their understanding. Empathy can help us to accept others, who may be very different from ourselves. This can improve social interactions, especially, in situations of ethnic or cultural diversity.
Empathy can also help to encourage nurturing behaviour towards people in need of care and assistance, or tolerance, as is the case with AIDS sufferers, or people with mental disorders, who may be stigmatized and ostracized by the very people they depend upon for support.
Critical thinking is an ability to analyse information and experiences in an objective manner. Critical thinking can contribute to health by helping us to recognize and assess the factors that influence attitudes and behaviour, such as values, peer pressure and the media.
Creative thinking is a novel way of seeing or doing things that is characteristic of four components - fluency (generating new ideas), flexibility (shifting perspective easily), originality (conceiving of something new), and elaboration (building on other ideas).
Decision making helps us to deal constructively with decisions about our lives. This can have consequences for health. It can teach people how to actively make decisions about their actions in relation to healthy assessment of different options and, what effects these different decisions are likely to have.
Problem solving helps us to deal constructively with problems in our lives. Significant problems that are left unresolved can cause mental stress and give rise to accompanying physical strain.
Interpersonal relationship skills help us to relate in positive ways with the people we interact with. This may mean being able to make and keep friendly relationships, which can be of great importance to our mental and social well-being. It may mean Keeping, good relations with family members, which are an important source of social support. It may also mean being able to end relationships constructively.
Effective communication means that we are able to express ourselves, both verbally and non-verbally, in ways that are appropriate to our cultures and situations. This means being able to express opinions and desires, and also needs and fears. And it may mean being able to ask for advice and help in a time of need.
Coping with stress means recognizing the sources of stress in our lives, recognizing how this affects us, and acting in ways that help us control our levels of stress, by changing our environment or lifestyle and learning how to relax.
Coping with emotions means involving recognizing emotions within us and others, being aware of how emotions influence behaviour and being able to respond to emotions appropriately. Intense emotions like anger or sadness can have negative effects on our health if we do not respond appropriately. [iv]
of Decision Making
Apart from the factors mentioned above, there are other concepts involved in decision making, and these are:
This refers to details and knowledge about a decision including the impacts of each alternative, the probability of the choices, and other things.
These are the choices or options that an individual can select from. Alternatives may be identified and determined or it can be developed.
These are the requirements from the available alternatives. The option that meets the criteria is usually selected for the decision.
Goals have to be identified before arriving at a decision.
This pertains to the desirability of the decision outcome that provides satisfaction and contentment to the decision maker.
These are the individual beliefs and commitments of the person. It also means the personal values that dictate individual preferences.
â€¢ Decision Quality
It is an evaluation of whether a decision is desirable or not.
Acceptance is a critical ingredient in decision making. Decision makers must accept the chosen alternative wholeheartedly.
1.5 Characteristics of Life Skills
Life skills are not static skills, but evolve according to circumstances- The process of Life skills development depends upon the family milieu, school environment and upon gender difference and are affected by disparities in social background, gender, the geographical location, as well as national and international cultural variations. The change in circumstance reciprocates the degree and extent of life skill development.
Life skills cannot be learned in an abstract and theoretical way-
It's said that the skills cannot be mugged up but are acquired and learned through practical experiences. Nevertheless it requires the individual to subject his own experience, contexts and observations about problems to creative analysis and evaluation, to collect, probe and discuss his experience where it happens in real life.
Life skills are developed by way of constructive processing - Life skills are developed as a result of a constructive processing of information, impressions, encounters and experiences; both individual and social that are a part of one's daily life and work and the rapid changes that occur in the course of one's life. The social dimensions are particularly important as they condition life itself and compel individuals to purposefully acquire skills, develop attitudes and values in order to face and master real life situations (Ouane 2002).
Life skills are in constant evolution in terms context-
Given the diversity of contexts, backgrounds and cultures and inherent abilities there are bound to be individuals and groups, who cannot attain some life skills so one has to encourage alternative skills (Goody 2001). One needs to try and develop other skills and abilities to encourage diversity rather than uniformity. Hence life skills are in constant evolution both in terms of individual's personal as well as the economic, social and cultural contexts.
Life Skills are skills that can be identified -
,abilities can be learnt demonstrated,
Communication Can read and understand information in a variety of forms ,such as words, graphs, charts and diagrams
â€¢ Can write and speak so others pay attention and understandâ€¢
Can listen and ask questions so that you understand the points of view of others
â€¢Can share information many ways; by using the phone, sending e-mails, writing memos, etc.
n employer who asks for demonstrated time management skills wants to know that you can organize and prioritize your work, juggle multiple tasks and meet deadlines. Many employers believe that past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior, and they will use interview questions designed to elicit detailed descriptions of workplace situations and how you handled them. This style of questioning is called a "behavioral interview." Be prepared to tell the employer how you budgeted your time, planned projects and handled scheduling conflicts.
Read more: How to Explain Demonstrated Time Management Skills | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_5868684_explain-demonstrated-time-management-skills.html#ixzz2E52BIrI5
Life Skills are skills that can be broken down into component parts-
Skill development is a learning process which involves many sub skills which are sequential in nature. Skill can be broken down into component parts and can be mastered through practice. It's an excellent way to build up skills and confidence of the learner. Rehearsal of the skill must be done regularly and correctly.
Fitts and Posner (1967) suggested that the learning process is sequential and that we move through specific phases as we learn. There are three stages to learning any skill for example decision making:
Cognitive phase - This stage involves identification and development of the component parts of the skill - involves formation of a mental picture of the skill. E.g. individual identifies the problem, generates alternative solutions, etc.
Associative phase - involves linking the component parts into a smooth action - involves practicing the skill and using feedback to perfect the skill evaluates the identified alternatives, make the decision, Implement the decision
Autonomous phase - Developing the learned skill so that it becomes automatic - involves little or no conscious thought or attention whilst performing the skill - not all performers reach this stage Evaluate the decision and applies feedback to new situation.