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Orgin of life Skills

April 9, 2015




Life Skill is in existence from the period when man started living in the society. During ancient period, the skill was seen only in a limited number of people. However, the number of persons with Life Skills increased and the quality of the skill of the people improved over a period. We can affirm that even now it is not sufficient to cop with the demand of the society. Years’ back, directly and indirectly, we started our effort to increase the Life Skill of the people and there by to optimise  the human resource development of the people through  literacy programmes which was a turning point that focused the importance of life skills. Subsequent developments in the filed of literacy, education and human resources development has contributed a lot for the growth and development of Life Skill education.


1 Origin of the concept of life skills


The growth and development of any nation depends on the growth and development of its people.  The growth and development of its people can be achieved only by the optimum use of the human resource development of the people. For making use of the human resources, knowledge is necessary. Knowledge can be imparted only through the process of education. Then, how to impart education to the illiterate common people of the country was the question that disturbed the educationalists years ago. This made them to give priority on the literacy programmes. While launching the literacy programmes it was understood that the conventional method of education would not work up to the expectation. Therefore, it took a shift from the classroom style to the situational context of the learner making the learning process directly and immediately useful to the learner and improving his life situation. This was the turning point where we understood the applicability of education and literacy to help people develop better life skills and livelihoods.2 (Oxen ham et al-2002).


Simultaneously, educational initiatives over the period of last two decades have also contributed significant insight to the educationalists about the applicability of the curriculum experience in real life situations and the employability part of it. The adolescent group in general was having so many physical and psychological quarries, which were never answered by the curriculum content. UN agencies then started focusing on the health aspects of the adolescents through life skill approach. It worked well to expose and settle the problems of many health related issues of the target group. The limitation of this approach was that they could reach only a very small group of the population and the activities are restricted to health related issues only. During the period, there was a general feeling that “the kind of education that is being imparted in schools has failed to meet the expectations from the people. It does not equip girls and boys to meet real life challenges.”3This feeling promoted the concept of generalised approach to life skill to improve the over all development of the children and adolescents.  By the mean time, it is felt that life skill education is not only for adolescents but also for all the people to improve their life situations. The generalised concept of the Life Skill can be summarised as ‘the quality imbibed


  1. Oxenham et al,quoted by Madhu Singh (2003): Understanding Life Skills,UNESCO Institute of Education, Hamburg.
  2. Sandan, (2005): Life Skill Education Training Module, Jaipur.
  3. RJNID (2007): AHDP Project- Activity Report, Sreeperumbadur




by persons through practice, which will sharpen the positive behaviour and ability to face the day to day situations effectively’?



 Stages of development during the last three decades


Studies have shown that the past three decades have witnessed a phenomenal growth in the pattern of education, which is informed by a basic assumption that access to education would lead to multiple benefits at individual, community and national levels7 (Bhola,1984). In 1968, Philip H. Coombs, then Director of UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), through his presentation ‘The World Educational Crisis: A Systems Analysis’, brought out the work of the Institute to examine the problems facing education, and to recommend far reaching innovations.  The report of the Faure Commission published in 1972 under the title ‘Learning to Be’, had the great merit of firmly establishing the concept of lifelong education at a time when traditional education systems were being challenged.

Beginning in 1979, noted behavioral scientist and professor of psychiatry, Dr. Gilbert Botvin published a highly effective Life Skills training program for youth in the seventh standard, through nine grades. The training employs strategies that build students’ abilities to refuse the offer of drugs through improved assertiveness, decision making, and critical thinking skills. Opportunities to learn and practice these “problem specific” skills are just one aspect of a broader instructional program that teaches more general Life Skills.

Social development has enlarged its scope in the mid 1980s when its new approach included commitment to the plight of the poor and enlarged its scope to include inculcation of social and human dignity, tolerance, cultural identity, employment and participation of civil society in the process of development (Youngman, 1997).8 “Non-Formal Basic Education has a critical role to play in the realization of social development. It could be crucial in empowering people and ensuring that they participate in the making of decisions that affect their lives. It can empower people from different walks of life 9 (Freire and Macedo, 1995: Stromquist, 1994).

The World Declaration on Education for All (1990), states, “every person, child, youth and adult shall be able to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs”. (p 88). Adult learning has since become imperative at home, work and the community to enable people to be creative. The basic learning needs produced in 1990 at the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand) says that these needs comprise both essential learning tools (such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, and problem solving) and the basic learning content (such as knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes) required by human beings to be able to survive, to develop their full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions, and to continue learning. (World Declaration on Education for All, Art. 1, para. 1.)“Learning needs comprise of both a essential learning needs such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, problem solving and the basic skills that are required by human beings to survive and to develop their full capacities, to live and work in dignity, to participate, to facilitate development, to improve quality of their lives, to male informed decisions and to continue learning” 10(Delors,1996).



This suggests the need to extend learning opportunities to adults, youth and children who are not in school or have dropped out of school, in order for them to have access to learning as a basic human right. Among others, UNICEF and UNESCO have been instrumental in the insertion of non-formal education in the educational nomenclature.  The failing of the formal education system, and the realization that non-formal education offers a viable alternative, through imparting of critical knowledge and skills, have added momentum to the need  and provision of this form of education.  Adult learning is a gateway to enhanced participation in social, cultural and economic life.  It is also viewed as essential for creative citizen participation in the sustainable development of other countries 11, 12, 13 (UNESCO, 1997)



  1. M.K.C.Nair, Rajasenan Nair (2004): Adolescent Care Programmes-Kerala, Report submitted to European Commission.
  2. Youngman, F.(1997):Keynote Address: Adult Literacy as Social Development in Botswana. A paper delivered at the Third Botswana Annual National Literacy Forum, Gaborone.
  3. Bhola, (1984): Campaigning for Literacy : National Experiences of the 20th Century with a Memorandum of Decision Makers, UNESCO.
  4. Youngman, F. (1997): Keynote Address: Adult Literacy as Social Development in Botswana. A paper delivered at the

Third Botswana Annual National Literacy Forum, Gaborone.

  1. Freire, P. and Macedo, D.(1995): “A dialogue on Culture, Language and Race”, Harvard Educational Review, 65(3),377-402.
  2. Delors, J. (1996): Learning: the Treasure within: Report of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, UNESCO Publishing Press, Paris.



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