What are life skills?
Life skills is a term used to describe a set of basic skills acquired through learning and/or direct life experience that enable individuals and groups to effectively handle issues and problems commonly encountered in daily life.
They include creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, the ability to communicate and collaborate, along with personal and social responsibility that contribute to good citizenship – all essential skills for success in the 21st century, both for healthy societies and for successful and employable individuals.
Life skills touch upon issues that are:
- real: they actually affect people’s lives
- sometimes sensitive: they can affect people on a personal level, especially when family or friends are involved
- often controversial: people disagree and hold strong opinions about them
- ultimately moral: they relate to what people think is right or wrong, good or bad, important or unimportant in society.
Why do we need to teach life skills?
Democracies need active, informed and responsible citizens, who are willing and able to take responsibility for themselves and their communities and contribute to the political process.
Democracies depend upon citizens who, among other things, are:
- aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens
- informed about social and political issues
- concerned about the welfare of others
- able to clearly articulate their opinions and arguments
- capable of having an influence on the world
- active in their communities
- responsible in how they act as citizens.
These capacities do not develop unaided; they have to be learnt. While certain life skills may be acquired through our everyday experience in the home or at work, they are not sufficient to adequately equip citizens for the active role required of them in today’s complex and diverse society.
If citizens are to become genuinely involved in public affairs, then a more systematic approach towards citizenship education is essential.
How does training in life skills benefit young people?
- It helps them to develop self-confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges, such as bullying and discrimination.
- It gives them a voice at school, in their community and in society at large.
- It enables them to make a positive contribution by developing the expertise and experience they need to assert their rights and understand their responsibilities, while preparing them for the challenges and opportunities of adult and working life.