In identifying life skills, it is useful to define what they should represent. As a start, one can be clear about what they do not represent. For example, many factors can contribute to one’s success in life, but not all of them can be considered ‘skills’. People often attribute their success to such factors as luck, socioeconomic status, physical and social surroundings, fate, or divine intervention. While we do not deny the importance of any of these factors, they are well beyond the scope of all. Furthermore, although skills and abilities related to strength, fitness, and physical dexterity have traditionally been important to success in life, ALL chose to exclude any explicit treatment of physical abilities.
It is also important to emphasize that life skills must be connected to success in life. Many skills, talents, and abilities do not meet this criterion, even though they may involve sophisticated intellectual processes. This means that not all academic abilities are necessarily life skills, nor are all life skills are likely to be taught in school. This criterion also means that one must recognize that these skills will not be the same—or will not be valued equally—in even a limited range of cultural settings.
For instance, one expects that cross-cultural differences in life skills may echo the research on the concept of intelligence. As Sternberg and Kaufman (1998) point out in their review of related literature, at the extreme Western cultures tend to emphasize “technological intelligence” (Mundy-Castle, 1974), generalization or going beyond the information given (Connolly and Bruner, 1974; Goodnow, 1976), speed (Sternberg, 1985a), minimal moves to a solution (Newell and Simon, 1972), and creative thinking (Goodnow, 1976). In Eastern cultures, by contrast, Buddhist and Hindu philosophies stress waking up, noticing, recognizing, understanding, and comprehending, in addition to determination, mental effort, and feelings (Das 1994). African conceptions of intelligence focus on skills that help facilitate and maintain harmonious and stable inter-group relations (Ruzgis and Grigorenko, 1994). However, even in the more limited range of countries included in OECD, variation in how skills are valued is expected. It is important to note that such variation does not preclude measurement of the underlying skill. If the assessment embodies sufficiently robust theory, that the assessment design affords good coverage of the intended content domain and that the statistical techniques employed to summarize proficiency compensate for the various sources of “missing” data then assessments such as ALL can provide valid, reliable, comparable and interpretable profiles of skill. One of the explicit goals of ALL is, in fact, to explore the variation in how different economies value the skills assessed, how these differences influence the social distribution of economic, social, educational and health outcomes observed at the individual level and at the macro level and how valuations are amplified or attenuated by relative conditions of supply and demand. Because of this natural variation, the goal in developing a set of life skills is not to establish a single set of benchmarks for people to use to evaluate their successes in life.
Instead, one hopes to develop a framework comprised of skills that may have varying importance for different individuals or in different societies but which, when looked at as a whole, accommodate definitions of success used by most individuals and by most societies.
Finally, the definition of life skills should address how they are used. The most common way and the way that appears in conventional definitions of intelligence—is through adaptation to the environment (Sternberg and Detterman, 1986). For example, people must adapt to workplace environments and to new responsibilities as their family lives change. Even people involved in creative Endeavour’s, such as authors, artists, and entertainers, must take into account the tastes of their audiences, markets, or clients, as well as changes in the available technologies of production. Individuals can, however, use life skills to shape their environments, such as when a worker modifies a piece of machinery or a production process to increase comfort or efficiency. When neither adaptation nor shaping leads to a successful interaction with the environment, individuals can use life skills to select a new environment, such as when a person decides to change workplaces, move to a new location, or become friends with a new group of people. Therefore, for the purposes of this study, we define life skills as: Skills or abilities individuals need in order to achieve success in life, within the context of their socio-cultural milieu, through adaptation to, shaping of, and selection of environments.
The following sections examine various theories and models related to life skills to see if there is consensus or convergence on particular skills that fit this definition.
Deriving Life Skills from lists of workplace skills
The existing body of work on skills necessary for employment success is clearly relevant for our purposes. This perspective has recently received increased attention through the release of several documents setting out lists of such skills ( Jones, 1996 ). These studies and reports cite a need to identify generalizable skills and abilities necessary to better prepare people for success in an ever-changing economy. In so doing, they call attention— sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly—to the emerging belief that traditional notions of “basic skills” are not sufficient for success in the workplace. Support for this belief can be found, for example, in the literature on workplace literacy, in which researchers have reported that common school-based notions of reading, writing, and arithmetic are not sufficient for the tasks that adults perform (Sticht, 1978; Mikulecky, 1982; Daggett, 1991). Other researchers looking at job performance found that even in a broadened sense, these three basic skills were not sufficient, and that other skills were needed (Carnevale et al., 1988). Consequently, new terms and conceptions of basic skills began to emerge.
The term “basic skills” evolved into “employability skills” because these skills were usually discussed in the context of the transition from school to work or the transition of the unemployed into employment. Although this term is sometimes limited only to those skills necessary for job entry, it usually covers the skills thought necessary to retain jobs to adapt to changes in the organization of work and technologies of production and to secure advancement, such as those that relate to attitude and work habits. Other terms found in the research include “enabling skills,” “generic skills,” “core skills,” “key competencies,” “essential skills,” and “necessary skills.” These different terms would seem to have slightly different implications, but they were often chosen to meet specific local circumstances and preferences, and, thus, are not related in any systematic way to differences in the way these skills were conceptualized. Despite the strong labour-market orientation of these terms and their sources, many of these documents either directly state or imply their relevance to life in general, making them candidates for “life skills.”
The methodologies used by these and most of the other studies are generally to start from a broad definition (e.g., “a skill applicable to a wide range of jobs and contexts”) and then survey or observe workers, supervisors, and experts to determine what skills are common. Those that pass some test of “frequent enough” across occupations qualify for inclusion in the final list of skills. Aside from terminology, the main differences among the final products have been level of detail and structure. Some simply list a skill (e.g., “reading”) while others provide a fuller description of that skill with examples of its application to various situations. Some of the lists provide a single set of skills, but many attempt some sort of categorization or hierarchy. For example, the Workplace Know-How from the U.S. Department of Labor’s SCANS designates two categories:
1. Foundation Skills, which include basic academic skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities.
2. Workplace Competencies, which include the ability to use resources, interpersonal skills, information, systems, and technology (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991).
The Premier’s Council Skills Triangle (1990) uses a hierarchy of transferability and generalized ability: at the base are basic skills, which support workplace skills, and these in turn support job specific skills. The former two sets of skills are broadly transferable, while the latter set is not.
Despite these differences, a comparison across these lists reveals that they usually cover the same range of concepts. It should then be possible to distil from them a limited set of categories into which most of the skills listed by any of the nine documents would fit. In some cases, a given list might not address all of the categories in the model. However, in as few cases as possible should they contain a skill that does not fit within any of the specified categories.
The table that follows (see Figure 1) presents an attempt to create such a model. Six skill areas were chosen, some with sub-areas, as follows:
• Problem Solving
• Meta cognition
The first column in the table lists these skills. The other columns contain the comparable skills from each of the nine studies/reports that were reviewed, demonstrating how each category is addressed by a given skills list. Skills that did not seem to fit any category were placed in the final row of the table.
Trying to fit a diverse set of models into a framework requires re-arranging the original lists. In addition, although the original terminology from the nine studies has been maintained, placing the terms into the ALL framework involves varying degrees of interpretation.
Proposed domains for Life Skills derived from psychological theories
For the current purpose, the theory of successful intelligence is best seen as extending along the same dimension of psychometric models. Both describe types of thinking and have some degree of overlap. A review of psychometric models points to the importance of crystallized and fluid abilities. The successful intelligence model begins with analytical abilities, which can be seen as overlapping at least fluid abilities and perhaps crystallized abilities as well. However, the successful intelligence model takes us further, addressing people’s relationship to the environment through the domains of practical abilities and creative abilities. Thus, as a set of core domains of intelligence with clear relationships to success in life would include:
• Practical Abilities— Abilities used to practice, apply, use, and implement knowledge and skills. These abilities are highly contextualized with respect to the individual’s daily life and involve the management of oneself, management of others, and management of tasks.
• Crystallized Analytical Abilities— Acculturation knowledge. Evident in tasks that show an indication of the breadth and depth of the knowledge of concepts and forms of reasoning that have been developed by humans over the course of many centuries and passed on from one generation to the next. Tests of crystallized abilities primarily measure the result of previously applied information-processing skills.
• Fluid Analytical Abilities— Reasoning abilities, such as sequential, inductive, deductive, and quantitative. Tests of fluid abilities primarily measure the results of current information-processing skills.
• Creative (Coping with Novelty) Abilities— Abilities to create, invent, discover, suppose, imagine, and hypothesize. Characterized by people’s abilities to deal flexibly with relatively unfamiliar problems—that is, their abilities to cope with relative novelty.
Life Skills in Different Level of Education
Level I – Basic Level Curriculum
Level II – Middle Level Curriculum
Level III – Self-Learning Level Curriculum
Basic Level I
The functional content of 28 cells arranged as a teaching sequence in the curriculum grid.
|A. Environment/Sanitation||Home/Cleanliness 1.A.1||Sanitation/Latrine 1.A.2||Land sliding/Forestation 1.A.3||Forest/Conservation 1.A.4|
|B. Family Life||Work for Happy life 1.B.1||Small Family|
Happy Family 1.B.2
|Responsible Parenthood 1.B.3||Family Size|
Family Welfare 1.B.4
|C. Income Generation/Agriculture||Imprived Farming 1.C.1||Income Generation (Selling & Buying) 1.C.2||Animal Husbandry 1.C.3||Cottage Industries|
Credit Facilites 1.C.4
|D. Civic Consciousness||Home/Neighbor Cooperation 1.D.1||Civic Awareness Rights/Duties 1.D.2||Communication/Information 1.D.3||Political System?Election 1.D.4|
|E. Women Development||Marriage 1.E.1||Women’s Participation in Decision Making 1.E.2||Women Education 1.E.3||Role & Res. of Women in Comm. Dev. 1.E.4|
|F. Culture & Customs||Clothing 1.F.1||Religious Festivals 1.F.2||Our Festivals 1.F.3||Our Customs 1.F.4|
|G. Health & Nutrition||Sanitation/Diarrhoea 1.G.1||Mother & Child care 1.G.2||Nutritious Food 1.G.3||Communicable Diseases 1.G.4|
Middle Level II
The functional contents of 21 cells arranged as a teaching sequence in the curriculum grid.
|A. Environment/Sanitation||Inter-relation/Plants, Animals & Human Beings 2.A.5||Forestation/Environment/Conservation 2.A.6||Population/Environment/Pollution 2.A.7|
|B. Family Life||Safe Motherhood/Birth Spacing 2.B.5||Family Planning/Small Family 2.B.6||Population Problem 2.B.7|
|C. Income Generation/Agriculture||Goat Farming 2.C.5||Potato & Radish 2.C.6||Mango & Banana 2.C.7|
|D. Civic Consciousness||Political System 2.D.5||Civic Rights & Duties 2.D.6||Social Values % Ethics 2.D.7|
|E. Women Development||Role of Women in Family & Society 2.E.5||Factors Responsible for Women Development 2.E.6||Position of Women in Our Country 2.E.7|
|F. Culture & Customs||Religion/Tradition 2.F.5||Festivals 2.F.6||Social Values of Festivals 2.F.7|
|G. Health & Nutrition||Sanitation/Cleanliness/Com. 2.G.6||Local Nutritious Food 2.G.6||Mal-Nutrition 2.G.7|
Self-Learning Level III
The functional content of 14 cells arranged as a teaching sequence in a curriculum grid.
|A. Environment/Sanitation||Cleanliness of Home & Environment 3.A.8||Responsibility of Environmental Conservation 3.A.6|
|B. Family Life||Population Problem 3.B.8||Family Welfare 3.B.9|
|C. Income Generation/Agriculture||Cooperatives for Agriculture Development 3.C.8||Income Generation Skills & Appropriate Local Technology 3.C.9|
|D. Civic Consciousness||Local Participation/Community Development 3.D.8||Locally Available Service & Facilities 3.D.9|
|E. Women Development||Available Services & Facilities for Women Development 3.E.8||Rights and Duties of Women 3.E.9|
|F. Culture & Customs||Reforms/Social Customs 3.F.8||Culture & Cultural Protection/Values 3.F.9|
|G. Health & Nutrition||Local Goods & Health Services 3.G.8||Drugs, Accidents & First Aid 3.G.9|
Objectives: After completing, the basic level participants will be able to get following knowledge, skill and attitude of literacy.
a. Listening – Understand what others say.
b. Speaking – Express ideas, which could be understood by others.
c. Reading –
* All the consonant, vowels and common signs as full-stop, comma, semicolon, question mark, symbols, dots etc.
* Point out easy words and read sentences made out of those words and tell the meaning what they have read.
* Read paragraphs, small articles/small stories, dialogues, letters and drama.
* Read and understa?nd up to 1000.
d. Writing –
* Write all -consonants /vowels and symbols commonly used such as full-stop, semi-colon, interrogative sign etc
* Use common words to make sentences out of those words
* Write number from 1 to 1000
* Add and subtract up to 3 digits
* Understand the simple principles of simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
* Understand basic measurements (money, weight, length, volume)
* Solve simple numerical problems (family budget , marketing)
e. Functional activities and skills –
* Be able to tell and use in practice about the necessity and benefits of cleanliness.
* Tell and use in practice about the methods of protection and benefits of forests and aforestation.
* Use in practice and keep in mind that the necessity of mutual co-operation in family life and small family is happy one.
* Develop living standard by improved farming and animal husbandry.
* Discuss and use in practice about civic rights and responsibilities.
* Women can play role like men in family and community.
* Discuss about good and bad sides of ceremonies, festivals, costumes and culture of our society and select the good one.
* Find out the cause of communicable diseases and apply the methods of prevention.
* Take care of the pregnant women and children and use in practice.
* Recognize the value of nutritious food and apply in practice in daily life.
Objectives: After completing middle level literacy the learners will be able to learn following knowledge, skill and attitude.
* Read simple booklets and newspapers.
* Write simple letters/application.
* Improve life style by solving problems of daily life (such as in agriculture, health, nutrition, pollution and environment).
* Explain about consciousness, human rights and politics.
* Use available facilities of GO’s and NGO’s.
* Solve mathematical problems of daily life.
* Use up to 5 digits, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Objectives: Adult learners who have completed self-learning level will be able to complete following activities.
Functional Knowledge and Skill: To manage cottage industries or small business to improve life style by solving common problems in agricultural, health, nutrition, environment, population situation.
* To read, write and explain the subject matter correctly as written in the textbook.
* To collect useful resource and materials (posters, booklets, pamphlets, brochure etc) for study and use in practical life.
* To write correctly what they have read and express in writing what they have in mind.
* To write letter and application
* To fill up personal forms
* To write receipts, bills, vouchers and credit forms
* To prepare family budget and planning for small scale enterprises
* Learning basic four mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division dealing with daily experiences.
* Learn metric system (measurement, weight, liter and meter), time, calendar, day, week, month and year) dealing with day-to-day uses/problems.
* Keep daily accounts of different activities such as profit, loss, capital, interest and prepare family income and expenditure budget.
Author: Material developer, BRAC Education Programme, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh.