My message to the global education system

Once when we were little, we went to school…

Most of us at some time for a certain period of our younger life have been to school. We have been a part of our education system within our own areas as a pupil.

My own views on education are that every child in the world deserves a decent one. We all need to find our own way in life, earn a living and look after ourselves and our families.

A good education can be important in ensuring we are qualified to do jobs that require knowledge and skills in certain areas.

School is great. School is brilliant!

However, I have doubts about how much school equips young people with life skills, which essentially will serve us for the rest of our lives.

To explore further, let’s for a moment use an example of a hypothetical young women called Jenny who is in her mid-twenties.

She has a Bachelors Degree in Business Studies, and a Masters Degree in Marketing. She has a good job as a marketing consultant for a growing company. She is living in a nice apartment.

On the face of it, she has everything a young person her age might dream of.

However, on the inside things are different.

She is self-conscious about the way she looks. She is lacking confidence in her ability to succeed. She is suffering low self-esteem and is feeling depressed.

This isn’t really something new. She was a quiet girl when she was young and wasn’t very assertive when at school.

However, she now needs help.

How many of you can relate to this girl? I know I can.

Why school can be a place where we learn how to deal with this

Its obvious Jenny is suffering from emotional problems.

My biggest question is what could have her time at school done for her, to equip her for the ups and downs of life?

How much do schools teach confidence building?

How much do schools teach that shy kid who sits in the corner to speak up?

I don’t want to be mistaken here. I’m sure there are tens of thousands of teachers in the world, who try and help those kids who lack confidence. I’m talking about a more generalised view here.

My point is schools could teach some of the skills, which would have helped people like Jenny later on life.

My extra school curriculum

1. Teach kids that grades are important but so is their self-esteem

Getting good grades is a big part of going to school. Kids need to get grades in order to get into good high schools, colleges and then universities.

However, schools can teach youngsters they are still somebody if they don’t get certain grades. A child’s self-esteem is a given, good grades or no good grades. Schools can emphasis a type of teaching where kids are encouraged to appreciate their selves as valuable young human beings.

2. How to be confident

When we become adults and decide to improve our lives, we learn ways of increasing our confidence, such as doing exactly those activities that we are fearful and hesitant to do. So why cannot, simple lessons be given to young kids at school, especially those who avoid or dread certain activities?

If they could be taught the more they do the activity the easier it will become, then surely this must help?

Or am I missing something here?

3. Basic skills in how the thought-feeling-behaviour cycle works

There is a basic cognitive model at a top level that governs what we experience. Usually events happen; we then have thoughts about those events which cause us to have to feelings, and then feelings cause us to act in certain ways.

By the time we’re adults we’ve created loads of these habitual reaction cycles, which can cause us all kinds of problems. It’s only when we consciously bring to light what is happening in these cycles, do we learn ways of breaking them.

Now, if kids in a very simple way were taught, this is how humans generally react to things and act, and how it can also lead us to having some problems, and then shown some ways of choosing to respond in different ways, then surely this can be a good thing.

4. Use of humour – on ourselves

When I was kid, I would do anything to not be laughed at. How about if kids were taught to laugh at themselves sometimes?

What would be great is if they could learn to laugh off mistakes, and appreciate it isn’t a big deal if they didn’t get it right the first time. As long as they made an effort then they can always try again.

5. Real happiness comes from within

With schools being geared for getting good grades, in order to then get good jobs, make money and buy nice things, there is a certain implication in all this. It suggests happiness will come when we have succeeded ‘externally’ and have amassed wealth. However, as many adults come to realise, nothing further could be from the truth.

Kids could be taught that although it is excellent to have aspirations and visions for a good life, working on those things which make us worry like fearful activities, will increase their happiness.

So to would learning to appreciate all that each young person already has, as would working on improving on their capabilities, rather than perfecting them.

In conclusion

I know this post is over-simplified. And of course kids being kids, their brains are still not mature.

However, I refuse to believe that such things cannot be taught in some way to younger people. So my message to schools is: Please teach kids more life skills.


My friends, it’s over to you.

How useful was your school at teaching you life skills? What else would you add to the extra school curriculum?  Please share your valuable views and comments in the box below.


Photo Credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery’s photostream

  1. Hiten, this is a post that truly touches my heart. I’ve felt these things a million times. In fact, I plan to propose some “life skills” teaching at my son’s school.

    Half the problem with the curriculum, no matter how great the school is, is that teachers are bogged down with workload that involves mountains of paperwork they have to complete. I think teachers also need a stress-relief program from the long hours they put in (and often take work home as well) and to keep them calm while dealing with hundreds of kids on a daily basis. Whenever Vidur (my son) grumbles about something, I always tell him to see it from the teacher’s viewpoint (can’t say he is always thrilled to do it – but it certainly helps understand things better). My Mother was a teacher for forty years too – and I connect her with what I tell him so that he is more receptive.

    I too feel that children need a “self-development” course. Too often I’ve seen children stereotyped and sometimes, scarred for life from the labels that get stuck to them. Another thing is the pressure they receive from parents – especially when they are in high school – about choosing the course their parents think is best. They end up doing things they really don’t want to, but don’t want to rebel against either and thus life goes on, somewhat dissatisfied.

    A confidence building/ being assertive/ being compassionate series would benefit children greatly. I know my Mom did that when she was a teacher. Children who were somewhat rowdy were allotted responsibilities to calm them down, children who were shy, were asked to read out loud in class – you know, things like that. When I was in school, we had “Moral Science” as a subject that consisted of inspiring stories, exercises, projects and lots of advice. I think even though we didn’t take it very seriously, we did benefit from it.

    🙂 I love this post!

    1. Hi Vidya,

      I’m so glad you could resonate with this post! 🙂

      As you’re a parent, I really appreciate what you wrote from the perspective of being a mum. Indeed, it’s brilliant you are taking the initiative and are planning to request life skills teachings at Vidur’s school.

      Have you got any ideas yet, on exactly what changes you are going to request?

      I’m really glad you explained further the dynamics that teachers are placed in and how life is difficult for them also.

      Their very jobs are governed by already existing and set curriculums and I can appreciate that the ultimate power really isn’t in their hands and is controlled by the “powers” above them.

      I loved how you explain to Vidur, to look at things through the eyes of his teacher. This is a great skill to teach kids at a young age, and as you’ve found can indeed change the perception of a child.

      The giving ‘labels’ to kids is something that makes me very frustrated. I believe Ken Wert wrote a post over on his blog about how we adults we need be careful about how we label kids.

      Unfortunately, many adults seem to label young people without a second thought, the very thing they (I dare say and usually don’t like using this word!), shouldn’t do.

      And you are right. There is an even more important dynamic that comes into play – the pressure that comes from the parents on the children to succeed.

      This does change from culture to culture, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that many Indian parents do tend to put too much unnecessary pressure on kids at times to succeed. If the child doesn’t become a doctor or engineer, then she/he has failed type thing.

      Your mum sound like a true gem! I’m sure the kids she taught must have great memories of a such a teacher who “got it”.

      Yes, I remember you saying you had a “Moral Science’ class when you were a school. I think this is amazing!

      I guess until schools (and if they do) introduce life skills teachings, it is up to us as adults and parents to do all we can to help youngsters be confident and assertive at home.

      Thank you for leaving such a brilliant comment, and adding such great contributions to this post. 🙂

  2. Hiten — very thought-provoking post that hits home for me as the father of two young, school-age children. Here in the U.S., there is such a fixation with preparation for federal and state-mandated tests that the arts, physical education and other areas critical to being a fulfilled grown-up are getting squeezed out. In addition to the life skills you note above, I’d like to see a focus on 1) basic financial skills (most students learn essentially nothing about financial responsibility, so it’s not surprising we are still dealing with a massive debt crisis) and 2) leadership development. Everybody has the potential to be a leader in some area of their lives, but most people don’t realize this — in part because leadership is often presented in schools as being more about hierarchy and position than self-awareness and action. We’re developing one-dimensional people with book knowledge that they can’t apply to real ife, and it’s not good for anybody.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      I’m really glad you could connect with this post too, my friend.

      What you say about the fixation for preparation of federal and state-mandated tests in the U.S. sounds similar to what it is in the UK. This is my biggest concern. Because without some life skills, there is a massive risk then, of thousands upon thousands of kids growing up to face problems, which are rooted in childhood.

      If they were taught more about the ‘human condition’ and how to deal with it much younger, then this must reduce the possibility of problems later on in life.

      I know there have been some recent initiatives in the States and Europe to teach kids more ‘softer’ skills, such as collaborating with others, and critical thinking. Indeed, such skills are required by employers in the workplace. Although exactly, how much impact this will have on already existing curriculums remains to be seen.

      Many thanks for adding leadership and financial skills to the list. These are also very important ones.

      All of can be leaders in our own way. Leadership isn’t limited to talkative, outgoing people. Having said this, such a perception does exist, which could be ‘nipped in the bud’ during childhood, by teaching those less confident kids how they too can become leaders.

      I totally agree the way leadership is taught at school is all about at the level position. This is not helpful at all.

      I appreciate what you say about financial responsibility. I’m actually thinking at this moment as I write this response to you, how much we could have avoided many of the current global economic problems, if people had been given better education in these areas when they were kids. I know I would personally have benefited had I been taught about this, when I was a child.

      Thank you so much for your comment and sharing your excellent insights on this topic.

  3. Good for you Hiten,
    Life skills are as important as academic in my opinion. “Life skills” is simplistic terminology, obviously there’s a lot more to it…however it’s a start and a step in the right direction
    be good to yourself

    1. Hi David,

      I’m totally with you on what you wrote, mate! 🙂

      Life skills are just as important as academic!

      Do you have any further thoughts on what other terminology we could use for “life skills”?

      It would be great to hear your views on this!

      Thank you so much for commenting!

  4. Loved the post and topic Hiten!

    You are absolutely right to raise such an important point about the education system, which on the face of it is well equipped and lands you good jobs, but it really never caters to your inner needs.

    The overall self-development or improvement of the person always does take a back seat. I do see a lack of counsellors in schools, who pay a major role in bring out the best in kids, though noawadays some schools have started keeping them.

    Besides the counsellors, its the duty of the teachers to have sessions of open talk for the emotional development of the kids, where they can speak up and release themselves. Yes, parents play major roles too, but its also a part that teachers play – isn’t it?

    I remember the time I was in school, we had nuns who would handle and deal with things very well. They knew each child inside out because of their interaction with each of them, and they got down to the level of the children, which is also very important. So, when I was running my own school years back, this was an essential aspect taken care of and we made sure in our school that every teacher knew the child inside by knowing their feelings and emotional needs as well.

    I loved the example of Jenny, something that most of us can relate to. This is exactly what we all tend to become – robotic machines – we work, we earn, we work more, and keep earning all through our lives. But are we really happy from within? Have we got all that we want from life by earning what we desire?

    Yes, grades are important but it’s not the only thing that counts. Kids need to develop overall and that mainly comes when their personal development, as well as emotional development takes place. It gives them self-confidence and boosts their self-esteem as well.

    Thanks so much for sharing a wonderful post and a great reminder for parents as well as teachers to take care of their children and bring out the best in them.

    Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

    1. Hi Harleena,

      I’m really glad you liked this post!

      I agree it definitely seems to be the development of people, especially during earlier years seem to take a back stage to ‘formal’ education. This in itself is fine, but a bit more of a balance is what would be great.

      Absolutely, I definitely agree parents have the major role to assist their kid’s emotional development, but when kids spend so much time at school, surely the teachers can also do something. Of course, I know, as I responded to Vidya, that teachers are overloaded, and exactly what they might want to teach young people is not always in their control.

      As you mentioned your experience of nuns when you were school, it got me wondering whether ‘faith’ based schools have an alternative focus, in terms of teaching about true happiness, compassion and self-worth?

      I never knew you ran your own school! 🙂

      This is Amazing Harleena. Knowing you as I do, I can totally imagine a school run by you handling the personal development and emotional development of the kids. This is brilliant!

      The ‘robotic machines’ as an example of what humans become is so true. I just hope that younger people again are taught a more balanced perspective to life, and appreciate that the ‘robot syndrome’ is something humans can easily fall into. And in the end there is no guarantee whatsoever, that the individual will be happy.

      Thank you for leaving such a wonderful comments and adding further great thoughts to this post!

      Hope you’re having a good Easter Weekend! 🙂

      1. Regarding nuns and the way they taught us about compassion and took care of our emotional development, well that was again so many years back. But yes, those kind of nuns and schools rarely exist nowadays. I guess most of the nuns were not from our country and that made a lot of difference too.

        Ahh…that was a long-long time back, and it was a nursery school for the toddlers till the 4th grade. However, we couldn’t really run it longer due to lack of place. But yes, we get people coming in for admissions to date 🙂

        Being a parent yourself and knowing how important the emotional aspects, along with all the others aspects are important for kids, we really made sure that the kids were given a complete kind of education and took care their parents were brought in as well to equally participate in their overall development.

        So, I guess I still have those things in me 🙂 But yes, not that was really before I ventured online and many years back 🙂

        Thanks so much and Happy Easter to you as well 🙂

        1. Hi Harleena,

          I wish we had some nuns when I was at school! I’m sure it would have had a positive impact.

          It seems like you set a very good example from your time at the nursery school. This is great.

          I guess the main responsibility lies with the parents. When I have kids I’ll ensure I give special attention to their emotional development. I think this is even more important for those adults who have undergone considerable self-development themselves as adults.

          Many thanks for sharing more of your experiences on this topic! 🙂

  5. Hi Hiten,

    Great topic. When I was teaching 4th graders, life skills was a part of the curriculum, but as I look back, we could have even done more. One of the issues that you mention is the shy child. We live in a world of talkers, and talkers are supported and applauded. A shy child that is not naturally a talker is most likely to have lower self esteem as a result of constant group work and being judged on their assertiveness. These days, group work seems to be the norm, but a balance might be a better fit, so that all personality types have an opportunity to learn to work alone as well as work together.

    I think it is important to build confidence by urging children to try new things, but to also respect their inner qualities that are not necessarily energized by lots of social interaction. It is difficult for some children to speak up in class or want to do a presentation, but by recognizing their strengths we build their self confidence. Thanks for sharing a great post.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      It’s great to hear there were some life skills in the curriculum when you were teaching. Any is better than none, I guess.

      I really appreciate your words on the shy kid in school. I have a special connection with such kids. I was one myself, so I know how difficult it is. I agree group work is the norm these days.

      I wonder what types of techniques could be introduced to help the shy kids interact more in groups and increase their confidence doing so?

      Yes, it is the inner qualities which all kids have that take a back seat, as school really is full of social interaction and group working etc. Real strength can come from the inner qualities, but unless kids are taught about them in some way, how are they to use them?

      And of course, as you say, there must be loads of other activities which kids could be encouraged to do to increase their confidence.

      I’m really glad you like the post Cathy!

      Any many thanks for adding some great contributions to it!

  6. Wonderful post Hiten and I would have to agree with you.

    I believe myself that school has always been about educating young people so that they can go out into the world and make a good living. The education system has relied on the parents to teach the children these skills.

    I believe that unfortunately, a lot of parents don’t even have these same skills so how can they pass them along to their children. I think that if more personal development was taught in schools today, kids would go on to accomplish so much more in their personal and professional lives.

    Hopefully over time the education system will realize this exact same thing and start implementing more classes on personal development. We can only pray.


    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I’m really glad you liked the post!

      You added such an important perspective to the post; namely it being left to parents to provide youngsters with such skills and how a lot of parents don’t even have such skills.

      Such kids in the end will miss out on two main opportunities to grow emotionally, which could have happened through learning from parents at home and teachers in schools.

      Even if such teachings came from one source, then this better than none.

      I agree and hope the education system will realise this. However, I’m not going to hold my breath.

      Many thanks for dropping by and sharing your views on this area! 🙂

  7. Ah Yes Hiten. I call this a result of the 60,000 NO’s we experience in our most impressionable years. NO’s don’t just come and go, they linger, sometimes for a lifetime. We all come to wrong conclusions about ourselves when hearing No’s in our childhood. We proceed to create a false version of ourselves from these false conclusions, a version of self that is flawed and helpless.

    Proper life skills education in school could do wonders for Children. Childhood NO’s are the cause of adult fears of criticism; they are the cause of adults feeling helpless when facing something unusual or challenging.

    1. Hi Rob,

      I loved the way you explained this! It is indeed, a result of tens of thousands of NO’s as you say.

      I also really appreciate how you say as children we then proceed to create false versions of ourselves when we get older. It is the word ‘version’ you used that is very important. It implies that we can create another version of ourselves, should we choose.

      Of course, this requires us to slowly start to break down those deep held ‘NO’s’ and replace them courageously with ‘YES’s’.

      Many thanks for dropping by and leaving a brilliant explanation, of how young children can end up creating very unhelpful beliefs about themselves and the world as they grow older.

  8. Great review, education is the best foundation for a life time… School is the place where you can find your self effective/ worthy in a single thing… This is able to developed as for becoming a well productive person….

    1. Hi Evelyn,

      Many thanks for your comment!

      I agree education is a vital foundation for young children. It is also the place where kids do a lot of growing and experience all kinds of emotions. It would be great if schools could teach them more about what they experience inside themselves, and why and how then can deal with such experiences.

  9. Hi Hiten,
    How are you?

    First of all i would like to give congratulations because this is a very original article and you write about a quite difficult topic. I haven’t read a post with a similar topic since i started building my blog. I liked it and i believe that what you mention is so true. But it is so hard to teach children some life skills.

    To answer to your question, my school was not useful at all at teaching me life skills. Schools in Greece are not well organized and people in Greece could not even imagine a service like that. This is a big topic! We have much more problems than that but i agree with you that we should teach children life skills at school.

    Thank you for sharing this great article!

    1. Hi Lenia,

      I’m doing very thank you! How are you, my friend?

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this article! I really appreciate your kind words.

      I can resonate with what you say about such a service being difficult to imagine in Greece. I can say the same about the UK!

      I reckon one way this could be improved, is for politicians and other influential figures to recognise the importance of the emotional development of kids, and how schools could have a role in this.

      Thanks a lot for adding more to this article with your contributions!

  10. Since I’m going to grad school right now in education, I can speak from the experience I’ve had in the school system. Teachers are aware of these difficulties (at least the school system I’m in). In fact, some teachers have acknowledged confidence as one of their huge problems to overcome with their students. The problem is that increasing confidence in some students can be extremely difficult. The teachers I’ve seen have put in a lot of time and effort into doing this, but if a student doesn’t want to get help, there is little a teacher can do about it.

    One huge difficulty is that teachers have to overcome problems at home. If a student comes from a broken family full of neglectful parents, the few hours a day the teacher sees them won’t do much good. The teachers I’ve seen have tried really hard in getting students to increase confidence and self-esteem. But it takes a lot of time and effort to get some students to turn themselves around.

    I agree that this should be a big focus in schools. I think it isn’t as high a priority for some teachers and school systems, but it should be.

    1. Hi Steve,

      It’s great to see you here! 🙂

      Thank you so much for adding your much valued views to this post.

      It is really interesting to hear from someone who is going through the education system at the moment, and it is definitely reassuring to hear teachers are aware of issues such as lack of confidence amongst students, and even more importantly are trying to do something about it.

      Indeed you raised a hugely important point Steve, namely that teachers who try to do the best by their students have to also deal with difficult students who perhaps need help, but instead resist it.

      As you quite rightly said, some students can come from difficult backgrounds and such factors of course make the work of teachers much more difficult.

      Thank you very much for explaining your experiences, and describing further factors which impact how life skills are taught to young people in the education system.

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