The education system in countries like Nepal is usually geared towards preparing for exams, passing with good grades, and moving on from one grade to another. This is mainly for both haves and have-nots. Parents’ interests and guidance to their children are usually focussed in helping then to go to class every day, take tuitions and keep studying mainly in the rote methodology of memorising rather than understanding so they get competitive marks. There is also a tendency of gathering as many educational qualifications as possible so as to have proper access to a secure financial future and livelihoods.
However, the education system sorely lacks the basic needs of education that helps students develop life skills which help them to face every day in their lives whether the days are sunny or rainy. Simple skills like being able to bask in the sun only as much as required and keep yourself from being drenched in the rains help people to protect their health. The first few skills that children start learning are being able to put the right food in their mouths and not just anything they can catch hold of and tying shoelaces. As they grow older one thing children should learn to safeguard their interest is to say “No”.
Basic areas of life skills
If one is able to say 'No' to things that can adversely affect one’s health and well-being and is able to take decisions that will enable one to lead a safe and happy life. It is an indication that the person may have appropriate life skills. Having appropriate life skills helps an individual to deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life which includes addressing several issues at home or at work. The World Health Organisation, Department of Mental Health has identified five basic areas of life skills relevant across cultures including self-awareness and empathy; decision making and problem solving; creative thinking and critical thinking; communication & interpersonal skills; coping with emotions and coping with stress.
However these are qualities that are not integrated systematically within children as they are prepared to deal with day-to-day events in life. Being aware of how one tends to react to situations and what consequence that reaction will lead to, one is in a better position to choose the behaviour that will lead to more favourable results. Likewise, when one is more aware of situations that cause stress to oneself, one is able to devise ways to cope with it. Therefore, self-awareness is important for one to manage emotions and develop coping strategies.
All these factors are things that are overlooked. They sound so simple people, especially the guardians, who are rearing children overlook them. The whole meaning of “education” is seemed to be so much linked to “achievements of grades” as one passes one exam and starts preparing another, that focus on how to keep our balance, both mental and physical no matter what stage in life seems to be forgotten or not addressed at all. Children are geared to prepare themselves to make sure they behave well in front of others, perform as wanted and expected by others and compete in this world as expected and by others.
Education should start by being able to understand oneself so that each one of us can actually know what we want to do. Together with history, geography, math, science and all the other subjects, the education system should also make one subject the “pupils” themselves. In most of my training sessions these days I have started including one session on “Who am I?” It is a question that we probably never ask ourself but one that fascinates us the moment we are aware of our existence. A question to which answers keep on changing constantly! Am I really what my friends or family think of me or is there something more to me than how I appear to others?
Self-awareness is about knowing ourselves – our feelings, desires, needs, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Many problems facing people particularly in the youth category centre on the problem of “me versus the society”. The gap between ideals and reality, between parents’ expectations and one’s own aspirations, peer pressure, etc., which culminate into frustrations. If one goes deep, these frustrations often also relate to gender and social background of each individual.
Once one develops self-awareness, one will start developing critical thinking which go hand in hand. Critical thinking is the ability to analyse one’s surroundings and experiences objectively, and question why things are the way they are. In other words, it entails questioning one’s situation in life and not being satisfied with what is handed down by others as the only answers. One needs to seek out the motives, biases, views and values of whose who judge you as being right or wrong, good or bad, useful or not useful, stupid or intelligent. These things often also relate to whether you are a man, woman or a transgender and also one’s social background.
The progressive increase in self-awareness is a path usually strewn with emotive disapprovals, resistance and criticism. It is not a path to be feared though. Without developing the ability to think critically, one will never reach self-discovery, which helps to develop self-confidence. Being aware of how one tends to react to situations and what consequence that reaction will lead to, one is in a better position to choose the behaviour that will lead to more favourable results. Therefore, self-awareness is important for one to manage emotions and develop coping strategies. Nepal government has incorporated life skills in social studies which is optional in grades 11 and 12. This should be incorporated as a compulsory session before grade 10 so all children learn the basics of how to live a happy life.
(Sharma is a journalist and women rights advocate firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)