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The Imperative of Life Skills Education

My early days of corporate training were spent facilitating sessions in Financial Literacy for customers and prospects of the investment bank where I worked. After that I took a keen interest in technical skills training in asset management and pension fund administration and even authored a textbook on pension fund administration. The more time I spent in the more technical aspects of learning, the more I realized where the real gaps lay. I slowly but surely came to the realization that no matter how much you tried to bolster the technical skills of an employee, it was the professional and life skills that made the biggest impact.

For example, the most successful fund managers needed to first be good at having clear professional goals, being focused, and disciplined, managing time effectively and of course getting along with others. It was these foundational life skills that enabled them to build the technical capabilities in investment analysis and portfolio management and apply these technical skills in a meaningful way to their work.

Even as I wrote this post today, I remembered the classic Harvard Business School Case Study, “Rob Parson at Morgan Stanley” about the high-flying investment banker who hit all his targets but struggled with ethical behaviour, leadership and interpersonal skills that eventually stagnated his career prospects.

Over the years, I began to see this pattern even more – that the most important ingredients for success were these life and professional skills that unfortunately our conventional approach to education barely prepared us for. I then began to be more interested in these skills and started to explore theories on Emotional and Social Intelligence, made popular by scholars like Daniel Goleman.

As I began to facilitate training programs for managers and leaders in some of the largest organizations in Nigeria, the gap became even more obvious – most professionals were ill-equipped in the areas of leadership and personal effectiveness, communication skills, creativity and innovation and financial literacy, in spite of their levels of formal and technical education. In many cases, there seemed to be an inverse relationship between the level of technical education and the life skills that people possessed.

I was inspired to think about how to build the foundation of life skills education from much earlier and began to write story books and illustrated coffee-table books as well as develop board games to help families and children learn and teach each other these skills. The idea is simple, life skills unlike technical skills have no foundational prerequisites. They can be learned and mastered at any age, and the earlier you are exposed to them, the better prepared you will be for the future.

Remember, the purpose of education is to prepare children for independent and purposeful lives in future, when they will have to lead themselves and others; develop innovative solutions to transform society; communicate their ideas to influence others; and manage their personal and business resources. Without a deliberate focus on life skills education, how do we expect that our school Math, English, Science, and standardized tests (JSSCE, SSCE, GCE, JAMB) will magically create these skills.

I am happy about the reception that our life skills education and resources has received from parents, educators and even corporate organizations who are interested in community projects that focus on life skills. However, there is still room for much more, because in spite of our modest efforts, the gap still exists and is getting even deeper.

You can check out the life skills books and board games that we have developed at Learning Impact by clicking the button below, and sow the seeds of a better future for your children and other children around you. You may also decide to have your organization partner with us to deploy these resources to support community development initiatives around you.

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