Integrating life skills in the curriculum

Students attend to a farm during a school assignment. /File photo

Whether at school, work or in our personal lives, everyone needs life skills in order to deal effectively with the challenges. More importantly, education experts believe that such skills, when instilled in learners, are used to boost their education qualifications.

This, they say, helps them sail through various environments with ease.


For instance, experts say that everyone needs money and even those who have it, still need/want more. Like after high school, one can immediately get a job and earn a certain amount of money monthly; but this amount might not be enough and so after university; they proceed to get another job which pays more, but still, there is need for more. 


This, they say, is because of lack of skills that can enable them make use of what they have.


The importance of life skills

Isaac Nkusi Zirimwabagabo, a financial literacy expert in Kigali, says that it’s important for the future generation to go beyond where we are today. And this, he says, can only be achieved if schools and other learning institutions strive to help learners with such skills early in their lives.

He says that this is because many young people don’t have an organised structure on how to get what they want out of life with the resources that are available. So it is important that learners are helped to understand as much as possible while still in school.

If only taught academics, learners will always be in need of more because they don’t have the skills to manage what they have.

Being able to manage time, money, among others, is what educationists believe will help students prosper in life. 

Enock Nkulanga, an entrepreneur and the national director at African Children’s Mission, says while students work hard to get good grades, employers are looking not just for academic success, but key employable skills.

He notes that such skills include self-management, problem-solving, understanding the work environment, and team work, among others.

 Nkulanga says that if a student is taught, for example, how to manage time and people, have adaptability to different roles and working environments, there is no doubt that they will be successful people in the future.

 Nkusi says that these skills will also help them become strong leaders in the future.

The impact

Training and coaching students on life skills, experts say, should be started as early as possible.

Nkusi believes that if this is incorporated at an early stage, learners will lack a lot in their adulthood, and that certain requirements as valuable contributors to the community will be missing.

Silva Mushinzimana, an entrepreneur teacher, says that life skills should be integrated in schools for various reasons. For example, they will not underrate their value if they have the right skills.

Who is responsible?

This approach, Nkusi says, should be open. He says many parents seem to pass the responsibility to teachers assuming that they will do everything to ensure that their children leave the school environment as well-rounded people.

He explains that nowadays, the demand for parents to put more time in their professional life is high, which is why many continuously leave the entire responsibility to the school.

He adds that there is so much a child can learn in a classroom and at home, things that will remain with them in life.

“However, the things that one learns in a classroom, might be remembered long enough for the exams. But when the exams are over, a good percentage of the knowledge is ‘dismissed’ until one has to apply it,” he says.

When it comes to life skills, Nkusi says one does not just learn from the blackboard; they have to practice. Although one will learn inside the classroom, they will only develop these skills in practice.

He says one can be taught in a classroom setting, but everything will be developed with practice.

Nkusi says though instructors handle students at school, learning starts at home; which means parents, community and schools all have to be involved.

“I don’t think this is something students can figure out on their own,” he says.

He says that although it might happen that some people ‘figure out’ skills and polish them in their own way, it is only because they are passionate about it; however, not everyone can do this.

How can this be implemented?

Aminadhad Niyoshuti, a teacher at Apaper Complex School, Kicukiro, says this can be done through classroom coaching, training, mentoring, and group discussions that involve students and teachers, among others.

For instance, he notes that such approaches are designed to observe one’s behaviour before and after they taught something.

“It’s better to know how much learners know about a specific subject before mentoring them. And also to observe how students are using information in life, either at school or another environment,” he says.

Nkusi believes that when this is done through training, it goes beyond just teaching in a classroom. There will be emphasis on detail, evaluation, honesty and dealing with weaknesses to become stronger.

This, he says, is a different approach to traditional learning where instructors stand in front of the class, talk to students, give them notes or something to read, and come back to give an exam at some point.

This kind of learning, Nkusi says, is good for mental strength and that not everyone does well in a traditional classroom setting.

Nkulanga says the good thing about training is that it is about delivering specific skills in an experiential environment as opposed to strict learning.

It’s about interacting with information, getting involved in activities, reinforcing the same points in different ways, and evaluation.

The idea is that the skill developed in training is used for years to come.

Their views

Alice Mukakabano, Tutor

I think the best way to help students is to sensitise parents on the importance of being there for their children. Some believe their work is done after they provide everything that is needed for learners as far as education is concerned.


Jacky Mutoni, Teacher

Schools and institutions should be able to organise internships or field tours to expose students to life outside the school environment. This is just one way of boosting life skills.


James Nsengimana, Student

As learners, we need to be open-minded and willing to learn from life experiences. There are things that won’t be taught to us at school but one can learn and adjust outside the school environment.


Patrick Sibomana, Parent

Students need to learn from their parents how to manage their responsibilities, which is a vital life skill. And, parents should strive to be good examples to them.

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