Good news: a curriculum on life skills education
March 26, 2004
YESTERDAY'S disclosure by the Ministry of Education that it is introducing life skills education in the teaching curriculum from September has allayed fears by some that the ministry is deafening its ears to public cries for more vocation training and the teaching of character development in schools.
A statement by the ministry says a life skills education curriculum has been developed under five themes - education, family, health, human rights, human sexuality - and aims to provide teachers with an integrated and consistent approach to the application of life skills education.
Called the HFLE curriculum, it basically will seek, in the words of the ministry, "to give children the basic knowledge and skills they need to increase self-responsibility and to reach their full potential."
The ministry believes the programme will also help students in every area of personal and academic life "by increasing self-esteem and self-responsibility, inspiring them to stay in school and develop a lifetime enthusiasm for learning, developing their positive social skills, training them to protect themselves from drugs, violence and other harmful influences, and empowering them to take charge of themselves and our environment...
"The idea is that each year, the curriculum will cover the same sort of skills, but in new ways that are relevant to their lives as they grow up. Each year's programme thus builds on that of the previous year. The materials cover roughly the same broad topics each year:
* Social skills- Communicating and listening, making friends;
* Non- discrimination, tolerance, respecting cultures religious values and ethnicity.
* Conflict resolving, dealing with emotions, expressing feelings
* Decision making, responsibility, peer pressure
* Growing up healthy, substance use and abuse
* Self esteem- building self-confidence,
* Human sexuality-our bodies, family planning, sexual abuse, love or lust
* Character education- my attitudes and behavior, Moral values
* Dealing with family issues
Caring for the environment."
We readily echo part of the ministry's statement because it affirms our own thinking on the strategy that the ministry needs to adopt to come to grips with the unprecedented problems of adolescent lawlessness that have been troubling us for time now.
When in 2003 we cited the involvement of young people in violent gang crimes, the prevalence of truancy, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy, we called for the teaching of character development because we saw these negative tendencies in our youths in the context of society's failure, or the failure of the family, to provide adequate support and direction for our young.
We also said then that any programme that eventually materialized should do more than simply lecture to students on what is appropriate behaviour. A curriculum on character development should help students learn to be caring, principled, and responsible in and outside of the classroom, as well as give them frequent opportunities to act on these values.
With the inauguration of the programme in September, the Education Ministry will be reinforcing initiatives already underway by a number of non-governmental organizations, particularly those focusing on anti-HIV/AIDS programmes, to promote healthy lifestyles and acquire vocational skills that lead to successful adult living. Clearly, this is going to be another initiative whose time has come.