Inculcating Life Skills In Learners: The New Focus Of Moral Education

Beas Dev Ralhan, Co-Founder & CEO, Next EducationHeadquartered in Hyderabad, Next Education is an end-to-end K-12 education solution provider offering Curriculum Solution, Academic Partnership, Self-Learning Solution, Platform Solution, and many others.

The focus of moral education should move away from imparting ideal ways of living to practical ways of living. Earlier, moral education was more of a character development program, where the focus was on the passing of values from one generation to another. However, the changing times have made the shift in values inevitable. It has brought forth the question of whether it is possible to learn honesty, integrity and selflessness in a classroom, since these values vary from person to person and do not mean the same to everybody. There is an increasing need to break-free from viewing the world as either right or wrong. Moral education should come to include traits that help students to contribute and thrive in a society, and thus, include the teaching of life skills.

Current Moral Education Scenario
The efforts of CBSE and NCERT in recent years have led to the re-introduction of moral education as a subject into the curricula of schools. While some schools call it value education, some other schools call it life skills, personality development, and so on. While their efforts have invigorated the subject to a certain extent, there still remains the task of understanding the efficacy of teachers teaching the subject in schools. In most cases, schools do not have specially trained teachers for the subject, and the time slot allotted for it is taken-up for teaching other subjects.

Before we discuss the corrective measures, let us try and define life skills. What are Life Skills? A range of psychosocial and cognitive abilities, life skills enable children to make informed choices, communicate effectively and sustain their emotional well-being.

Exposure to media and the cyber world has made the present generation vulnerable to erroneous information. They have access to a lot of information, but are not discreet enough to decide whether the information is correct or not. Learners are subjected to a lot of sexual content too. Awareness about sexuality is one such life skill that should be inculcated in kids from an early age. Life skills help students alleviate their civic participation,
workplace communication, and manage their physical & mental health. Some other life skills include creativity, critical-thinking, empathy, self-awareness, and others.

The Need for Sex Education
Ignorance has already taken its toll ­ 0.26 percent of Indians are infected with HIV/AIDS (as per the UNAIDS Gap Report, 2016). This equates to 2.1 million people, and makes India the third largest country with cases of HIV/AIDS. Such a scenario immediately calls for the practice of safe sex. Unfortunately, sex itself is a taboo word in India. As a result, the discussion of safe sex is also averted. Contrary to popular belief, sex education does not encourage children to have sex at an early age; rather, it focuses on the physiological, social, and biological aspects of a healthy sexual life, and includes aspects like physical changes, consent, birth control measures, awareness of sexual abuse, AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

Initiatives so Far
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare seems to have realised that ignorance is not blissful. It has launched the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) program in January 2014, aimed at reaching-out to millions of adolescents in India. The program prioritizes six areas - nutrition, non-communicable diseases, sexual & reproductive health, substance misuse, injuries, violence and mental health.

The function of moral education is to encourage people to strive for a democratic and pluralistic society, where fears and myths are uprooted

As part of this programme, the Ministry further launched the SAATHIYA Resource Kit, as well as `SAATHIYA Salah' app for adolescents in February 2017. Created in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), SAATHIYA Resource Kit contains an activity book, a Bhranti-Kranti game, a question-answer book and a peer-educator diary. It is avail-able in both English and Hindi. The activity book and the game are intended to initiate discussions around taboo topics.

Adolescents, who are shy and face difficulty in interacting with peer educators, can resort to the Saathiya Salah app, which can be downloaded from Google play store. It is also connected to a toll-free Saathiya Helpline - 1800-233-1250, which also acts as an e-counselling service. The objective here is not to preach morality, but rather to initiate honest discussions and debates about sex & sexuality.

The initiative will be carried-out by 1.6 lakh `peer educators', who would be trained on the themes encompassing the six priorities of RKSK. The peer educators across the country will play short films at group meetings, take-up discussions on adolescent topics and resolve queries. Two peer educators would be identified from each neighbourhood to disseminate age-appropriate sex education. They will be entitled to a non-monetary payment of Rs.50 per month in the form of phone recharge, magazine subscriptions, and others.

The function of moral education is to encourage people to strive for a democratic and pluralistic society, where fears and myths are uprooted. However, there is a difference between being moralistic and moral. While moralistic lessons could be viewed as an imposition of personal view in a dogmatic way, sex education is best imparted from a moral perspective which encourages preserving individual liberty, while working within the aspirations of the society. In this way, even the most controversial subject can be discussed in schools with-in a moral framework. Thus, schools should make the most of these moral education classes.