Let us look at soft skills and what they tell us about a future where bots will be running the show.
Home schooling parents have some concerns, especially when comparing their children to those in traditional schooling. For one, they look at the humungous syllabus and heavy text books school-going children ‘absorb’ and wonder if their children are not missing out on some vital info.
Two, they ask us what skills do we train our children for, to equip them for the job market 15-20 years hence.
The answer to the first question is simple: take any of the children who have passed out of regular schooling, and ask them a question from those text tomes. Even in less than two years from graduation, they would not remember any of the info. Forget the time when they are at the peak of their careers. This is simply because most of what we ‘study’ is not relevant to our daily lives or career. So then, why put a child through all that unnecessary stress? Isn’t it enough to know exactly what we need? That is what we learn in home schools, open schools, etc. Once the child identifies his or her interest and aptitude, we help them to master the topic and pick up the relevant skills. Less irrelevant info, more specific knowledge; less stress, more learning.
Coming to the second question, we will look at it here in more depth.
What skills will the children need some 15-20 years from today? It’s anybody’s guess. We cannot predict at all. Especially with the advent of AI and bots that can handle a whole range of tasks, we cannot say how the future develops. However, we must remember that some 20-30 years back we did not predict that computers would invade every sector. We prepared for some skill sets and ended up learning a whole set of new skills. Therefore, I would suggest that we do not worry about the skills required in the future.
But let us be clear here, we are talking of hard skills like the ones that can be taught or picked up from classes/courses. This could be technical skills around the use of equipment, hardware or tools, processes, etc and cover anything from computer hardware, coding, management, design, data mining, diagnostics, research, marketing, presentation, finance, planning, budget, writing, etc.
We truly cannot predict how many of these will still be needed two decades from now. But there is a bunch of skills that will still be required at any time, and those are the life skills and soft skills. These are what we can help our children acquire. We will look at them in detail. But let me clarify here that all three are inter-related and inter-dependent to some extent.
How are soft skills different? A simple definition to make it clear is this: Your qualification (covering your hard skills) will get you called for an interview, but your soft skills will determine if you sail through! So does it mean soft skills are more important ? No. But they are as important, and yet neglected, compared to hard skills. Given a person who is technically sound but a social misfit and one who is technically average but has good people skills and communication, the latter has more chance to land a job. In fact, a LinkedIn study showed a slightly higher preference for soft skills over hard skills among employers.
Life skills deal with knowing to take care of your body, mind and soul. These cover various aspects of daily routines from hygiene, food and nutrition, medical basics, health, and so on. Soft skills are those that help you survive and flourish in society, be it communication, problem solving, organising skills, time management, prioritising, teamwork, etc.
Being methodical and organised will not only get you to work on time daily, but will help you get the desired results much faster than someone who has all the knowledge but is totally disorganised. So also, one may know a lot but unless able to communicate this across effectively, through speech, PPTs or articles, it is of no use. Today, very few jobs are done in isolation, except for a few scientists at lab perhaps. This calls for being able to work as a team and collaborate. So also, knowing which task to prioritise is very important. Deadlines are strictly adhered to and require staff to manage time efficiently.
On the job learning
It becomes clear how soft skills are as essential as hard skills picked up through attending classes or courses. However, soft skills cannot be taught. While some of it is inborn, much of it can be picked up from the environment. Exposure to job environments become very important. This is one of the focus areas of informal schooling where children move around people of different age groups and observe. Children learn by seeing and doing. Immerse them in an environment where they can pick up the above soft skills. Often this begins at home. Home schooling contributes largely to this aspect of education. It could be simple things like doing a chore together or keeping your cupboard stacked neatly. A leakage in the roof may require an expert but the discussion at home can include the children.
We can help train our children in the basic ABC factors – appearance, body language and communication. The way you are dressed and groomed, your behaviour and the way you communicate have a strong impact on whom you interact with. Not just your clothes, but how presentable the overall image is, plays an important role at work. This is complemented with the way you behave. Being courteous, able to listen and not just speak, empathetic, friendly and approachable, honest, ready to apologise when wrong, etc are some behaviour patterns that children can pick up from watching adults. In communication too, the body language plays a significant role and can convey the ease and confidence of the speaker. Communication is often said to be 70 percent body language, 20 pc voice tone and only 10 pc the actual words. A voice that commands attention need not necessarily be loud. A clear speech with simple words can have more impact than high-sounding prose delivered in a monotone! Making eye contact is one trait that comes in handy too.
So, instead of breaking our heads on what hard skills will be relevant 15 years later, let us focus on what will still be. Like breathing! Yes, they will need to breathe so why not teach them techniques in conscious breathing that have been proven to aid overall health. As attention spans plummet, breathing practices can help the brain slow pace and become more sharp. This has been scientifically validated.
Likewise, our children will still need to eat. But with soils being depleted of nutrients, and water polluted, what kind of future do they face? Why not show them ways to grow their small patches of vegetables with no chemical? Why not talk to them about various kinds of food and their impact? My son Sai has taken a course in Satvik food that educates children on what foods have a calming effect on the body and mind. Children can be taught to eat mindfully, instead of food on a plate in one hand and the mobile on the other hand.
Small ways in which each one can contribute to make the planet a better place for all life, such knowledge can be shared to make them aware and act towards a prosperous future.
Take your child to live in a farm or a forest for a few days and see how they pick up life essential skills needed for survival. Lessons in coexistence, teamwork, nature cycles, the role of the earthworm and the bee, mulching techniques, pest management, growing food, lighting a fire, the myriad of plant species and their interdependence, and much more can be learnt.
And then, there is financial literacy we can educate them for. Making it a habit to save money is very important. Not only will this help one in times of recession with jobs vanishing overnight, but it will also give one the luxury of quitting a job and falling back on reserves, instead of continuing to work in toxic environments. It is imperative to have in bank a minimum corpus of six times your monthly requirement, always. We have learnt this from our experiences through the covid and other unexpected external pressures. The corpus is never touched, unless there is an emergency. At E Construct, this has helped us immensely to know we have a corpus fund for 12 months even if we fail to earn a rupee!
Without soft skills you will remain a back runner always. When recession hit the job market, Sandeep lost his job but was not too perturbed as he was confident of the many soft skills he had honed up. Like the bird on a tree, we need to make our wings stronger rather than think of the branch we sit on. Let us train our children to be confident and courageous to take the right decisions for themselves.
Yes, soft skills will take a longer time to be picked up than hard skills that need a short duration or course to be learnt. Soft skills are picked up from the environment around us and hence, home plays an important role. Soft skills are a lifelong learning process. Integrity, willingness to learn, open mindedness and adaptability are some personality traits one picks up at various stages of life and become your soft skills. Hard skills can be measured by tests but soft skills cannot be. This is also why perhaps an employer will prefer a candidate with soft skills and no hard skills as he can be taught the latter easily. One who is heavily equipped with hard skills but nil soft skill will be tough to train.
Now let us look at regular school and home school to see which is more amenable to children picking up soft skills. The environment in an informal system like home school is such that opportunities are many for the student to pick up soft skills as well as the hard skills that he/she needs. The time spent in landing a job is comparably much lesser in home schooling than regular schooling. This is because in regular schooling so much of time is spent in learning so many subjects and hence, hard skills than one will ever use in one’s career. In a home school environment, children are immersed in the work atmosphere and are assimilating so many more soft skills as they watch and learn by doing things with people of different age groups. The hard skills and information they gather is restricted to the areas of their interest/aptitude. The run up from school to a job is much shorter.
Any doubts still, on which one you want for your child???
Thanks and Regards,
The Life Engineering Foundation Team
….of your lives
Congrats! You are born into the most intelligent species on planet earth. How about learning to think and act like one?
As you know we have not only intelligence but the awareness that animals lack. Using these gifts, we can not only have a good life for ourselves, but also help other humans and creatures. Isn’t that awesome? To be a steward on the planet ship. You are born in an age where learning is much easy, given the technology around you. You can access any information you want. It is a quicker process with everything available on a click unlike in the past where books had to be hunted down physically. Asking teachers for book titles, then enquiring among many on where it may be available, again going back to the teacher for further guidance, can you imagine the time it all took?
Today, thanks to the world wide web, data is available easily and you can also access various interpretations of the same on the click of a button or a brief voice query to Alexa! It is all available at all times and any place, unless you live in Timbuktu or Pandora. But like anything, technology can also be used for right and wrong reasons. Distractions are plenty on the net. It is up to you to stay aligned with your area of focus.
But before you get there, it is important to identify yourself. Not through the lens of the world, but by looking within. Who are you, what are your dreams, your values, your desires and your passion. What is it that interests you? What is your unique potential? Or, in other words, what comes easily for you, what do you do best? Is it communication? Organizing? Problem solving? Analysis? Critical thinking? Once you identify this, you will need to spend some time picking up the required skills. Work towards realizing your dreams. Do not get lost in the world’s to-do list that places you in a uniform assembly line. You will end up with no excitement in life, no appreciation, nil joy.
When using modern technology, beware that you do not close doors on what is old and traditional. For instance, our Indian culture and heritage should be the foundation on which you build your life’s learning. Besides the glorious past where our sage thinkers had spelt out some of the most complex truths of the universe, we have the legacy of our sacred Vedas and Upanishads that show the path to enlightened living. To take a small example, when we join hands in a Namaste, we are acknowledging one of the greatest truths. The word and the gesture implies a bowing to the other person, seeing their divinity and recognizing it as a part of our divinity and the Universe. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Our Santana Dharma indeed has its foundation in scientific spirituality, and in every achara or custom/ritual prescribed, you can find a scientific truth. The constant refrain in our literature is never to believe anything blindly but to go by experiential truth. Our smritis in fact point to how any knowledge is the sum total of what is learned from the teacher, from one’s own self inquiry, from discussions with others and finally, by practicing it to see what changes need to be made to it.
The Indian history texts often gloss over the glorious past of the country and we only read about the various defeats at the hands of the Mughals and British. There was so much more to our past and you can read about it, though not in detail, in some books and online. Check this:
While the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt have long been recognized for their celebrated contributions to civilization, India has often been overlooked, especially in the West, though its history and culture is just as rich. The Indus Valley Civilization (c. 7000-c. 600 BCE) was among the greatest of the ancient world, covering more territory than either Egypt or Mesopotamia and producing an equally vibrant and progressive culture. Be proud of our ancient culture, but also be open to the new. A blend of both can be the best of both worlds at your service.
Dear Children, do not waste precious time that you can use to learn simple tasks and become independent quickly. Have you tried changing the bulb at home instead of calling on dad for that? Or cleaning up, after a sleepover with friends? It is no different from the joy of learning to ride the bike. Becoming independent makes you confident. From plugging a leaky tap to teaching young ones how to play the flute, you can soon start earning your first rupee.
But, let not money define all your actions. Service to the needy and disadvantaged can give you immeasurable joy. To place a smile on the face of an old woman abandoned at the old age home, can have no equivalent in currency. The elders advice us to give away freely what we are abundant in. You children have carefree hearts full of playful spontaneity. Share it. It is a gift.
Finally, you have the golden opportunity to serve the planet. You can do it from your homes and schools. A bulb on during the day, a tap left open, plastic covers discarded carelessly, food that goes waste, etc. are things you can control without needing permissions or grants. We are living on a limited planet. There is no place for unlimited plunder of its limited resources. We need to conserve water, food and energy if we want to save some for the generations ahead. Start thinking creatively on ways to recycle, reuse and reduce resources.
We need to take along all other species if we are to maintain ecological balance. Taking away the forests for our mines, roads and resorts, how can we complain when the wildlife come into our cities looking for food and water? Flying kites with manja (glass pieces) causes so many birds to be injured. For a mere thrill of cutting a competitor’s kite, is it worth harming the birds? Practice kindness. Violence only begets violence. Love and non violence nourish the divine soul within all of us.
Look within. Know yourself. Follow your natural curiosity. Explore and learn. According to experts, all you need is one hour of study in your chosen field and you can master the subject in three years. There is a time to play, to laze, to sleep and a time to study. Learning is happening in all these times.
If you are an explorer at heart, join us. We at LEF can guide you in your journey. Chat with bots, or learn how to face a bouncer in the cricket field. Try for yourself how to make a crispy pizza or what section of the IPC applies to the hit and run case. If CGI in Avtaar 2 mesmerized you, why not shake a fin yourself? Perhaps, you would like to lend a shoulder for staff in your dad’s firm and give some counseling? The sky and the ocean are no limits to what you can learn and achieve.
The options are many, the question is : Are you ready to take the charge ?
Thanks and Regards,
The Life Engineering Foundation Team
“To all you parents, dragging a bawling child to the kindergarten admission, onlyto end up after 22 years with a wailing adult.”
Lend us your ears for a few moments:
Wait. Before you hand over your child to the system. Think. Before you sentence the child to the rat race. Ask yourself what do you want for your child. Do you want freedom for yourself and your child? Freedom to explore the vast possibilities and true potential in life. Or, the ‘safety’ of a prison? That is the difference between a rigid system that believes one size fits all, and an open-ended self-directed learning. Look at the Time, Money and Effort invested. Now look at the output. Is it worth it? Look at the stress, blame and guilt you take on. Is it worth it?
After 22 years, and almost Rs 20-30 lakh invested, what have you got? A child who cannot fit the job market, and IF he does, is just able to take care of his family’s basic needs? Is it worth it? Are you sure what he learns today will even be relevant 20 years later? Why subject her to all the unnecessary stress?
If all you need are the certificates, the options are many today. There are NIOS and IB systems that allow the child to take the exams whenever he/she is ready. Why not invest your lakhs of money in some mutual funds or shares? That is enough to provide him his daily meal 20 years later. Anyway, that is all he ends up doing after 22 years in the system. For today, let him be free to explore the world through his curiosity and interest. Let her learn life skills that will help her every day of her life. Let him learn to question. To seek the answers. Let her learn to solve problems with solutions she designs. Let them fail and learn from failure. Let them be free. Let us join hands to facilitate self-directed education that makes every child self-reliant, self-governed and independent thinkers.
Let us free them and ourselves from stress, AND from the vicious loop that turns them into robots and then demands them to think differently. Let us give them the choice to be what they want to be. Let us not feed the school business’ that consumes 8 hours of our child’s waking time and still shifts the blame of his/her poor performance on us!
First you can unschool your child. And then opt for homeschooling or free schooling or self directed learning or open schooling. Choices are available. Are you willing to make the change? We can help.
The options are many, the question is : Are you ready to take the charge ?
Thanks and Regards,
The Life Engineering Foundation Team