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For Education, Life Skill and Leadership the onus go to Teachers

Schools really need to transform it to an Institute of Life, creating true leaders for the society

Photo of Sukamal
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           The world has evolved so much yet school education is still pretty much teaching the same thing for the last 50 years or more. The students are taught maths, science and language in school but this alone cannot prepare him for life. We need life skills to live a competent life. So, sometimes I think whether schools should be renamed as Institute of Life, instead! Most of our schools prepare us for jobs but the schools should have more important mandate to perform. Instead of preparing one for job it should able to effectively prepare him for life. Schools ask you what you want to be when you grow up. Perhaps the teachers implicitly expect for the accustomed reply - doctor, engineer, teacher, astronaut, pilot, and lawyer (may be not even sportsman). But what should be appropriate instead, teacher could have asked you what problems you want to solve in future. At least I have not yet heard any teacher sensitising a growing boy in this way. Thus teacher loose ample opportunity to see his words manifested when the boy is in his prime of youth. The school rarely ask her learners what life skills they want to acquire enabling them to visualise this world, the people with positive attitude and without any prejudice. In my motivational classes to the first generation entrepreneurs that I aspired to groom in the State of Arunachal Pradesh always used to say to “nurture the Right Attitude”. To me this is the first inevitable to become an entrepreneur or a successful man. The word “ATTITUDE” is pivotal. Exceptionally, take an experiment add the numerical place values of the letters it gives exactly hundred. Otherwise, if your “ATTITUDE” is right you are cent-percent human being with ability to solve any problem.

           This world has so many crushing problems. For example it is shocking that half the planet has still cooking on smoky wood fires and that the emissions from these inefficient fires was killing more people than HIV, Malaria, and TB combined. These people most often lacked access to electricity, and so were forced to burn dirty and expensive kerosene for lighting. These families live in “energy poverty”   they lack modern, safe and affordable ways to cook charge and light their lives. Affecting health, economic opportunity, education and gender equality, access to energy is one of the most critical enablers to human development. Life stops when the sun goes down. We are in need of future Social Entrepreneurs today groomed in schools who recognise this social problem and search for innovative entrepreneurial opportunity to solve when they are out of school, college or university and ready to contribute to fellow human being. We are in crucial need to solve plethora of similar problems with which the mother earth is afflicted today.

            Access to education was the millennium development goal announced by the UN in 2000. Due to this in Sub-Saharan Africa, before the turn of millennium 58% of primary aged kids were in school.  However we have 60 million kids today who cannot go to school. Good people are working for spread the light of education among the unreached. Let me reiterate the example, that I cited in my talk on “Social Enterprise Models, Contemporary Thoughts and Global Initiatives” to the MSW students of R.G. University on 3-8-2016. It is about The Citizen Foundation (TCF) of Karachi. TCF has been doing amazing work in the field of education. Twenty years back six business men got together to work with conviction to promote education. Instead of building big schools they tried to spread them all around Pakistan opening chain of small schools in rural areas and urban slums. They fixed target of 1000 such schools, initially looked ridiculous. The family of TFC now expanded to all over the world and Pakistanis are contributing to this cause. The biggest selling point is all female faculties, helping girls to draw to schools attaining 50% female enrolments. There were resistance from extreme religious elements but over a period of time it subsided. If a girl from the family not coming to school, but boy is, they convince that the girl should also be sent. Zakat - one of the core tenants of Islam, donating 2.5% of income to charity help this mission to flourish. Today TCF is providing quality education to 150,000 kids all over the globe.

         Sometimes back I read about an institution or about an idea where the author said School as Institute of Life (IOL). He added school teaches a student how to defend him from school bullies whereas the IOL need to teach him how to defend himself from office politics. When School teaches her children hard sciences, IOL need to focus on teaching him soft skills. The school organises story telling competition, the need is you tell your personal stories as part of your regular communications. School teaches you languages we aspire to teach you body language, how to read what is said and what is not said. School teaches you how to write reports and letters, the Institute of Life should teach you how to write interesting status updates on social media and how to blog. School teaches you marketing, IOL aims to teach you personal branding. School organises sport events, IOL wants to tell you why sitting is bad and gives you tips on how to keep your spine healthy and keep your waist line intact so that you can still equally active when you reach 45. School may give you so much homework that you have no time for anything else, the secret is in sharing you time management tips so that you have time for everything else. School takes exam and see if you pass or fail, however the real teaching embedded in training her learners to stand up after they fail.

            Again, sometimes  back  I read a real story posted by one of my friend in the Professional Social Workers Network  coined  by  a foreign tourist to India who wrote “The Indian Abroad - I had the book learning, this Indian Driver taught me true leadership” which is all about a taxi driver. The tourist wrote his experience of a two day road trip to see the famous sights of Jaipur, Agra and Mathura. He wrote as follows... “Like a creaky door I was ready to complain, groan and moan about the bumps and traffic. Little did I know that I was about to meet a great leader. Our driver Dinesh was soft and unassuming. He was smiling from the moment we met him. He settled us in and we were on our way through the busy Delhi roads. We didn’t talk much initially as we took in the sights. Then as we sailed through one of the national highways we heard his fascinating story. Dinesh and a group of other drivers had been living in Delhi for the past 3 years away from their families who lived in the State of Himachal Pradesh. I asked him when he saw his kids. He met them just once a year when he got a month off from his company. He would then work on the farm, cut down wood for the house and work local jobs during that month. During the rest of the year he and the other drivers lived in Delhi driving sometimes each day of the week (and Saturday, Sunday).

 My grumpiness gave way to guilt and remorse. How could a person survive this gruelling life? I asked him how long he had been doing this. He said for the past 15 years he has been working for the travel company doing just this. He seldom had a break and was always requested by his clients when they contacted the travel company. Did he like this work? I asked. Surprisingly he did”.

        The story goes “The long hours didn’t bother him, he was saving up for his family. He always saw these trips as a way to share what he knew about places and also a way to connect with people. We felt completely safe with Dinesh. At the famous Mathura temple we were asked to leave all our cell phones, large purses and documents behind. I didn’t think twice about that as I trusted Dinesh. When we returned after our trip we discovered Dinesh was heading for a 7 day tour of Rajasthan. One of his former clients had personally requested he accompany them. Dinesh dropped us off at 11:30 PM. While we were going to sleep, he was going to spend another hour returning his car and then heading home for perhaps 5 hours of sleep. Then he would return for the next trip”.

             After we parted ways, he wrote, “I realized I had met a true leader. Dinesh had learned the secret of a successful partnership with his clients, loved his work and delivered on his word. He had learned the art of staying engaged despite the pressures of his job. He had learned the secret of happiness despite the intense pressure of his work. His clients trusted him and swore by him. I had all the book learning and lofty knowledge of leadership. He taught me what a true leader could achieve through humbleness, trust and sharing. I am happy I could meet some really great people and see great sights in India. I appreciate all the great clients who have trusted and hired him. Like Dinesh I look for ways to engage and deliver results” the story ends.

           On this auspicious moment of evolution  I aspire if our Schools really transform it to an Institute of Life, creating true leaders for the society - after all, the onus of this enormous transformation goes to the teachers

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

Creativity, inner thoughts for the social development transforming to words, important aspects of education and study of relevant literature

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Redefining the parameters of educational institutes

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Through self interventions, awareness and motivations


Join the conversation:

Photo of Brij

Hi Sukamal,

Great post! I completely agree with your concept. I have always imagined higher education that focused on life skills like how to think, how to read and understand people, and how to properly communicate. Our current system focuses too much on particular subjects and not enough time on the best way to learn and engage which you can potentially use for the rest of life.


Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Sukamal!

Thank you for a great post. I like the fact that you highlighted the need to focus on purpose and how great leaders are not always the people in the public eye. Dinesh sounds like a truly inspirational personal that could be a great mentor for others.

What do you think of the African Leadership University where students study for their mission in life?

What do you think of the Stanford model for the future of higher education i.e. Stanford2025: Exploring Future of Undergraduate Education and Knowmads - An Alternative MBA program that takes you on the road ? Are they inline with what you are thinking?

Is there any chance you could find an image to go along with your post? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.