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While traditional subjects like mathematics, history, literature, and physics are still important for a well-rounded education, it takes more than just good grades to carve a name for yourself in today’s fiercely competitive job market. 

More and more employers are requiring that candidates have soft skills, while parents are worried that schools aren’t doing enough to prepare their children ‘for the real world’ — which is exactly where life skills education comes in. In order to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world, school administrators must strive to incorporate these important life skills into the school curriculum and effectively prepare students for the complexities of adulthood. 

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the most important life skills — including employability (i.e. how to write a student CV), soft skills, time management, and household management — and how to properly integrate them into the school curriculum. 

Creating a Stand-Alone Life Skills Class

Several middle and high schools in the United States (equivalent to Year 7 to 13 in the UK system) have already implemented a stand-alone Life Skills class that teaches everything that students need to know before graduating.

A Life Skills class is usually divided up into several themes, including Money Management (how to create a budget, how to file income tax returns, how mortgages work, an introduction into the stock market), Time Management (how to divide projects into manageable tasks, how to stay focused, how to plan ahead), Household Skills (sewing, using a toolbox, pumping gas, how to do laundry, how to write a check), and Employment (how to write a resume and cover letter, applying for jobs, how to ace an interview, how to apply for jobs), among others.

These Life Skills classes offer a fun and low-pressure environment for students to ‘ease’ into tough real-world situations while under careful supervision of a teacher and in the company of fellow peers. 

Besides practical real life applications, a Life Skills class also teaches valuable soft skills in the process. Students learn essential skills like problem solving, critical thinking, working in a group, and self-management — especially if there are take-home projects involved and/or there is a flipped classroom approach.  

Integrating Life Skills Into Academic Subjects

If there are no opportunities to create an entirely new Life Skills class, not to worry — it’s also possible to integrate essential skills into pre-existing classes. It’s important to do so while creating a new curriculum for the new school year, as the process is easier when each teacher is on board and knows about their roles and goals.

To get teachers inspired, we’ve listed the most common classes and some potential life skills that can be integrated into each of their curriculums:

Mathematics — Maths is an excellent class to teach financial literacy, including soft skills like creating a budget, learning about dividends, how credit cards and mortgages work, learning to save money, and how to figure out if something is worth buying (i.e. cost per wear formula). A major project could entail giving students a (pretend) standard wage and having them create a budget for an entire month. 

English — While English class typically revolves around reading novels and writing essays, it also offers an excellent environment to hone some very important life skills. These include how to improve communication, teamwork (writing an essay in groups), how to write clear and concise emails and business memos, and how to engage in productive debates and discussions. 

Physical Education — Aside from doing sports and being physically active, Physical Education can promote healthy living by supplementing their curriculum with topics around nutrition and healthy eating, personal well-being, and stress management.

Opportunities for Life Skills Workshops

Finally, school administrators have the opportunity to curate interesting workshops and one-day programs that are centred on real-life situations and led by professionals in the community. 

Here are a few examples of what these ‘life skills workshops’ could entail: 

  • How to Successfully Interview For Your First Job: Dressing the part, how to answer interview questions, and other useful tips. Students can take turns being the interviewer and the interviewee.  
  • Self-Care and Wellness: How to make doctor appointments, basic first aid, and proper nutrition. 
  • Exploring Your Career Options: Applying for jobs online, crafting an expert CV, and writing professional emails. There are a handful of excellent companies that also administer fun Career Exploration Tests, which students take and are given a list of potential careers that align with their interests and personality.
  • Entrepreneur Workshops: Best suited for older students (i.e. those in Year 10 and above), entrepreneur workshops are an excellent opportunity to invite local businessmen and entrepreneurs to talk about their journey, motivate students to think outside of the box, and inspire peers to explore entrepreneurial paths. 

By combining interesting topics with real-world applications, students can enrich their soft skills and be better prepared for the challenges of adulthood.