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21st Century Life Skills Framework

India is at a very critical juncture. As a country, we stand poised to make big developmental strides in this century and yet at the same time have yesteryear’s problems slowing us down. The next generation will see challenges rising from limited resources to increasingly globalized economy. One needs to be prepared with adequate skills to respond to such challenges. Innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership will be more needed than ever.

To understand the needs of future generation we looked at both aspects of India’s growth – the accelerators and the road bumps – and then matched these with skills the next generation should be equipped with to achieve the growth. We created a framework of such skills that are experiential in nature and cannot be learnt by merely reading books. Khel Planet has chosen play as a medium to provide experiential learning environment for children.The framework has evolved through a series of conversations with academicians, with practitioners, experiential learning in classrooms, through our personal on-ground experiences & work life and through very intense and at times, emotional discussions. Together with other educational institutions, family and civic societies, we hope to nurture the future generation with skills that will make it successful in the 21st century.

The figure alongside is a pictorial depiction of our 21st century life skills framework. All the skills in the framework develop in an individual in an interdependent manner and often overlap in their meanings and objectives. Hence the aim should not be to measure children on individual skills but to see them as holistic individuals who are able to survive and thrive in the conceptual age of the 21st century.


Emotional skills – These skills will help build a child’s understanding of self in relation to others and the surroundings; and respond to changes more purposefully rather than reactively. This leads to emotional well-being since an individual is able to own and take responsibility for important life-choices. The constituent skills are Self-awareness, Resilience, Empathy and Adaptability skills.


Cognitive skills – These skills enable a child to assimilate information from routine observations, readings, class lessons or interactions; process this information and apply it to other situations. With cognitive abilities, as children mature they are able to process more complex information, deal with abstract concepts and think holistic more easily. The constituent skills are Problem solving, Critical thinking, Lateral thinking and Systems thinking skills.


Creativity – These skills enhance children’s natural curiosity and encourage them to explore many possible answers and methods rather than accept what is being handed down without questioning. Creativity promotes ‘thinking out of the box’ and coming up with innovative solutions to impasse problems.  The constituent skills are Curiosity, Innovation, Ideation and Visualization skills.


Collaboration skills – These skills help children to develop easy working relationships with classmates, playmates and adults. While working in teams, children learn early on to express themselves assertively, resolve differences, build consensus and appreciate each other’s cultural backgrounds without being resentful. The constituent skills are Communication, Conflict management, Negotiation and Cross-cultural sensitivity.

Social & Civic

Social and Civic Engagement skills – A child’s ecosystem comprises of school, family, friends and neighbourhoods. And as such children hold considerable potential to influence and shape civic life in this ecosystem rather than function as passive recipients. These social and civic engagement skills make children aware of their role, responsibilities and consequences and encourage them to participate actively in decisions regarding their own education, health, family life, environment or human rights – both in local and global contexts.  The constituent skills are Citizenship, Gender equity and harmony, Health & wellness and Environment & sustainability.


Leadership skills – These skills prepare children to take on leadership roles in life. As they mature, children become better at strategizing, taking initiatives, goal setting & planning, engaging with others and getting them to act towards common goals. The constituent skills are Organizing, Excellence, Influence without authority and Entrepreneurship. These skills when coupled with all other skills mentioned above help a child become an effective change agent in society.


Why are they needed?

What are life-skills?

In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined life skills as abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour, that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. (Reference: Life skills education for children and adolescents in schools, Program on mental health, World Health Organization)

Why are life-skills important now?

Through the 18th century, the world (developed and developing both) has moved from agrarian economy to industrial economy to information age. The challenges of these economies were known and education was tailored to deliver skilled workforce to meet the economy needs. Schools evolved from educating the classes to inclusion of masses for one-size-fits all education approach. The 21st century is going to be the conceptual age of creators and collaborators. Given the rapid pace at which technology and globalization are growing, and the excruciating demand on natural resources, we do not know what kind of challenges lie ahead for the future generation to succeed in the 21st century. The question that then arises is how do we prepare this generation to face unknown challenges?

What we do know is that in the 21st century, individuals will have to locate and assess new information quickly, communicate and be effective in collaborative & multi-cultural work environments, be adaptable, creative, problem solve innovatively and be able to view systems holistically. And such skills will enable the future generation to deal with demands and challenges of everyday life. Hence circling back to the definition of life skills by WHO, there is an increased emphasis on life skills education for 21st century.

Who should learn life skills?

Life skills are for all. A common misconception about life skills is that these are for the consumption of the elite classes. In fact, research shows that when poor children are given access to life skills education, their life outcomes improve considerably.

Why start at school age?

Life skills are abilities that children should learn either in school, at home or in their communities. A misconception is that life skills are optional and should follow basic language and numeracy education only if resources are available. However, learning life skills at school age along with academics (maths, language or science), enables children to transfer the theoretical concepts to other real life situations early on. If life skills are left to develop when older, children will already have become passive recipients of information, and would have developed ways of civic interactions by mimicking adults. As children mature into adolescence and adulthood, these skills put them on a path of life-long learning and emotional well-being.



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