Friday, 23 September 2016

Education should focus on converting knowledge into life skills

It is the process and not a goal.

Pixabay. CC0 Public Domain
As defined in the Cambridge Dictionary, Knowledge looks at a practical or theoretical understanding of a specific subject. In this day and age, where technology has simplified information dissemination, the distance between ignorance and knowledge has radically been reduced. Students may not have to sit in a classroom to know when airplanes started flying. The Internet has got very comprehensive literature on this including videos, audio, images and text. And all this content is available at no cost.

In a second stage, little beyond a mere understanding of a specific subject, learning, is defined by Karban, R. (2015) as the act of acquiring new, or modifying and reinforcing existing, knowledge. At this stage the learner will need to convert acquired knowledge to fit into a context in the environment they live in. The learner will modify and reinforce existing, knowledge and see it adopted in his or her context. We probably all spend 70% of our driving lessons on a free and quiet road without any traffic or complex obstacles on our way, and 30% on a relatively jammed road. Yet, in reality, 70% of our rides will be in down-town on a jammed road, and only 30% in the countryside. From this illustration, knowledge in terms of understanding how a vehicle moves is not enough. The learner needs to adjust the leaning process to a new environment.

In the third and final stage, we talk about life skills. Howland, J.L. (2013), infers that given key resources like time, energy, or both; learning should lead to carrying out a task with pre-determined results. Along the same lines, in an education that aims at facilitating acquisition of values, well-being, and habits, life skills are the ultimate tools that learners should acquire. Although, the nature and definition of life skills may differ across cultures and beliefs, Weisen et al. (1997) provides a list of crucial skills:

  • Problem Solving
  • Decision making
  • Creative thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relation skills
  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy

In summary, life skills are the abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.


A quick analysis of the three stages infers that knowledge, unless applied in given skills, may not be of any significant value. A fundamental objective of our daily activities is to solve problems. Problems are at the heart of what many people do at work every day. Education today should focus on converting knowledge into life skills and so impact the learners’ day to day activity. And given that life circumstances are not always similar, this should be looked at as a process and not a goal.

Benjamin Mundama, Strathmore University, Kenya.


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