Academic skills vs. life skills: what do children need most?

What skills do children need to gain from their schooling, as well as gaining academic knowledge?  

One area of key importance is the development of generic skills that will help them in their careers and future lives. These include skills such as learning to work as part of a team, developing positive self-esteem, and the confidence to present their own opinions clearly. Such life skills can help children to develop into happy and successful adults, people who positively contribute to Malaysian society, and who can also interact on the global scene. To achieve this, children and teenagers need their education to take a “whole child” approach to learning.

Furthermore, in order to access educational opportunities it is important that young people develop their higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). These thinking skills involve the ability to analyse information and break it down into component parts, evaluate or judge ideas and texts, and to use learned knowledge to create new ideas. For example in lessons, students need to be presented with challenging topics and asked to evaluate the ideas of others and to reach their own conclusions about whether they agree or don’t agree with a point of view. These higher-order thinking skills are essential to success in an international learning environment. International schools and universities expect their students to be capable of using such skills in their studies, particularly in writing essays and contributing to tutorial discussions. The Malaysian Ministry of Education has also recognised the importance of developing HOTS in children and has integrated these into its KSSR programme for primary schools.

The British Council has been running courses to help young Malaysians develop their language skills to become confident and fluent in English for 30 years. To ensure students are fully prepared for their future academic studies, courses for Secondary students (13-17 year olds) now include the development of general academic skills, such as essay writing, developing presentations and debating skills. In class, these skills can be developed through our methodology for teaching the language, and the tasks and activities chosen. For example, students may be asked to analyse some example sentences to understand the underlying grammar patterns before the teacher clarifies their ideas; or students may be asked to evaluate their own or other’s writing to develop a better understanding of how texts in English are created. 

Having these skills will enable students to succeed in both Malaysian schools in their English language classes, and in an international English-medium environment. In addition, Upper Secondary students (16-17 year olds) will develop general English language exam skills that will help them as they prepare for the SPM and future studies, wherever these may take them.