Survey on preparing young people for everyday life in society – Results

Image: Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash.com

Everyday life skills such as preparing a healthy meal and managing finances should be taught at every school level, mainly through cross-curricular approaches, according to respondents to the latest School Education Gateway survey. The survey found that families and teaching staff are the most important actors in developing children’s life skills – their ability to deal with issues commonly encountered in daily life.

Learning throughout life is an active process of great importance in the 21st century. However, does the same apply for learning about life? How do we better prepare individuals for the practicalities of life in society? Do they know how to cook a healthy meal, budget and use money, fill in official forms, manage their time, or stay healthy and safe? When, where and who is involved in developing individuals’ life skills?

This survey aimed to gauge practices and views on day-to-day life skills. It was open on School Education Gateway from 19 March to 9 May and attracted 547 respondents from 37 countries, 78% of whom were teachers or school leaders.

1. To what extent do you agree/disagree with the statement: “Everyday life skills such as cooking, finance and navigation are naturally acquired and therefore do not need to be taught in school”?

Graph 1

75% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that life skills are naturally acquired and therefore there is no need to teach them in schools. On the other hand, approximately 16% of the responses indicate agreement or strong agreement, and 9% neither agree nor disagree.

2. In your opinion, whose involvement is most important for developing children’s everyday life skills?

Graph 2

The responses strongly suggest that family members are the most important actors in developing children’s life skills (86%), followed by teaching staff (56%). At 13%, the involvement of community members such as people from sports clubs, associations, religious groups and libraries is considered equally important to that of school specialists like special educational needs coordinators and counsellors.

3. Should everyday life skills be part of the school curriculum?

Graph 3

Respondents were asked whether everyday life skills should have a place in the school curriculum and, if so, in what form. While approximately 15% are not in favour of including life skills in school curricula, either because life skills should be part of non-formal education (12%) or because the curriculum is already overloaded (3%), a substantial majority (86%) of respondents indicated that life skills should be included in school curricula. Almost half of all respondents (47%) agreed that life skills could be addressed through cross-curricular approaches, 27% felt there should be a separate subject dedicated to life skills, and 11% of the participants stated that the existing subjects could be extended to include life skills in an integrated approach.

4. At which age are everyday life skills most usefully taught?

Graph 4

Just over half the respondents (52%) agreed that life skills should be taught at every school level. 22% of the respondents believe that everyday life skills are most usefully taught in primary education, 12% during Early Childhood Education and Care, 11% in lower secondary education and 3% in upper secondary education. The ratio of the replies seems to show that respondents believe that the learning of everyday life skills starts early in school and is likely to be completed before upper secondary education. However, we should consider these figures in conjunction with the profile of the respondents and interpret them with some caution: in this survey, secondary teachers are more strongly represented (44%) than primary teachers (24%), and the data might also suggest that they tend to feel that learning life skills is more appropriate for the early stages of schooling.

5. Which of the following best describe “life in society”?

Graph 5

For the majority of the participants (58%), “life in society” is linked with effectively handling issues and problems commonly encountered in daily life, while a further 39% believe that it reflects the successful confrontation with significant life changes and challenges. Three out of ten respondents understand “life in society” to mean raising awareness of pupils’ rights and empowering them as citizens, while two out of ten interpret it as promoting positive physical and mental health. Finally, 16% indicate that the concept is best described by changing attitudes, thoughts and behaviour.

Conclusion

The majority of the participants believe that everyday life skills are not naturally acquired and therefore there is a need to include them in school teaching, even if the primary responsibility for developing them lies very much with parents and carers. Specifically, more than half of the respondents suggest that they should be taught across all school levels, while the most favoured method to address them is through cross-curricular approaches (these tools, projects and good practices show how this can be done in practice). Family members and teaching staff are considered the most important actors in developing children’s everyday life skills, followed by community members and school specialists. Finally, the survey results suggest that “life in society” is seen by the majority of the respondents as meaning the effective management of issues commonly encountered in daily life.

Annex: Role of respondents

Graph 6