Rajeev Ranjan may be on his way to becoming an able retail manager, but the Bihar native still fondly remembers his experience as the ‘Prime Minister’ of the student parliament – or Bal Sansad – in his school. Democratically elected, he identified problems in his school and undertook change-projects to resolve them with the help of the school administrators and community.
Thus, tasked with overseeing key functions and activities around the school, Ranjay unwittingly ended up grooming his bargaining and presentation skills – crucial in his current job, which regular classroom teaching would have left him lacking. As a Bal Sansad member, he in turn cultivated the skills of leadership, networking, self-expression and most importantly, problem-solving.
As the economic landscape shifts with the introduction of automation technologies and AI, education must adapt to keep pace with the needs of the labour market. Technical expertise needs to be supplemented with certain life skills to enable students to effectively deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life.
This throws light on the reality that in today’s day and age, it is simply not enough to ensure that children go to school. Classrooms must keep abreast with a constantly changing world for education to be relevant (and engaging) to students. Skills – meant to cultivate collaboration and problem-solving – will become essential for businesses across all sectors and hence, necessitates the need for schools to make ’21st Century Skills’ a core component of education.
What are 21st Century Skills?
Although overused in the parlance of education, the term has evolved to encompass all the skills needed to navigate one’s personal and professional life in the context of a fast-changing world.
21st Century Skills – as we have come to understand – is a potpourri of skills that aims to boost one’s self-awareness, critical thinking faculties, relationship-building abilities and the capability to communicate effectively. These skills will help an individual
· Reflect on the self and understand multiple dimensions to their personality,
· Locate, analyse and synthesise information, identify problems, take informed decisions, ask questions to challenge existing norms and move towards finding solutions and triggering change,
· Collaborate, build enabling relationships, taking responsibility for one’s actions and be adaptable,
· Articulate oneself clearly without inhibition, and comprehend others effectively and respond with compassion and sensitivity.
Jobs in the future will be characterized more by one’s ability to develop these skills – skills that need to be nurtured from childhood. If learners are self-aware, equipped with skills to ask critical questions, have a solution-oriented mindset, articulate themselves confidently and build supportive relationships, they can be effective drivers of change.
And one way to integrate 21st Century Skills in learning ecosystems is through Bal Sansads – or student parliaments – in schools.
Bal Sansads: Problems & Interventions
Present times demand that young people thrive as self-learners and equipped with 21st Century Skills, drive their own development pathways. In this context, the aim of Bal Sansads has been to create ownership opportunities for students as they cultivate aforementioned 21st Century Skills.