Integrating life skills into the curriculum (Grades KG to 8)

Mekelle፡25 May 2024 (Tigray Herald)

Integrating life skills into the curriculum (Grades KG to 8)

By Haftu Hindeya

(Only for those passionate about curriculum )

“Curriculum makes or breaks a nation!” Aren’t we already broken? Indeed, I believe so.

(A Personal Insight)


In Africa, there exists a proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Though I cannot recall precisely where I encountered it, my intuition tells me that it may have been in one of Achebe’s works. This saying embodies our child-rearing traditions.

In my culture, of course when I was a child, elders hold the responsibility to guide and correct children’s behaviors encountered on the streets. Assistance is given to kids without the need for explicit requests. There’s no distinction of ‘not my child’; rather, the community collectively offers positive guidance to ensure children grow up safely and with integrity. Likewise, children are expected to obey and respect the advice of their elders. It was an unwritten mandate ingrained within our societal fabric.


Yet, are we seeing this ideal today? And if so, are our children receptive to it?

I am constantly troubled by the future as I witness numerous instances of kids’ misbehavior in my community and surroundings. It’s disheartening to observe the actions of our children, who serve as mirrors reflecting our societal values. Certainly, I’m not entirely pessimistic about acknowledging those make positive deeds.

Consider these questions:

Why do our children display aggression towards animals? Why do they thoughtlessly pluck flowers or resort to using vulgar language while playing (ወዲዛ…)? What underlies their disrespect towards one another? And why do many fail to heed the advice of elders aimed at correcting their behavior? Not to mention the conduct of adult taxi and ‘bajaj’ drivers, and their assistants.

I do not attribute these behaviors solely to the kids themselves. Rather, the responsibility lies with us—parents, teachers, educational experts, government—as we have failed to instill proper behavioral norms.

Despite our attempts to teach, the desired behavioral outcomes remain elusive. Why?


Examine the social studies textbooks used by our children, which emphasize the classification of flora, fauna, geographical features, and various other factual details. While these are undoubtedly important, they overshadow crucial life skills essential for navigating adulthood.

In my observation which of course needs serious research, rarely do these textbooks encourage critical thinking or self-reflection or higher-order thinking in general. Instead of empowering children to understand their own desires and actions, they merely dictate what they ought to know and do.

We knew from from the literature that mere instruction does not equate to genuine learning; indoctrination belongs in religious contexts, not educational institutions. Moreover, the endless pursuit of content knowledge neglects the vital skill of transferring learned concepts across different contexts.


When confronting the academic shortcomings of our students, the blame game ensues. Universities fault high schools, which in turn blame primary schools, and so on.

Allow me to share a personal anecdote:

Several years ago, I led a training session for primary school teachers focused on teaching methodologies. During our discussions, the majority of teachers specifically teaching grades 1-4 expressed dissatisfaction with their students’ academic performance and negative attitudes towards learning. When asked who they held responsible, they unanimously pointed to the parents, citing their lack of involvement in their children’s education. This revelation surprised me.

In the university setting, our blame often falls on high school teachers, while high schools may redirect it to primary schools, I guess. Yet, it never occurred to me that primary school teachers would place the responsibility on parents. When questioned about their own parental roles, they admitted their own shortcomings, prompting laughter among the group.


We must critically evaluate our curriculum and delivery methods to ensure they foster the desired learning outcomes. It is an opportunity for us as we are undertaking curriculum reform for grades KG to 8.

Learning should be practical, encouraging active engagement and the development of higher-order thinking skills. Rather than simply imparting knowledge, the curriculum should facilitate comprehension, application, analysis, and synthesis of concepts.

Further research is imperative. We need to be committed to addressing these issues in our professional capacity— which I also believe it is essentially my duty too.

In my opinion, our societal fractures stem ultimately from deficiencies in our curriculum and parental involvement in cultivating essential 21st-century skills.

Let us reconsider our curriculum with utmost seriousness. Redesigning education, starting from the earliest stages, must become a priority.

Blaming external factors will not remedy the situation; instead, let us fulfill our responsibilities at every level.

Needless to.mention, I strongly believe that mere complaints yield no change. Let us take collective action, each fulfilling our respective responsibilities, no matter where and when we are.

“Curriculum shapes the destiny of a nation” is not mere rhetoric. It is because the state of our high schools and universities mirrors our broken society, and of course I do believe that universities can change society has become a mantra that does not yield fruit in our context.

Finally, let’s not miss the opportunity to integrate life skills into the curriculum this time. Without doing so, we’ll keep receiving harsh lessons from the curriculum. As the saying goes, curriculum makes or breaks a nation. We are tasked to choose the former!

Thank you for reading. The reflections above are my personal views. 🙏

Life skills are defined as “a group of psychosocial competencies and interpersonal skills that help people make informed decisions, solve problems, think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, empathize with others, and cope with and manage their lives in a healthy and productive manner. Life skills may
be directed toward personal actions or actions toward others, as well as toward actions to change the surrounding environment to make it
conducive to health.” according to World Health Organization (WHO) (cited in UNICEF, n.d.).

UNICEF highlights that the Basic Life Skills curriculum provides students with the cognitive, social, and emotional abilities required for success in various aspects of life, including personal, social, community, and professional settings.

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