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Experiences working with government to integrate and mainstream life skills programs that serve girls

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B


UNICEF considers Life Skills as the “knowledge, attitudes and the ability for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the challenges of everyday life” (UNICEF 2003). As research highlights the impact of life skills to enable children to grow into independent thinkers and productive citizens, able to adapt to the needs and demands of the 21st Century, life skills education is gaining traction nationally and internationally and soft skills are prominently featured in Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

At the same time as countries want to adapt their school systems to feature more prominently life skills, they are also recognizing how investing in girls’ education is extremely beneficial for governments, as it has proven to be a powerful catalyst of positive development outcomes. More educated girls expand a country’s entrepreneurial and leadership talent. Educated girls grow up to become mothers who have healthier, fewer and more educated children. More educated women are better able to protect themselves and their families from the effects of economic and environmental shocks (Sperling, Winthrop, Kwauk, 2016). Finishing secondary school leads to lower HIV infection rates, and higher wages. Educated women are more likely to educate their own children – ending the cycle of illiteracy in one generation.

As these two fields of research (girls’ education and life skills) are becoming more and more important on governments’ educational agendas, there are very few examples on how to scale educational programs that feature life skills that are relevant for girls and supportive of gender equality (Brookings, 2016).

The implementing organization has worked 15+ years with local authorities in select countries to help schools integrate and mainstream girls’ life skills programs into the regular curricular hours.

The presenter will share best practices and lessons learned from programs that have sought to scale by mainstreaming life skills for girls into governmental curricula in two South East Asia Countries (Cambodia and Vietnam), describing how complicated issues (like adapting the curriculum for scale and cohesively with existing structures and programs ) have been handled. They will talk about their efforts in advocating with governments at the local and national level to enable them to improve the life skills and gender component of their school curricula and teacher trainings.

The presenter will also share lessons learned, advantages and limitations in training teachers to deliver life skills classes to girls in India and Vietnam and how this activity can contribute to sustainability in the short term and, with further work, also in the mid and long term.


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