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Life Skills - for success in

the 21st century

An overview

Th e im p or ta n ce of a cq ui ri n g n ew li fe sk il ls
th at a re re le v a n t in to day’s co n te xt
Dragon Slayer Curriculum

Once upon a time there was a kingdom that was

over run by dragons
Dragon Slayers Curriculum

The people were terrorized by the dragons

They decided to create a new course in their finest


A Masters course on the ‘Art of Dragon

Dragon Slayer Curriculum
Experts from all the faculties were invited to create the
curriculum for the new course,

Business faculty drew the syllabus on how to finance dragon

slaying and to create business plans

Engineering faculty made sure that students would know how

to build bridges and launch missiles

Humanities faculty emphasized the importance of learning

‘Dragonsay’ and ‘art of negotiation’
Dragon Slayer Curriculum
Two years later the first batch of students graduated and set-off
to slay the dragons

Three of the students failed to get funding and went into other

One team of four could not find any dragons and they formed
a company to train dragon slayers

The last two had no idea how to engage in a battle. They

negotiated a truce and now manage the public relations for the
Dragon Slayer Curriculum

This story is an abridged version of Dr. Roger

Schank’s article “Every Curriculum Tells a Story”

Dr Schank notes, “What went wrong in the

dragon slaying curriculum is that there was no
actual dragon slaying in it”

A curriculum should encourage learners to play

‘future’ roles they hope to play in life, based on
their goals and aspirations
Saber-Tooth Curriculum

In similar vein, in the book ‘Saber-Tooth

Curriculum’ author J. Abner Peddiwell, with
tongue firmly in cheek, says

The first educationist, in the primitive age, was

‘New-Fist’, inventor of the first fist hammer

That time men caught fish with bare hands,

clubbed the lazy woolly horses for meat and
drove away saber-tooth tigers with fire
Saber-Tooth Curriculum
New Fist, who was a thinker, perfected these arts and
thought of ways to teach these skills to children

Thus started the first school, with Saber-Tooth Curriculum

Conservative members of the tribe resisted these

newfangled ideas about formal education

They said ‘Great Mystery’ who speaks in thunder and

lightening never wanted children to be formally taught

However, since these skills were very useful and brought

in more food, New Fist’s school prevailed
Saber-Tooth Curriculum

Time passed and conditions changed

A great glacier crept closer to the tribe’s valley

The once crystal clear streams became muddy and it

became impossible to catch fish with bare hands

The ground became marshy and the lazy woolly horses

went east to dry plains; instead came nimble antelopes

The saber-tooth tigers became extinct; to be replaced

by ferocious glacial bears
Saber-Tooth Curriculum
Putting meat on the table became extremely difficult

However, a free thinker of New Fist breed figured

that vines could be knit together to form nets and
fish could be caught even in murky waters

Another discovered that the vine could be used to

form a noose to catch the elusive antelopes

Yet another found that digging a deep pit in a bear

trail and covering it with leaves and branches was
an efficient way to trap the bears
Saber-Tooth Curriculum
These men proposed that the Saber Tooth curriculum be
replaced with a new curriculum - fish-net making,
antelope-snare construction and bear catching techniques

The sober majority were horrified. “What have these

practical activities got to do with schools?” they said

The radicals persisted, “These activities require

intelligence and skill - things we claim to develop in

The wise old men were indignant. “Oh you free thinkers!
If only you had some education yourself” they lamented...
Welcome to the 21st

Have the conditions changed in the 21st century?

Is the context different?

Do we need new skills to survive and thrive?
Why the need for different
life skills?
21st century world is different
World is no longer complicated; it is now

Jigsaw is complicated - difficult to solve but

has a unique solution; Chess is complex -
there is no unique solution

From global warming to career choices - the

issues today have become complex
Why the need for different
life skills?

Rate of change is faster than ever before

Information is available in abundance

Memorization is neither possible nor required -

technology allows easy storage and access

Deriving meaning and insights from

information is what is key
Why the need for different
life skills?

Motivational drives may also be changing,

from ‘Learning to Earn’ (e.g. do an MBA if

you want a good job)

to ‘Yearning to Learn’ and then also earn

(by doing what you are passionate about and
good at)
Why the need for different
life skills?
Success hinges on acquiring new life skills that
are relevant in today’s context. Be it,

Financial Success

Social Success


Positive self-image, high self-esteem

‘Beyond material’ success
Why the need for different
life skills?

In today’s complex, connected, information

abundant, fast changing world what skills will
make us really shine?

I have examined these skills in my presentation

titled “What are key lifeskills?”
About the Author




r e a d i n g.
s f or
Thank u r c o m m en t s .
o m e y o
I welc
- Atul

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