Life skills.....for what?

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© UNICEF/ HQ01-0259/ Pirozzi
The national NGO 'loveLife' activities are aimed at young people and run with their active participation, to promote and provide counselling on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, and to mobilize support for healthy life choices in general. South Africa.

Life skills-based education is a critical element in UNICEF's definition of quality education. It can enhance the quality of traditional subjects like literacy and numeracy as well as topics of increasing relevance to young people including human rights, gender equality, peace and health.

Using the broadest view of health, skills-based health education can be applied to almost any health-related issue or content area. Though this site will focus primarily on HIV/AIDS prevention, we have listed below some examples of how life skills can help young people to practice healthy behaviours associated with other priority health issues for young people, including:

In Zimbabwe and Thailand, the impetus for initiating skills-based health education was the prevention of HIV/AIDS, whereas in Mexico and The Caribbean, it was initially the prevention of adolescent pregnancy. Other focus areas include child abuse prevention in the United Kingdom, alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse, and violence in the USA. In other instances, more comprehensive approaches have focused on a range of health and social topics or issues addressed in one program such as "Life Orientation" in South Africa, "Integral Education" in Colombia and "Health and Family Life Education" in the Caribbean.

Many countries are now considering the development of skills-based health education in response to the need to reform traditional education systems which appear to be out of step with the realities of modern social and economic life. For example, a life skills project in Armenia was implemented in response to educational reforms, urgently needed in the face of current social, political, economic and cultural realities and challenges.



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What distinguishes Skills-Based Health Education?

  • Programme objectives include individual change to adopt health promoting behaviour.
  • Balance in the curriculum for the development of: 
    1) knowledge,
    2) attitudes and values, and
    3) life skills.
  • Participatory teaching and learning methods used.
  • Student-centered and Gender-sensitive programme.