Key skills for the 21st century

Prof. Kamlesh Misra
Vice Chancellor
Rishihood University, Sonipat

All of us chose our careers with a set of goals in our mind. Some of these goals are material oriented and intended to take care of our lifestyle and earthly needs while others are intended to prepare us for a more holistic life. Universities and educational institutions have a major role to play in helping achieve all of the above goals. Success of students is normally associated with their professional achievements or their ability to amass wealth. However, it is also true that this rat-race is creating tremendous pressure on the current generation of students as they do not have a clear road-map or a purpose for their life that could be the ultimate source of happiness.

A peep into the past of the great educational institutions of India suggests that well-being as a holistic approach to living life was promoted within the framework of the institutions themselves. Well-being in those days was defined as a state that is characterized by health, happiness and prosperity in general. This was in contrast to the narrower concept of wellness that focused only on mental and physical health. Thus, well-being was fully institutionalized and was a culture of educational institutions. The idea was to focus on the entire educational experience where the complete personality was targeted for wholesome development. It was all about promoting self-discovery in all aspects of life and living. Institutions were able to promote the discovery of knowledge, create new inroads into awareness, along with helping in the development of life skills and going beyond the self.

Universities should be designed to be new-age places of learning with the objective of preparing students to be positive and to develop a purpose for their life during their studies. Well-being is not just for students but must be the resident culture of the entire university as a whole and must include faculty, students, stakeholders and members of the community as well. The principles of well-being need to be applicable to everyone associated with any university and this is the only way to institutionalize the whole idea. Students must have the flexibility to customize much of their learning using a hands-on approach that translates into the development of 21st century skills and employability. Well-being and a focus on creating a well-defined purpose for each individual on the campus must be the hallmark of our commitment to creating an ecosystem of social impact & transformation. All activities on any campus including faculty development programs, teaching and learning processes, design and development of curriculum, health-care and sports should be integrated with an approach to the overall well-being of individuals on the campus. Each of these activities also needs to meet the measure of adding to the overall purpose of achieving knowledge, health, happiness, and the development of a life purpose.

A likely model of institutional well-being

The likely model of well-being that has been designed and implemented at a University needs to be based on the philosophy that all senses of human body are to be used in creating a complete individual. At its core is the belief that working on students’ character strengths and providing a supportive ecosystem with theory and practice of positive emotions, positive relations, engagement, achievement, wellness and mindfulness practices provide well-being skills to cope with the challenges students face in the fast-paced world that we live in today. For example, we know that a lot of students have anxiety and stress due to social media and the pressure to become successful at a fast pace. This is often due to the social pressures and comparing themselves to others. As an institution we need to ensure that our systems, processes and people are conduits to provide a support system to such students who may otherwise fall through the cracks.

The likely University model of institutional wellness that I am discussing here is essentially based on the following conceptual framework that supports all activities on the campus to ensure there is progress, joy, happiness and achievement through a process of self-introspection. This model is composed of six elements namely: Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness, Emotional Wellness, Spiritual Wellness, Social Wellness, and Economic Wellness. All these elements when put together form the basis of the development of the individual. The success of this model is dependent on several actions on the part of the institution as each of these elements must have a process for support system and a quick response ideology. These elements have also been incorporated within the framework of the academic and non-academic activities on the institution. It is important to understand that each of these elements have a deeper meaning as compared to what looks like on the surface of it. It is normal to assume that physical education is about sports and athletics to improve the physical endurance on the participants. However, in the wellness model mentioned here it also means the awareness of the physical presence of the environment that we live it. Physical wellness allows a lot of factors other than sports to ensure that each individual on the campus is aware of their physical in relation to the universal truth.

Spirituality is a means to search for the truth and institutions must be aware that this truth is hidden in all aspects of our actions whether they are in the field of discovery of knowledge or in the field of making society a better place to live. Spirituality allows every individual on the campus to evaluate the purpose of their being and to internalize strengths and weaknesses through a process of introspection and silencing of the mind. Universities and institutions must plan to hold such events and activities on regular basis so as to help everyone appreciate the need to be selfless and create awareness of the social responsibilities.

Another aspect that adds to the overall development of everyone on any campus that adopts such a model is emotional well-being. We live in a society that is in transformation. It is becoming difficult for a lot of people to adjust to this fast-changing pace. Skills learned today are fast becoming obsolete. Social pressure is becoming too burdensome for individuals. Anger, frustrations, outburst and depressions are becoming a norm and given these conditions our model focuses heavily on helping everyone on campus to develop a sense of emotional balance in life. Many of these theories and practices will need to be taught through special courses by leading experts.The university also needs to provide counselling centers to help students and staff. Most of the faculty too will need to be trained to open their doors to students. The model incorporates the solutions to the possibilities of something going wrong in the life of a student whether it is academic or non-academic and situations where the student is likely to go to the faculty as a first choice. It is at his stage interventions can be brought to action.

The model that has the strength to become a way of life for any institution to be successful. The main purpose of such a model is to ensure that there is true happiness on the campus. An environment where all students want to be there on the campus as that is the place they enjoy most. The relationship between students and faculty needs to rise to become one of spirited co-ordination and collaboration. A campus is a place where everyone wants to make a positive contributions to the development of others around them as well as to the development of the institution. This model is designed to ensure that everyone comes in the morning with a smile and goes back home with a smile. Everyone has a sense of achievement and has something today that they did not have yesterday.

The University or institution adopting such a model also needs to develop a number of well-being programs aiming to ensure that there is a holistic development of the individuals on the campus. This is an ongoing process at any campus and must be integrated with all other programs to make them mainstream and to become part of the academic delivery. Such a model come inbuilt with new-age charisma to deal with issues that were probably not so relevant just a few years ago.



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