Author: Raul Choque
This study aimed to determine the efficacy of a life skills educational program in a high school at the district of Huancavelica, Peru during year 2006. The method applied in this study was a quasi experimental research using a pre-test and post-test with a comparison group. The subjects were 284 students from high school. This study considered variables such as communication, self-esteem, assertiveness, decision making, sex, age, and methodology of education.
The results of this study indicated that the students’ skills of assertiveness and communication improved in the experimental group. Moreover, the most used methodology was the interactive methodology in the experimental group.
In conclusion, the educational program in life skills is effective in a school year in relation to the skills of communication and assertiveness. However, the skills of self- esteem and decision making did not demonstrate a statistical significant difference. Thus, it is necessary to evaluate its implementation.
Key words: life skills, evaluation, efficacy
EFFICACY OF A LIFE SKILL EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM IN A HIGH SCHOOL AT THE DISTRICT OF HUANCAVELICA, PERU
There is an extensive literature that tackles the concept of life skills. There is no a consensus for a common concept; however, there is a consensus in terms of the application of the life skill concept; this concept is always related to the socio affective aspects. [i] [ii]
Other important aspect to consider is that there are several terms that refer to life skills. These terms are social skills, psychosocial skills and social competences.
To conceptualize the term life skills in this research, there is a need to provide a concept for the term skill. This is the capacity and disposition of a person to do something[iii]. Also, the term skill suggests the capacity to perform an action satisfactorily. Thus, skills are infinite in terms to their varieties and interpretation. Also, some skills require a greater cognitive elaboration according to the particular case[iv].
The term life skills has changed importantly, it has evolved from the term assertiveness, social skill, psychosocial competence, social competence, among others.
One of the most used terms is social skills. The origin of this term is related to Salter who was of the founders of the behavioral therapy field. In his book Conditioned Reflex Therapy (1949), the author described six techniques to boost the self-expression of people which are the following: verbal emotion and body emotion, the agreement when one receives a compliment, to express disagreement, the improvisation, spontaneous actions and the speaking about one-self. [v]
The practical intervention in life skills come from the field of behavior therapy. In the beginning of 1990 the life skill term started to be involved on the educational field. From this time, there was a growing focus on developing life skills on schools since these places were considered ideal places for learning. [vi]
Consequently, 16 years ago, there was a clear importance on interventions related to develop life skills on formal education institutions. For example, in Colombia, the Ministry of Education has incorporated life skills in the educational curriculum. 7
In the following section, we aim to give a general overview of the main definitions of life skills from researchers and institutions that work in the field.
Life skills are abilites that tells us how to behave according to individual motivation and to the place where a person interacts. Life skills are a “brigde” among the motivation factors of knowledge, actitutes and values and healthy life behaviors. 7
Life skills allow us to adapt ourselves to different scenarios and to perform positive behaviors. These skills allow us to face the challenges in everyday life. Like skills are countless, and its definition differs and depends on the culture and context. However, it is necessary to focus on those life skills that influence the development and welfare of children and teenagers. 12
Life skills promote the development of protecting factors to psico social problems and that facilitate that students face with success the demands and challenges of every day life; recognize the role of the psicosocial competences such as: self-esteem, assertiveness, decision making, critical and reflexive thought, manage of emotions, effective communication and moral autonomy. [vii]
Life skills are the group of abilities that allow people to act competently in different situations in everyday life, favouring healthy behaviors in the physical, psicological and social spheres. These skills include three categories: social, cognitive and emotional managing. [viii]
Life skills are personal skills, interpersonal, cognitive and physical skills that allow people to control their lifes, developing the capacity to live within a spehere. Life skills are decision making, problem solution, creative and critical thinking, self-knowledge and empathy, communication abilities and interpersonal relations and emotion managing and stress managing. [ix]
Life skills are an approach that develps skills that allow teenegers to adquire abilities for human development and to face effectively the challenges of everyday life. There are three kinds of abilities: 1) social or interpersonal skills (these abilities include communication, assertiveness, aggressiveness and empathy), 2) cognitive abilities (including decision making, critical thinking and self-evaluation) and 3) abilities to manage emotions including stress and internal increase from a control central. 8
Having into account these definitions from a number of institutions and scientifics, we can conclude that there is not a consensus and clarification in the definition of life skills. We think that this explanatory group of definitions is very clarifying and useful to conceptualize the term life skills.
In the following chart, we have systematized the main concepts of life skills, their main characteristics and the consequences that emerged from the development of life skills.
The following table explains the main components of life skills:
Table Nº 01
Components of life skills
|– Self-esteem- Empathy- Decision making- Effective communication- Emotion dealing – Assertiveness
– Creative, reflexive and critic thinking
– Moral autonomy
– Interpersonal relations
– Stress managing
– Problem and conflict solution
|– They are aquired and learnt behaviors- They are centered in the socio affective dimension of a person- Development of protective factors- It is a sentimental education- Development of social, cognitive skills and emotion managing skills.- Favor healthy behaviors in the physical, psycological and social spheres||– To face succesfully the everyday challenges– To behave competently- To acquire necessary aptitudes for human development- Behaviors and healthy life styles- To have a better mental health and a happy living – To solve immediate problems
– It happens within the social and cultural posibilities
From this analysis, we elaborated the following concept of life skills that we will use in this research:
“Life skills are the capacities and skills in the socio affective sphere of people, among these we can mention social skills, cognitive skills and emotion managing that allow people to face successfully the challenges in every day life, acting with competence and contributing to the human development.”
This concept integrates all the dimensions that are covered by life skills as well as the objectives that are pursued and its intervention sphere.
Classification of life skills
It is important to acknowlege that there is a group of classifications of life skills. One of these classifications establishs that there are three main categories; these classifications are the social abilities or interpersonal, cognitive abilities and abilities for emotions managing.7One important characteristic of this classification is that these three categories are related one with the other and they interact among them. In this research, we analyze every category.
Social and interpersonal abilities
The social abilities are specific social skills that are required to perform with competence an interpersonal task. [x] It implies a group of person´s behaviors in an interpersonal context that expresses emotions, actitudes, wishes, opinions and rights of individual with respect for the others. Generally, these behaviors solve problems meanwhile it minimizes the probability of future problems.
Social skills are learnt and to facilitate the relation with others and the claiming for the own rights without refusing the others’ rights. Possesing these skills prevent anxietywhile living new situations. Moreover, it facilitates emotional communication and problem solving.
To have social skills means to know how to behave in a sphere in where we live and to define the form in which we behave and what we say when we are interacting with others. There are good and bad manners when we talk to and interact with people, when we learn social skills, we learn good manners. In the academic, familiar and community spheres, it is fundamental to denote good interpersonal relations that will benefitiate a good mental and physical health.
Social and interpersonal skills are effective communication, assertiveness, and skills for negotiation/rejection, confidence, cooperation and empathy.
Cognitive skills are a group of mental operations that aim that students integrate the adquired information through their senses in a knowledge structure that is understandable for them. The objective of a life skill educational program is to form and develop these skills in students. It is important to stand out that the concept of cognitive skills stress that the subject does not only acquire contents but also learns the process. In other words, the subject learns not only from what he or she learns but also from how the subject learns. [xi]
Cognitive skills should not be considered only as the pure capacity to store information, ignoring its potential for processing and transformation of information. The cognition should fullfil both objectives. It also aims to organize and store information and transform it into a generation of new products. Education should provide the necessary means to achieve these objetctives.
Cognitive skills are the solution to problems, the understanding of consequences, decision making, critical thought, creative thought, self-knowledge and self-evaluation.
Skills to manage emotions
Emotions are affective states of high or low intensity and of hight or low duration. Emotions occur due to an organic commotion more or less visible. Emotions are state of minds that display a great organic activity and that are reflected into external and internal behaviors. [xii]
Moroever, emotions are a complex combination of physiological and social aspects within a same situation such as an organic answer of a necessity or of a motivation.
The management of emotions generates a major tolerance toward frustrations and the control of anger, lower intensity of aggressive behaviors or self-destructive behaviors. It also generates more positive emotions and a better management of stress. Thanks to the management of emotions, self-motivation takes place with more responsibility, a greater concentration capacity, and lower levels of impulsiveness and a bigger level of self-control. The empathy allows people to learn from other people’s point of view.
In situations of interpersonal relations where people have a good management of emotions, a better pro social actitude is reached and a greater level of cooperation, help and a more democratic actitute in the relationships with others.
The skills related to the management of emotion include the management of stress, tensions, anger, and the control and personal monitoring.
Life skills in Huancavelica, Peru
The past years, basic education in Peru has improved considerably. For example, the coverage of secondary level school was 82%.[xiii] However, in terms of the educational quality there is still much underdevelopment. According to the National Evaluation of Student’s Performance from the Ministry of Education in 2004, only 9.8% of secondary students reached a proficiency level in integral communication and only the 2.9% of students reached a proficiency level in logical and mathematical fields.[xiv]
Today, research has shown that life skills promote values of affective competences. Million of students take classes from very early in the mornings until late; they take classes in mathematics, natural sciences, languages, and social sciences; however, students do not take formal classes about life skills. These skills are basic approach of happiness, drop of anguish, and health privilege. [xv] Moreover, integral education is not very integral since it does not include the learning of socio affective aspects and social skills in formal education. The educational system focuses on the development of competences in mathematics and language as we can see in the educational curriculum. [xvi]
In this context, the carelessness of education in the socio affectional aspects of students is very alarming. To demonstrate this, we can mention the National Study developed by the Tutoring Office of the Ministry of Education in Peru. This study shows that 31.3% of Peruvian students have very severe shortcomings in terms of their social skills.[xvii] This means that out of 100 teenage students in Peru, 31 students have shortcomings in social skills; among these skills we can mention communication, abilities to reduce anxiety, abilities to self-affirmation, abilities to strengthen amical bonds and abilities to strengthen social kinships.
We can conclude from this study that teenage students with greater needs of social skill training are located in the highlands of Peru, places such as Huancavelica, Ancash, Ayacucho and Pasco. Huancavelica is a priority; an educational intervention is needed in this region. In this region, 58.8% of students have severe shortcomings in their social skills. This means that out of 10 students, 6 of them have these shortcomings.
Place of study
Peru is located in South America. It has a population of 28 million people. 70% of the population lives in urban areas. 49% of the population is poor and the illiteracy rate in people older than 15 years old is 8%.
Huancavelcia is considered the poorest region in the country, 83.7% of its population live in poverty and 61.1% live in extreme poverty. The Human Development Index is 0.4687 placing Huancavelica in a low level of human development. 24% of Huancavelica’s population is illiterate.
Since 2002, the Ministry of Health of Peru is implementing a health promotion strategy and a healthy school promoting strategy. These strategies aim to contribute to the students’ and educational comunity’s integral human development thorugh the strengthening of health promotion actions in schools.[xviii] Health promoting schools contribute to promote human development and constructive and armonic human relationships in order to obtain healthy behaviors, capacities and competences within a physical and positive social environment for learning.
The Healthy promoting schools has been approved by a ministerial resolution signed by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education.
The strategy of health promoting schools implements seven thematic subjects. These are the following: hygiene and environment, life skills, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, peace culture, road safety, healthy nutrition and physical activity.
This research aims to evaluate the implementation of the thematic subject of life skills. In the following section, we present the theoretical model of the health promoting schools program.
The educational program of life skills has a theoretical model that includes a cycle of a program implementation: structure, process, result and impact. The following section describes in detail every part.
Structure: it includes the school, teachers, students, the educational council and the pedagogical and didactic materials for the development of educational sessions of tutoring. The structure is formed of human resources and material resources that are necessary for the development of the program.
Process: it includes the training of tutoring teachers. These teachers have the responsibility of developing tutoring sessions during the school year.
Result: it includes in determining the level of learning of four life skills: assertiveness, communication, self-esteem and decision making. The evaluation takes place at the end of the school year.
Impact: The program measures the impact after 5 years of intervention in reference to indicators about behaviors such as teenage pregnancy, illegal and legal drug consumption and rates of violence in the educational field.
Design of the study
This study was a cuasi experimental study that included a pre-test and post-test with a comparison group.
POPULATION AND SAMPLE
The population was formed by school teenage students, females and males from two public schools of secondary education in the district of Huancavelica. The school “Ramón Castilla Marquesado” was selected by intention as the experimental group and the school “César Vallejo” as comparison group. Both institutions present similar social and cultural characterictics.
The following formula was used to calculate the size of the sample to compare two groups. The relation n2/n1=1 was considered.
The sample was formed of 140 subjects in the experimental group and 140 subjects in the control group. A 14% of the sample was incorporated within each group to cover any drop out in the future. According to the Ministry of Education in 2005, the school drop out in secondary levels was 7%. This percentage is bigger in rural areas.
The sampling was a probabilistic random sampling. Official attendance list of students were used to select the subjects. The version 13.0© of SPSS was used for data analysis.
In the post- test, 142 students remained in every group. The data analysis of this research used these 142 subjects.
The instrument was a questionnaire. This questionnaire was implemented by the Mental National Institute Honorio Delgado-Hideyo Noguchi through the Executive Direction of Research, Teaching and specialized attention of collective health. [xix]
The validity of this instrument used the correlation coefficient Spearman. Moreover, the technique Alpha de Cronbach was applied to test the the reliability of the instrument.
The instrument was tested through a psicometric research using a sample of 1067 teenage students from four schools in Lima in 2002.
The results from the testing of the instrument were the following:
– Validity of the instrument: 85% (an expert criteria was used)
– Reliability of the test: alha cronbach coefficient: 0.7
– The instrument can be used as part of the program for the development of life skills in teenagers (pre and post test)
Two hypotheses were used. The null hypothesis states that there is no difference between the groups and the alternative hypothesis that states that there is a difference between the groups in relation to life skills.
The significance level was .05.
Chi square association test and t-test were uses to obtain a median similarity.
P value was significant (*) when *P < 0.05
This means that: If P value is lower than .05, the null hypothesis was rejected:
If P Value is bigger or the same as .05, the null hypothesis was accepted.
In reference to the socio-demographic characteristics, there were no significant differences between the students from the expermental group and those from the comparison group. There were also similar distributions in reference to the variables of sex, age, people with whom students live, repeating school, mother’s schooling and employment situation of both groups (Ver tabla Nº 07).
Table Nº 02
Socio-economic characteristics of both groups
|Variables||Experimental Group||Comparison group||x2(gl)||P Value|
|People with whom the student livesBoth parentsOne of the parents Other family members
| 67.623.9 7.0
| 9634 10
| 74.619.0 4.2
|Repeating school Repeat grade Do not repeat grade||9.290.8||13129||8.591.5||12130||x2(1)=0.044||1.000|
|Mother’s schooling IlliteratePrimary levelSecondary level College||24.657.014.8 3.5||358121 5||22.560.613.4 3.5||328619 5||x2(3)=0.384||0.944|
|Employment situation WorksDoes not work||4.295.8||6136||0.799.3||1141||x2(1)=3.662||0.060|
In the pre-test of the life skills of assertiveness, communication, self-esteem and decision making there was no difference when comparing the two groups (See Table 03 for complete proof).
Meanwhile in the post-test, there were some differences in both groups. The experimental group showed a positive difference in the skills of assertiveness and communication but not in the skills of self-esteem and decision making (See Table 04 for complete proof).
Results of life skills – Pre-test
|Life skills||Experimental Group||Comparison Group||t||P value|
Results of life skills – Post-test
|Life skills||Experimental Group||Comparison Group||t||P Value|
* Statistical significant differences in favor of the experimental group
The results of the skills of self-esteem and decision making did not show statistical significant differences (for the self-esteem skill, the value of the difference of means was 1.933 and p=0.054. For the decision making skill, the value of the difference of means was 1.107 and p=0.269).
From these results, we can conclude that the learning of skills such as self-esteem and decision making is not effective.
Sex and age variables
In the learning of life skill in reference to the variable sex, we did not find a statistical significant difference in the experimental group, while comparing the results from the pre-test and post-test. Moreover, the learning of life skills in reference to age, we did not find a statistical significant difference in the experimental group while comparing the results from the pre-test and post-test.
Two age categories were used: ages from 11 to 14 years old, and ages from 15 to 18 years old.
In reference to the educational methodology, we found a statistical significant difference in the frequency of a participatory methodology in the experimental group, while comparing the results of the pre and post test. In conclusion, we can say that there is a probability of 3.1 times that a participatory methodology will be applied in the experimental group.
In reference to the comparison group, we did not find a statistical significant difference in the frequency of the application of the participatory methodology while comparing the results of the pre and post test.
In reference to the comparison in the post-test of the experimental group and the comparison group, we find that there is a statistical significant difference in favor of the experimental group. We can conclude that there is 2.5 more possibilities that the experimental group presents a participatory methodology in comparison with the comparison group.
The Peruvian educational system includes the secondary school from 11 years old to 16 years old; however, this research found that about a fifth part of students are older than 16 years old. This is an important aspect to consider since the life skills program consider the learning of certain skills that are learn during a specific age considering the evolution of people and the emotional, social and cognitive development.
Two third parts of all students have as their mother tongue Quechua and one third part of students have as their mother tongue Spanish; however, all educational sessions of life skills were lectured in Spanish without considering an intercultural approach.
A program of life skill should consider the context and local culture. Considering these aspects, there will be a greater level of life skills learning. 12
It is important to take into account is the people with whom the students live at home. According to this study, a third part of the students do not live with both parents. It is important that the development of life skills generate feedback at home in order to reinforce what students have learned.[xx]
Mother’s schooling is fundamental when dealing with life skills. This study found that one fourth part of mothers is illerate. This shows that there is not an appropriate environment that could generate a consolidation of the learning process. This finding also shows us that there is a need to connect the life skills programs with other programs such as a literacy program.
According to the statistics from the Ministry of Education, the national drop out rate is 5.9%.1 The year the questionnaire was taken, there was a drop out rate of 10% in Huancavelica. The national rate doubles in regions such as Huancavelica. It is important to acknowledge that half of the students that dropped out from school live with other relatives. We could speculate that a factor that affects dropping out from school is the support of parents. However, further research is needed in order to verify this finding.
The results of this study showed that there are statistical significant differences in the learning of the skills of communication and assertiveness. Taking into consideration these findings, we can conclude that these skills are more easily acquired by students because students use these skills very often and they do not require complex learning processes.
According to the evaluation of a program of life skills in Costa Rica, researchers found an increase of interpersonal relationships (skills of communication and empathy) after the program which lasted one year. 49 This study also demonstrated that there was not a statistical significant difference in self-esteem and decision making skills.
The life skills program “La aventura de la vida” which was developed by EDEX in Spain showed that self-esteem and decision making skills had a significative variation after two of three years of the implementation of the program. After one year of implementation, there was a significant
Taking into consideration these studies, we can conclude that self-esteem and the ability to make decisions are more complex and require processes and previous steps to be follow. Also, these skills require more time to be developed.
In relation to the skill of decision making, it is known that this skill is more related to a complex process than a simple and rational process. This skill requires an affectional, emotional and cognitive analysis.[xxi] Moreover, the decision making skill, especially under conditions of stress, requires abilities of cognitive thinking (identification of issues or problems, goal determination, generation of alternative solutions, imagination of possible consequences) and abilities to face emotions (calm down themselves in stressful situations, listen carefully and determine the best option). [xxii]
To improve decision making skills, there is a need to have a critical thinking to evaluate and detect a problem or situation that requires decision making. There is also a need to have creative thinking to analyze and synthesize situations. Moreover, we also need the capacity to solve a problem to find alternative situations. The decision making includes the best selection to solve a difficulty and to have the faculty to undertsnad among different options which is the best. 60
In relation to self-esteem, there is a need to have a long process of development because this component of the personality is formed of several skills such as: self- knowledge, self-concept, self-evaluatiion and self-respect.21Each of this requires a hard work in classrooms and a long period of time to consolidate them.
We can affirm that self-esteem and decision making skill require a longer intervention because these are cognitive, emotional and affective complex processes.
Sex and age
This study shows that the variable sex does not represent a statistical significant difference. Other studies did not take into account this variable, thus we cannot reaffirm other findings.
In relation to the variable age, this study did not find any statistical significant difference; however, it is necessary to affirm that teenagers from the age category from 15 to 18 years old had a greater learning from life skills.
It is evident that a life skills educational program should be divided into different categories, and not be the same the all school years in the high school level. Teenage students present two thinking cycles, one is the formal cycle from 11 to 14 years old. In this cycle students acquire symbolic systems and intellectual operations. Also, the categorical cycle that takes place from 15 to 18 years old. In this cyle students integrate different prepositions in articulated systems and where there is a scientific thinking. 37
In relation to the educational methodology applied in the life skill program, we find a surprising increase in the experimental group. In this group, an interactive and participatory methodology was doubled used in the educational sessions. Meanwhile, in the comparison group, the methodology was still lecturing.
This is an important aspect to take into account; one of the program’s goals is to make this program participative. The methodological aspect is very important and should be considered as an essential factor for the learning process of life skills.3 – 7
There is also essential to acknowledge that the Life Skils Manual that was used in this program was designed using a participatory methodology.
The methodology to acquire skills involves cooperative learning, support from networks, accurate feedback and constructive criticism.
The results are also based on the theory of constructivism. This theory affirms that a person is neither a product of the environment nor a product of their internal dispositions. It is a costruction that is developing every day as a result of the interaction between these two factors. 45Consequently, according to the costructivist approach, knowledge is not a copy of reality; it is a construction of the human being. This construction is developed according to the preconceptions that every persona already has (previous knowledge).
This constructivist model focuses on the persona, in her/his previous experiences. With these previous experiences, the person develops new mental constructions. This model also considers that this construction takes places when a person interacts with others and when these interactions are meaningful for the person. The Lfe Skill Program develops these three aspects which favors a more participatory methodology.
Other theory that favors the development of a more active and participatory mehordology is the affective methodology. This theory favors the interaction between students and with teachers, using different educational techniques such as group work, workshops, among others.3
We can conclude that these theories give a basis to the development of an active and participatory methodology. This methodology is useful when dealing with programs about life skills.
- In the evaluation of the Life Skills Program, we found a significant increase in the abilities of assertiveness and communication in students from high school of a school in comparison with another school that did not have this program in Huancavelica in 2006.
- There is no a statistical significant difference in the learning of life sills in relation to variables of sex and age in students from high school in comparison with students from a school where the program was not applied in Huancavelica in 2006.
- There is a statistical significant increase in the application of a participatory methodology in tutoring sessions in the learning of life skills in students from high school where the program was applied in comparison with students from a school where the program was not applied in Huancavelica in 2006.
- The Life Skill Program should have longer continutity in time especially in the poorest places in Huancavelica, re orienting its application to the learning process of self-esteem and the ability of the decision making. It is also important to include the intercultural approach in the program. Moreover, self-esteem should not be considered only as a skill since it is a more complex phycological construction related to the affectionate development.
- The program should be separate in two levels in the secondary levels: one level only for first and second year students from high school and the other level should be addressed for students from the 3rd, 4th and 5th level of secondary school.
- It is important to promote the application of a participatory and educational methodology in tutoring sessions.
- Promover la aplicación de la metodología educativa participativa en las sesiones educativas de tutoría escolar, facilitando para ello la capacitación a los profesores, la implementación con material audiovisual, material didáctico y la guía metodológica que facilite el aprendizaje de las habilidades para la vida.
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[xviii] Ministry of Health. Health Promoting Schools Program; Lima; 2005.
[xix] Arévalo M, Cortez E, Escalante M, Uribe R, and Velásquez W.
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