The Significance of Soft Skills

Soft skills like communication, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking can significantly impact a child’s everyday mental clarity, vitality, self-awareness, commitment and acuity. 

James J Heckman and Tim Kautz, in their research paper “Hard evidence on soft skills“, have observed that standardised achievement tests do not assess students’ abilities, nor do they account for the skills and qualities necessary for success in life. Though these tests measure certain academic skills and knowledge, they fail to take into account the importance of soft skills such as natural communication, harmonious teamwork, quick adaptability and unfailing resilience. Their study concludes by signifying the importance of soft skills in children’s academic and overall growth.  

What are soft skills?

Soft or non-cognitive skills refer to an individual’s personality traits or patterns of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. These non-cognitive skills include a sense of openness to experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability or neuroticism (Bernstein et al., 2007).

According to the John Hopkins School of Education, non-cognitive skills continue to develop throughout a person’s lifetime and do not reach their peak until late adulthood. For instance, under normal circumstances, conscientiousness increases from childhood until one’s fifties or sixties. They discerned that non-cognitive skills complement cognitive skills, and both are interdependent. Studies have also shown that students with strong non-cognitive skills exhibit higher academic achievement throughout their schooling journey. 

A List of Essential Soft Skills for Students

  1. Leadership

Good leadership is the result of childrens’ overall noncognitive ability. Expand and embrace leadership skills among young ones it involves aspects like:

  • Empathy – the ability to understand others’ feelings.
  • Compassion – to show concern towards others’ issues and sufferings.  
  • Emotional Balance – the capacity to be calm and clear during challenging situations. 
  • Listening Skills – to be open to listening to others without judgements.
  • Passion – an intense enthusiasm towards one’s cause. 
  • Intention – expressing and conveying a strong will and focus to pursue what one stands for.

A Tip for Parents: Play act with children in various leadership roles like school teacher, principal, village head, or team leader. In the act, including a few scenarios where the above-mentioned points are used to improve your child’s leadership skills i.e enhancing their understanding of empathy, compassion, listening, etc. 

2. Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills include communicative aspects such as speaking, active listening, writing and other non-verbal cues. To approach interpersonal skills holistically, students must develop other subcategories like:

  • Positive Attitude – remaining positive about oneself, the situation and other people.
  • Observation Skills – being attentive to one’s feelings, others’ behaviours and surroundings. 
  • Receptivity to Feedback – being open to criticism and feedback from others and positively acting on it. 
  • Playfulness – approaching everything with upbeat humour and playfulness turns difficult situations into easy ones. 
  • Art of Questioning – asking the right questions, not to offend the other but to meet the situation’s needs positively. 
  • Gratitude helps one attend to oneself and situations in the most graceful manner; anyone who is resilient always displays gratitude. 

Such interpersonal skills will help children face any communicative challenges, be it writing college motivation letters, cracking the world’s toughest interviews or having a cheerful mindset and smooth communication in their work and personal lives.

A Tip for Parents: Journal with your child. Both of you can write down your feelings, thoughts, observations and a few things you are grateful for from the day. Performing this activity together allows children to trust the process and monitor their growth. 

3. Critical Thinking

Maggie Wooll, a senior thought leader, says in her article titled ‘Critical thinking is one of the skill sets you can’t afford not to master’ that critical thinking is a form of emotional intelligence. Here’s what strengths essential skills of thinking: 

  • Being open-minded to and analysing various perspectives 
  • Asking simple follow-up questions to get a broader understanding 
  • Identifying one’s biases and not letting them interfere in decision-making
  • Using evidence and reasoning to reach a conclusion
  • Always being a learner and continuously upskilling oneself
  • Staying curious is one of the most essential traits in exercising critical thinking.

Through critical thinking ability, students develop confidence and independence and make intelligent, informed decisions. It is also observed that the key is to decide, perform a task or solve a problem, and think critically or clearly/rationally. 

A Tip for Parents: When you spot children struggling with homework, class projects, extracurricular activities or while practising their hobbies, ask open-ended questions to help them identify the root of the problem, use evidence to overcome their challenges and help them remain active and curious till the end of the task. 

4. Teamwork

Ranked as one of the most sought-after soft skills in the 21st century, teamwork is a necessary social trait that enables children to be a part of and sustain an uplifting community. Here’s how we at CMR National Public School incorporate teamwork among students:

  • Group Harmony – Creating an atmosphere of openness, trust, and group cohesion(unity)
  • Cooperative Learning – Forming a few classes around small groups that depend on each other’s success. 
  • Design Thinking – Children work together to develop their design skills as they learn to empathise with users and create innovative solutions through defining, prototyping and testing. 
  • Service Learning Programs – Helps children identify as part of the community and develop social and civic engagement skills. 
  • School Clubs – An opportunity to grow together in a subject matter of one’s liking, whether in the environment, literature, or coding. 

Kids, when learning to work in a team and for the team, become great at community engagement and collaborative assignments while learning the value of cooperation, communication and compromise.  A Tip for Parents: Organise group games such as “Bomb in the City”, “Cow-Tiger”, “Scavenger Hunt”, “Escape Room,” etc. These games can help children identify their strengths and those of their teammates. 

Posted by cmradmin

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