Youths lacking critical life skills: Report

Only 10 per cent of adolescents in Kenya have high proficiency in critical 21-century life skills and values, according to research findings released yesterday.

The critical life skills include problem-solving, collaboration, self-awareness, and respect, with literacy and digital literacy as additional areas.

According to the study by the Regional Education Learning Initiative (Reli) which covered 20 of the country’s 47 countries, most adolescents are not able to come up with multiple solutions when presented with simple problems that have a bearing on their lives.

“When presented with a problem, the majority were rushing to the solution and not the process of arriving at a solution. They’re not seeking the source of the problem in order to arrive at the best solution. Teachers have socialised the learners to think like that,” said Dr John Mugo, the CEO of Zizi Afrique and the principal investigator for the Assessment of Life Skills and Values in East Africa.

He spoke during the launch of the report at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development in Nairobi. The report also found that about 15 per cent of adolescents (17 per cent males and 13 per cent females) were completely unable to read a Grade 4 English text despite the introduction of free primary education close to 20 years ago.

The skills tested form part of the seven core competencies covered under the competency-based curriculum (CBC). Adolescents with higher reading levels have higher proficiency levels in problem-solving, self-awareness, respect, and collaboration.

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The study covered 17,276 adolescents aged between 13 and 17 years from 14,197 households and the research questions were translated into 16 local languages.

“This is a call to action for all of us. How do we move from having a tool and evidence to ensuring that all our children in Kenya have the needed critical life skills and values to navigate the 21st-century world?” the report asks.

For example, in problem-solving, a quarter of the respondents were at Level 1, where they could not connect with the hypothetical problem presented (a fire breaking out in a house) while the majority (55 per cent) were at Level 2. They could identify a problem but from only one perspective and only came up with one solution.

15 per cent were at Level 3 and were able to recognise a problem from one perspective, could identify the main approach to solving the problem, and justify it. Only 5 per cent were at the highest level where they could recognise the problem from multiple perspectives and knew that there may be multiple solutions to it.

According to the report, adolescents who are competent in digital literacy demonstrated life skills on higher problem-solving proficiencies compared with their counterparts who struggled with handling digital devices.

The study was done in the counties of Murang’a, Tana River, Samburu, Turkana, Wajir, Marsabit, Kisumu, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, and Nairobi.

The others were Kakamega, Tharaka Nithi, Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Nyamira, Narok, Makueni, Nyeri, Bungoma, and Mandera.

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