• Edsembli Products

  • Resources

Why today’s education sector needs to go beyond test scores



No one will deny the importance of academic success. But, if we expect students to take on their future endeavors in college, careers, and beyond, are current schools genuinely providing them with the knowledge and confidence necessary to succeed?

Many K-12 district leaders would answer, “No.” Among the education reforms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one significant trend is a new focus on social and emotional development. Students who learn life and interpersonal skills not only perform better academically but are happier and more willing to engage in class.

The need to go beyond test scores has always been a talking point at school board meetings, but it became especially apparent after lockdowns cut access to social opportunities. Students today are scrambling to “catch up” not only on schoolwork but also emotional maturity, and we can empower them to do so through the right policies and technologies.

What Do “Life Skills” Entail?

The World Health Organization actually offers a guidebook for teaching life skills in an educational setting. It formally defines a “life skill” as an ability “for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.”

Some specific examples it mentions are necessary to today’s students include the following.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is our ability to analyze facts and information objectively. It incorporates the following subskills.

  • Decision-making: Incorporating objective facts and information into how we choose to live.
  • Problem-solving: Analyzing problems and constructing resolutions effectively in life.
  • Creative thinking: Creative thinking encourages us to explore alternative solutions to problems and analyze the consequences of our actions effectively.

Creative thinking essentially contributes to decision-making and problem-solving in a way.

Interpersonal Skills

Whether it’s working with a group of classmates on a school project or discussing business strategy in a conference room at work, interpersonal skills are invaluable for anybody to learn at an early age.

  • Communication. Many of us have great ideas, but learning to express them effectively in an appropriate way for the setting is an excellent life skill to have.
  • Relationships. Students must relate to others around them and provide positive interactions to fit into their communities.
  • Empathy. Fostering positive relationships starts with understanding and grasping the perspective of others around us.
  • Self-awareness. Students benefit from learning about their own interests, strengths, weaknesses, and general place in society.

Emotional Resilience

Everybody faces hardships, but knowing how to deal with strong emotions and stress sets successful students apart.

Children must learn how to cope with strong emotions like stress by recognizing those emotions and understanding how they influence our behaviors. From there, they can manage their emotions and respond appropriately to stressful situations.

Stress management is an especially crucial life skill in the face of growing responsibilities, from academic performance at university to job performance in the workforce.

Why Life Skills Are Paramount For Students

Life skills—time management, decision-making, self-esteem, stress management, interpersonal skills, and others—help students live healthy and happy lives. They directly contribute to:

  • Mental wellness, including resilience against bullying, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Decision-making is a big one, as children make decisions that significantly impact their lives, such as choosing a university or career path.
  • Interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal skills include effective communication, both in speaking and in listening and empathizing with others. Students with these skills can make friends at school and connections at work more readily.
  • Financial responsibility. Even high school students must make long-term financial decisions before college, yet few are prepared to do so. The National Financial Educators Council concluded that 51.4% of young adults are concerned about their money management.

Life skills overall help students become real citizens of their communities. They can discuss social or political topics maturely, respect others’ rights and opinions, participate in community events actively, and positively impact the people and places around them.

Yet despite their impact on student well-being and academic performance, many schools do not make accommodations for life skills anywhere and leave the job to the home setting. However, even a top-ranking student will face issues in an eventual career without communication skills to work with others.

The question to ask now is how school districts can refocus their efforts and strike a balance between academic achievement and emotional development.

What Life Skills Should K-12 School Districts Foster in Their Students

Don’t expect children to pick up on these skills at home or late in university. K-12 district leaders should focus on emotional and social development at every grade level.

Fostering Emotional Maturity

Students must be well-equipped to handle hardship and show emotional resilience when solving problems and meeting challenges. They also benefit from social awareness and an ability to work cohesively with others, both with their peers and with instructors.Emotional maturity is vital in a school setting, as it not only boosts academic performance but also lowers the incidence of conduct problems in students. Teachers today are looking to address behavioral issues with a more positive approach for this reason.

Preparing For Life After Graduation

Academic study exposes students to a wide variety of fields, which should spark their interest in a number of potential career paths. K-12 districts can encourage this type of exploration through career readiness tools and resources, such as:

  • Early samples of college-level coursework, including Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses
  • Early samples of work experience, including internships and industry credentials
  • Other ways to explore career paths through hands-on learning

Everyone’s ideal career path depends on personal preferences and interests, so it’s vital to incorporate the students’ opinions during classroom discussions.

How Can K-12 Schools Emphasize Life Skills Alongside Academic Achievement?

Life skills rarely get the attention they deserve during K-12 school board discussions, as they often take a backseat to test scores and administrative efficiency at school.

The key to fostering social development and emotional maturity in individual students is to gather information on their values, passions, and other characteristics. Instructors can then incorporate students’ voices into their interactions and encourage young people to express their opinions. You’re essentially personalizing the learning experience this way. For instance, an instructor might:

  • Encourage cooperation with team activities and group projects.
  • Create a positive environment where everyone is comfortable sharing personal opinions and feelings.
  • Monitor and evaluate progress and show students that they are achieving their goals.
  • Provide access to institutional support.

Educators must learn more about individual students to achieve these goals, yet few instructors today know how to gather this information or analyze it effectively. A K-12 school board’s best contribution to their efforts is a student information system.

Prepare Your Students for Life Beyond Graduation with Edsembli

Life skills—like emotional maturity, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving—help students succeed in their studies as well as later in life. They are among the most overlooked lessons in today’s K-12 school districts, and many education leaders are pushing for instruction that goes beyond test scores.

Are you interested in creating an easier way to collect, track, and empower students? Learn more about Edsembli’s Student Information System and how it empowers all aspects of student achievement.

Book your demo with an Edsembli education specialist today

Building an ecosystem for education