Making Under-Served Youngsters Future-Ready and Life-Ready

In March 2017 , EP covered the work being done by London-based educational charity, Timeless Lifeskills, in rural schools in India to promote 21st-century life skills.

A little over a year on, Timeless Lifeskills share how their efforts are shaping up.

In June-July 2018, over 2000 under-served students in 18 rural schools spread across four States in India build robots, flew drones, programmed a micro-computer, made short films, experimented with green-screen to create special effects, and learned about website design. Conducted over a month, the 80+ workshops were organised by Timeless Lifeskills, a London-based educational charity that focuses on imparting life skills essential for success in the 21st-century.

Economists are telling us that the future of the global economy may take the shape of an hourglass, with high-skill, high-wage jobs at the top and low-skills, low-wage jobs at the bottom remaining but the mid-tier jobs disappearing because they are routine and rule-based and hence can be done better, faster and cheaper by intelligent machines. Technological unemployment hollowing-out the middle of the jobs spectrum is called Job Polarisation.

Unless young people learn the right skills that will take them towards the top-end of the jobs spectrum they will end up at the bottom where increasing supply of workers and stagnant demand will only lead to still lower wages and rampant unemployment. Under-privileged students, who do not get too many opportunities to learn skills relevant in the 21st-century are especially at risk.

Timeless Lifeskills works with under-served children and youth to make them Future-Ready – having the right skills to create ‘value’ whatever shape the future takes, thus remaining employable, entrepreneurial, and fit even for the gig economy; and, Life-Ready – having the right dispositions to ensure health, well-being, and joyful living.

At the workshops and Summer Camps organised by Timeless Lifeskills in June-July in rural Indian schools, the focus was on robotics, building computational thinking skills and digital-media literacy – all very relevant in the world that is emerging.

Students learned some basics of coding in a way that made the abstract concrete: IF the teacher claps THEN you pull your ears; IF the teacher snaps her fingers THEN you scratch your head… this exercise got tons of laughter and nicely explained the If-Then-Else conditional statement used in computer coding. The next exercise helped the students figure out that to go around a chair ‘one step forward, turn left’ instruction can be multiplied by 4 and in coding this is called a loop.

Another workshop theme was Robotics. Students started by playing with simple components like bulbs, LEDs, buzzers, motors, and switches. They learned about electricity and circuits and tinkered with different types of switches – push button, variable resistance, tilt switch, and thermistor. Students then assembled a car and learned how the different switches could be used to create simple circuits to make the car move forward, reverse, and turn left and right. They then converted their car into a robot by adding a micro-computer (BBC Micro:Bit), which they programmed.

Such fun, hands-on activities draw the students into the world of STEM, Robotics, Internet of Things, and other exciting emerging technologies. 

Another workshop theme was using tablets and smart-phones to make learning fun. Using free apps, students made short videos and animation on imaginative stories as well as on topics they were studying.

But why stop at simple film-making when you can add a green-screen for special effects and create superheroes! And, that is exactly what the students did – sent their classmate flying into space, take a walk on the moon, climb a steep building like Spiderman, and a lot more fanciful action.

The grand finale of every workshop was flying drones and that never failed to get the children super excited!

While workshops are huge fun and keep the learning curve steep, ongoing project-based work is even more effective when it comes to learning 21st-century skills like critical and creative thinking, innovation and problem-solving, collaboration, planning and decision-making and so forth. Towards this, in one rural school in North India, the first Timeless Lifeskills Laboratory 2.0 was inaugurated. Equipped with tablets, laptops, micro-controllers, sensors, Lego blocks, model trains, books, audiobooks, comics and a lot more the objective of the lab is to expose the students to emerging technologies.

The tinkering lab will also allow this rural school to start STEM and other Clubs where not only will the students be able to do projects that are relevant in their local context, exposure to different areas will help students discover their passion, learn 21st-century life skills and realise their potential.

Timeless Lifeskills now plans to start Clubs and Lab 2.0 in more Indian rural schools they work with.

More information about Timeless Lifeskills.