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Life skills for today

Abigail Spangler, Room to Read | Room to Read's new life skills framework | April 17, 2024

Research and insights Skill building Content and curriculum

By Abie Spangler
Global Associate Director of Room to Read's Girls’ Education Program


Mathematics, reading, writing and science are all important aspects of an adolescent’s education. Many times, however, educational curriculums do not put enough emphasis on social emotional learning, soft skills or life skills. Life skills such as decision making, collaboration and critical thinking are foundational to a well-rounded education. These skills help youth become better equipped to handle the myriad challenges they may face during adolescence — from gender biases to conflict resolution to time management.  

Through our Girls’ Education Program, Room to Read supports adolescents to stay in school longer, progress towards completion of secondary school and acquire the skills and agency they need to make informed decisions about their lives and future — and ultimately realize their full potential. One of the four key components of Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program is the development of critical life skills that support our participants in and beyond the classroom.  

Room to Read's Girls' Education Program in Tanzania.

In designing the first version of our life skills curriculum, Room to Read drew inspiration from the 10-life-skill framework developed by the World Health Organization, which fall under three key domains: self-awareness, self-efficacy and social awareness.  

Over time, new research and evidence has developed on the importance of life skills. In response, Room to Read recently underwent a thorough and systematic process to review and update our life skills framework, aligning it with our revised curriculum and taking into account evidence from our program implementation, the focus of governmental guidelines and policies on life skills in the countries where we work, global literature on measuring life skills, and simplifying our tools so they can be widely shared with partners and governments for greater reach and benefit. The result is the following Life Skills Framework 2.0. 


When determining the life skills framework revisions, Room to Read considered current research and literature regarding social-emotional learning frameworks use cross-culturally. The life skills framework is now aligned with the Big Five Framework, which is a widely accepted and utilized framework across disciplines. The Big Five framework combines several distinct but closely related traits to describe a continuum of extreme traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness.* Although these traits are broad, they encompass a variety of sub skills that overlap with life skills that Room to Read knows are critical for adolescents.  

Furthermore, recent social-emotional learning research completed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation of Development, indicated that specific skills within the Big Five domains — such as curiosity (openness to experience), responsibility (conscientiousness), persistence (conscientiousness) and assertiveness (extraversions) — are associated with academic achievement across countries. Room to Read’s new life skills framework aligns with The Big Five and better reflects the priorities of many governments when it comes to life skills, including the countries where Room to Read implements its Girls’ Education Program.  

Room to Read's Girls' Education Program in Nepal.

From a measurement perspective, these revisions are also valuable for Room to Read’s Research, Monitoring and Evaluation team. Our Adolescent Life Skills Assessment for Girls (ALSA) tool was created to evaluate the benefit of the Girls’ Education Program by measuring adolescents' life skills, knowledge and attitudes across time. By adapting our life skills framework, the ALSA will focus on specific constructs that are measurable and aligned to prevailing frameworks used in the sector. Please stay tuned for our next blog on updates in our Girls’ Education Program that will provide a deep dive on Room to Read’s revised ALSA tool. 

Life skills play a vital role in adolescents’ education and are critical for building successful lives in the 21st century and beyond. These skills prepare youth to take on challenges and overcome obstacles that can otherwise create setbacks to reaching their full potential. At Room to Read, we know that when we equip youth with safe spaces to both learn and practice the skills and knowledge they acquire in our program, they will have the tools to establish a future they are excited about and life that is fulfilling. 

*The following traits comprise The Big Five framework: conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, emotional stability, and openness to experience. The subskills of these traits can be mapped to Room to Read’s Life Skills Framework 2.0. Collaboration falls under agreeableness, critical thinking under conscientiousness and openness to experience, decision-making under conscientiousness, and leadership under extraversion. Resilience is an overarching life skill and is not directly mapped to a specific Big 5 trait. 

Room to Read's Girls' Education Program in Vietnam.

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