American Schools Lack Programs to Aid Students in Learning Life Skills


Many skills contribute to a more comfortable and successful life. For example, behavioral and social skills are needed to build relationships with other people (Nasheeda et al., 2019). Emotional and psychosocial skills help support mental well-being and prevent risky behavior. Their acquisition should occur during school in the early stages of human development. However, school programs are not adapted enough to teach students life skills. Schools are focused on the large amounts of academic knowledge students should receive. Despite the importance of theoretical knowledge and its application, a lack of life skills can significantly hinder future student success.


People spend many years studying in schools, colleges, universities, online courses, and using other educational opportunities. Students can best use and develop their physical, social, and intellectual capabilities during childhood and adolescence (Prajapati, Sharma, & Sharma, 2017). However, people have little experience during this period and need guidance and support. The educational system should provide children and adolescents with the necessary aid and preparation for the future. For example, the General Education Program (GEP) in North Carolina defines its mission as preparing students to become active citizens and leaders (Martina, 2020). However, despite such goals, school programs miss an essential aspect – life skills.

After finishing their studies, recent students find themselves in challenging situations on essential questions, such as healthy eating, stress management, or tax issues. Difficulties are justified by the lack of life skills – behavioral approaches, balancing knowledge, skills, and attitudes (Prajapati et al., 2017). A large number of life skills can be divided into categories:

  1. Thinking skills: critical thinking, decision-making, and similar abilities.
  2. Social skills: leadership, collaboration, and many other skills.
  3. Emotional skills: self-management, stress control, and similar opportunities. (Prajapati et al., 2017).

Lack of life skills leads to unpleasant consequences in adult and adolescent life. For example, Nasheeda et al. (2019) note the risk behavior of adolescents and neglect of sexual health. Risk behavior is strongly associated with smoking and further problems with alcohol and drugs (McCabe et al., 2017). In other cases, a lack of life skills becomes an obstacle to success. According to Villares and Brigman (2019), the critical areas of development to achieve college and career success are academic, non-academic (self-organization), social, and self-management. The education system focuses on developing only one of the four areas. As a result, people cannot fully realize their potential, using only academic knowledge.

Many students and adults notice the problem and its consequences from their own experience and observe some patterns. For instance, following Villares and Brigman (2019), “only 33% of students are college ready while 66% are college bound, and 4 out of every 10 students are required to take remedial courses” (p. 1). Due to difficulties and lack of preparedness, about 30% of newcomers do not return to training after the first year (Villares & Brigman, 2019). Life skills are necessary for success in the 21st century since children and adolescents feel economic and social challenges and more pressure due to the technology and availability of unreliable or distressing information (Greenberg et al., 2017). At the same time, about 40-60% of students in American schools are disengaged, and most of them are prone to risky behavior that undermines their future (Greenberg et al., 2017). Such data indicate the widespread prevalence and impact of the problem.

Since the problem primarily affects the younger generation, it carries danger for the whole country. Initially, the consequences manifest in risky behavior in adolescence, and failing to cope with it; students endanger their health. Then the effects are more noticeable when starting college studies where more life skills are required. Finally, the influence is felt when looking for work and solving the everyday tasks of adulthood. Many people who cannot cope with problems and lead a proper life cannot be influential society members.

The problem’s roots are in the concentration of schools on academic learning. Academic disciplines contain more accurate and narrow knowledge than is required for everyday life, and therefore they formed the basis of the educational system. It can be assumed that life skills, such as the foundations of personal safety or self-care, have traditionally been transferred from guardians to children. However, the world is becoming more complex, developing, and changing quickly, and families cannot teach everything (Greenberg et al., 2017). As a result, more adults appear without essential life skills.

The issue is becoming more urgent as little effort is devoted to solving it. Courses offering students life skills training are available in only a few educational institutions, and in some cases, such courses are not even part of the official program but only voluntary seminars (Martina, 2020). Instead of life skills and expanding the program, institutions offer their students more narrow directions, for example, the history of rock music in the mid-20th century (Martina, 2020). Moreover, the problem is supported by the fact that skills may not be transmitted efficiently. Although Nasheeda et al. (2019) note that in developed countries, including the United States, life skills training is more effective than in developing ones, many programs do not use several approaches simultaneously. Thus, the lack of life skills is still significant and needs to be solved.

An alternative view of life skills is related to the roots of the problem. Their transfer can occur in the family, and in such a case, educational institutions may suggest the unnecessary inclusion of skills in programs. Moreover, according to Jones et al. (2017), not all studies on the introduction of life skills training programs, like social and emotional training, demonstrate their effectiveness. Based on the ambiguity of such influence, one can assume that skills training is unnecessary. However, this perspective does not contribute to well-being, so it is essential to focus on the problem’s solution.

Possible Solutions

The well-being of many Americans is at stake if the problem is not resolved. Policymakers, researchers, and practitioners can influence the situation and make changes (Jones et al., 2017). Researchers and practitioners draw attention to the problem and offer options for solving it. Policymakers, in turn, can contribute to the implementation of the solution. Key proposals to address the issue are the introduction of interventions, programs, and courses to teach life skills and modify existing school curricula (Greenberg et al., 2017; Jones et al., 2017; Martina, 2020; Prajapati et al., 2017). In this case, students will gain life skills, more effectively cope with life’s challenges, and take care of their well-being.


Schools do not teach their students enough life skills – social, emotional, and thinking. As a result, adults who have not received sufficient training face problems, such as self-management or making decisions, and experience difficulties. Lack of life skills can lead to severe consequences like health deterioration, leaving college, challenges in communication, and similar issues. Changing school curricula and teaching children life skills is a necessary solution.


Greenberg, M. T., Domitrovich, C. E., Weissberg, R. P., & Durlak, J. A. (2017). Social and emotional learning as a public health approach to education. The Future of Children, 27(1), 13–32. Web.

Jones, S., Barnes, S. P., Bailey, R., & Doolittle, E. J. (2017). Promoting social and emotional competencies in elementary school. The Future of Children, 27(1), 49–72. Web.

Martina, A. (2020). Students aren’t learning life skills; colleges need to teach them. CE Think Tank Newswire. Web.

McCabe, S. E., West, B. T., Veliz, P., & Boyd, C. J. (2017). E-cigarette use, cigarette smoking, dual use, and problem behaviors among U.S. adolescents: results from a national survey. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(2), 155–162. Web.

Nasheeda, A., Abdullah, H. B., Krauss, S. E., & Ahmed, N. B. (2019). A narrative systematic review of life skills education: Effectiveness, research gaps and priorities. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 24(3), 362–379. Web.

Prajapati, R., Sharma, B., & Sharma, D. (2017). Significance of life skills education. Contemporary Issues in Education Research (Littleton, Colo.), 10(1), 1–6. Web.

Villares, E., & Brigman, G. (2019). College/career success skills: Helping students experience postsecondary success. Professional School Counseling, 22(1b), 2156759–. Web.

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ChalkyPapers. "American Schools Lack Programs to Aid Students in Learning Life Skills." October 18, 2023.