Giving students voice and nurturing leadership

The educational philosopher, John Dewey (1938–1998) believed that a school curriculum could only be justified if it related as fully as possible to the activities and responsibilities that students will encounter after leaving school.  When these activities and responsibilities are changing were what was once certain for earlier generations, is now unpredictable, teachers need to help students acquire soft skills not just to survive but to thrive.

Unfortunately, much of the teaching delivered in Indian state schools historically has largely been through a rote-based delivery, memorization, and “teaching for the test” system which leaves little space for children to learn problem-solving critical-thinking skills, learn to work in teams or take initiative.   This is changing rapidly with the first comprehensive policy proposal on Education currently being consulted on and when it is updated it will be the first time since 1986. See and reflection on these changes at

Yes, school tests provide a measurement, or a ‘ladder’ which pupils climb to show their progress and comparison against their peers, but there’s little point in these if the ladder is propped up against the wrong wall.  Hamby and Bomford (2019) provide the metaphor of a scaffolding which allows students to move sideways, take a rest, re-train or take on unpaid work or caring roles. This is a very helpful metaphor for India as young people across the country can also be encouraged to recognise the valuable work in social entrepreneurship, volunteering, and mentoring their fellow students- something which the Facework programme is wanting to promote.  These are the learning environments where children can learn emotional intelligences, character strengths and soft skills, and gain confidence in practice and mastery of these subjects. Indeed, make no mistake it is the soft-skills, flexible mindset and character strengths which will make or break a young person’s career in the long term.

We believe that helping students understand their character strengths, build their confidence and have more agency in deciding their career, helps them develop their leadership potential and practical leadership skills.

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