Open defence of thesis by Ms.Maithreyi R

National Institute of Advanced Studies

Indian Institute of Science Campus





Title: Reconceptualising Life Skills Education: A Critical Analysis of Ideas around Childhood, ‘Risks’, and ‘Success


Candidate:   Ms. Maithreyi R

School of Social Sciences


Adviser:  Prof. Anitha Kurup


Date:  Wednesday, 16 December, 2015

Time:  11: 30 am

Venue:  Conference Hall II, NIAS



The thesis presents a discursive analysis of a specific form of psycho-educational programme termed 'life skills education' (LSE), and examines ‘what skills’, and to ‘whose lives’ do they matter? Despite the international attention that has been given to life skills education programmes (LSP) by a range of actors, from supranational organisations such as the WHO and UNICEF, international advocacy networks such as on Education for All (EFA), and by several national governments, there is a dearth of critical literature available on these programmes. Most available studies come from within the disciplinary frameworks of Psychology, and largely continue to see LSPs uncritically, as progressive forms of educational interventions that can “meet learners’ needs” (UNESCO, 2000), and ensure personal competence and well-being. Undertaking an alternative critical reading of these programmes, drawing on the Sociologies of Childhood and Education, and Critical Psychology, the thesis attempts to shows how LSP have certain ‘disciplining’ effects on children from marginalised backgrounds. That is, it attempts to show how specific skills (e.g., self-awareness, decision making, etc.) sought to be developed through the programmes get linked with particular ways of relating to one’s self, as ‘responsible’, ‘choice-making’, ‘rational’ subjects, to create 'self-responsiblised', neoliberal citizens, socialised in a set of middle class cultural values that are aligned with the expectations of nations, corporations, and other ‘elite’ networks (e.g., development agencies, psychologists, middle class citizens and ‘social entrepreneurs’). Further, it also discusses how these new ways of identifying with the self get discursively established as features of normal childhood development, and how any deviations from these (middle class) norms get established as ‘risk’. However, while highlighting the underlying neoliberal assumptions and agenda of the programmes, the thesis also aims to show how actors strategically and opportunistically respond to these structural conditions and identities imposed on them in making sense of their lives. Presenting how actors selectively adopt, reject, appropriate and resist these larger discourses, it tries to analyse how and why these new educational interventions lead neither to a straightforward reproduction, nor transformation of social contexts and conditions. 


All are invited to attend

Wednesday, December 16, 2015