Teaching Life Skills Makes A Child A Better Learner: Dr Swaroop Rawal

Dr Swaroop Rawal, one of the finalists of the Global Teacher Prize 2019, believes life skills should be a part of the school curriculum. This super achiever also proves that learning never stops!

By Leena Ghosh  • 8 min read

Teaching Life Skills Makes A Child A Better Learner: Dr Swaroop Rawal
Dr Swaroop Rawal has achieved milestones in the field of education. Pic courtesy: Facebook

The face that represented India at the Miss Universe contest in 1979 and then, brought to life the character of Renu in the hit comedy series Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi is now the face to be reckoned with when it comes to education in India. Dr Swaroop Rawal has received several accolades for her contribution to the fields of cinema and education. Today, she is also one of the top finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2019.

Hailing from a family of achievers (her mother is a surgical oncologist at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai and her father was the chief producer of the Indian National Theatre, Mumbai), Rawal dedicated herself to the field of education after taking a break from acting. She received a PhD in Education from the University of Worcester in 2006, with her doctoral thesis on using drama to enhance life skills in children with learning disabilities. She was conferred the Most Committed Person of the Year in Inclusive Education award at the 4th International Early Childhood Conference of The Early Childhood Association in 2016. She is currently the Non-Government Special Member on the Central Advisory Board of Education. 

ParentCircle sits down for a chat with Dr Swaroop Rawal, where she talks about her views on today's education system and the importance of teaching children life skills. Excerpts from the conversation:

On being one of the top 10 finalists for the Global Teacher’s Prize 2019

It’s not an award yet, I am just in the top 10. It’s an acknowledgement of the work I’m doing, so it’s always nice that somebody as big as the Varkey Foundation and the global world is recognising the work I have done. That’s an awesome feeling.

On what made her choose the field of education

I was in the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of my children’s school and got an opportunity to learn about disabilities. In my teaching, I used drama and my students really learnt well. Children just learn better using drama and that got me interested in teaching. Besides, I had taken stopped working as both of my kids were young. I thought I would use my time well.

On life skills education being part of the school curriculum

You should have one class on life skills in the curriculum or time table. Teaching children a weekly lesson on life skills will make a defining change. Each of these skills will not only help a child become a stronger and a more resilient person but also, make him a better learner as well.

On using drama in education

I am a special-education teacher, but I also teach life skills using innovative methods such as drama in education. I teach preschoolers as well as those doing their masters and social work. Drama in education is experiential learning and it helps because the students experience whatever they learn; the lessons remain etched in their minds for life. This method helps both children and adults and is better than rote learning.

The thing about drama and education is that it involves many aspects. It encompasses the arts, painting, debates, discussion, reflections, etc. I think that’s the biggest umbrella term that has got so many innovative methods under it.

On the teacher's role in education today

Technology can never replace a human being. Because learning is not only about cognisance but it’s also emotional. Technology can never be emotional. I don’t think a teacher is a guide or facilitator. You have to hold the hands of the children and lead them; show them the right way. That is what teachers do.

On how she spends quality time with her children

Quality time is basically giving children the attention when they need it. We have a negotiable and democratic household. So, it is not about what I want to do, it’s about what they want to do while spending quality time with me. When they were younger, I used to play with them, eat with them, fool around with them. I used to read to them every night and watch TV together. My son used to love The Wizard of Oz movie and I have seen it a thousand times with him, explaining the story to him. Now they do that to me. They make me sit down and explain whatever they are watching!

On her parents being her role models

My mother is a surgical oncologist; she is 85 year old and still practising! She has worked all her life in Tata Memorial Hospital. She could have had her own clinic and minted money, but she didn’t. She works for the country and now she still works for charitable hospitals where she does her testing for a nominal fee. My dad inculcated the love for the theatre and fine arts in me, because he was the chief producer of the Indian National Theatre. He showed me the world of arts. Mom is the one who made me understand the duty towards our country, but it was dad who made me a global citizen by introducing me to the arts and literature of the world.

Hall of fame

  • She is a member of the Governing Council for Save the Children.
  • She has worked with UNICEF to conceptualise a training curriculum for Jeevan Kaushalya, an adolescent girls project in Gujarat. 
  • She won the Miss India contest in 1979 and represented India at Miss Universe the same year.
  • She was chosen by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, to head an educational programme in the state.

There's no age limit to learning — Dr Swaroop Rawal proves that beautifully through her achievements and commitment to both education and the arts. So, understand your child’s needs and use methods for learning that are most effective for him and encourage him to become a lifelong learner.

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