Say ‘I CAN!’

By Catherine Valley Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/13 18:33:40

M&Y group pioneers first life skills tournament in Shanghai

On November 5, Yew Chung International School of Shanghai brought to life the first I CAN! Life Skills Tournament. Powered by the M&Y group, students from various schools and countries were invited to become "solution heroes" and step forward to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Over 50 Shanghai children came to school that day to develop their life skills, boost their critical thinking abilities and elaborate on a plan to reach four out of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations: "Zero Hunger, Gender Equality, Quality Education and Climate Action."

These SDGs are contained in Paragraph 54 of the 2015 United Nations Resolution A/RES/70/1. Covering a broad range of issues, the goals are devoted to transforming the world by 2030. Impassioned to help achieve these goals, the I CAN! Life Skills Tournament participants were divided into eight groups guided by coaches and facilitators and given a worksheet with fields to be filled out: problem, solution, action.

For example, Julia, 11 years old, one of the kids participating in the tournament, worked on helping imaginary Joanna from South America combat gender inequality. Together with her team, who happened to all be boys, she elaborated three successive steps to help Joanna achieve her dreams. In addition, the team decided to write a speech and organize a protest to bring awareness to gender equality problems.

"Children make more impact. With only adults trying, it is never enough. But if it's children and adults, it's like everyone," Julia told the Global Times.

At the end of the day, the kids had to perform their sustainable development plans and act out the characters in their case studies. Working on a Zero Hunger plan, for example, nine-year-old Mary pretended she was hungry. This is how the M&Y group help children realize that such problems are real.

Each performance was judged by invited experts, including Julia Zhu, the deputy director of Shanghai Yangpu Education International Exchange Center. "Children in Kenya, for example, are the same for me as kids in Shanghai or my nephews in the US. I am very happy to see so many Shanghai children chase their dreams and support global development from the young age," said Adrian Holster, Shanghai branch manager at Hope Orphan School.

Learning life skills

Learning life skills is a growing trend in China after the UN, WEF and OECD proved the importance of soft skills education. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, cognitive, social and emotional skills play a significant role in improving economic and social outcomes.

Following these findings, I CAN! Life Skills Tournament arranged the one-day event to help local students evaluate their current level of skills and set new goals for further personal development. "Life skills education is an important vehicle to equip young people to negotiate and mediate challenges and risks in their lives," said Colin Kirk, the director of UNICEF Evaluation Office.

"United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is only a topic, while life skills education is a tool necessary for each child to be able to take steps for making the world better," Margarita  Lukavenko, one of the founders of the M&Y group, told the Global Times.

The World Economic Forum states that students require 12 soft skills to succeed in the 21st century. This is what the tournament organizers focused on. "We pushed kids to develop life skills. Children had to receive five out of five stamps to become full achievers," said Yuliana Chernomord, another M&Y group founder. In the end, every participant at the event received a special certificate showcasing their team's Life Skills criteria, including curiosity, collaboration, persistence, execution and communication.

The M&Y group have been working in the area of life skills, bringing together students and parents, and also communities and educators, in China for over 12 years. Founded by two Russian women, the group also operates in Russia, the US, Ukraine and of course China, where the founders created special courses to help local students develop their potential and push their limits.

Among all the many programs launched by the M&Y group, the Life Skills League, Life Skills Weekend Club, Effective Public Speaking course and the I CAN! Life Skills Tournament are the most popular.

The founders said they too attended leadership programs as children, which lead them to believe that developing the right skills at a young age leads to a more successful life.

"We see how Chinese parents and children are interested in our events. We have far-reaching plans for working not only with international but also with Chinese schools," Lukavenko told the Global Times. "We are dedicated to providing adults and kids with life skills tips for understanding that they are the one who can solve any problem."

Guests communicate in a workshop Photo: Courtesy of the M&Y group


A kid signs his name on the future life skills star tree. Photo: Courtesy of the M&Y group




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