Skill up

Extracurricular activities are as important as academics. Prachi Rege explores how participating in them helps students to imbibe soft skills for their professional life.

Updated: Jan 07, 2014, 00:47 AM IST

Extracurricular activities are as important as academics. Prachi Rege explores how participating in them helps students to imbibe soft skills for their professional life.

If you are a student who signs up for debating, elocution, sports and community service in school or college, then you are on the right track. Besides earning brownie points on your report card, you are will also develop the much required skills to survive in this competitive world. "Academics and extracurricular activites are two sides of the same coin," says Vandana Lulla, director, Podar World College.
Industry biggies also agree that students require more than what they learn in classrooms. According to Anjali Bansal, managing director, SpencerStuart, "Students must involve themselves in community work. For instance, traveling to rural areas will develop in them a certain level of understanding about the other India." R Mukundan, managing director, Tata Chemicals Ltd. emphasised the need for students to participate in sports. "This will help in creating better team players. Team work is a soft skill most people lack in the corporate world." It clearly shows that the corporate world seeks to employ a well-rounded individual who is skilled, in touch with reality and uber confident in cracking business deals.

Besides building confidence and increasing general knowledge, these activities help students to focus on what career options they would like to pursue. Like in the case of Siddharth Gupta, who diligently attends Model United Nations (MUN) since his school days. Today, Gupta has decided to become a diplomat. "MUN involves deep research on foreign policy, history, culture etc of the country that has been allotted to you. This is followed by studying the ground reality with regard to the agenda and the stance adapted by different nations. This way one is exposed to simulations of real world politics and issues at a young age," he explains. MUN`s also hone abilities like oration and diplomacy because it involves discussions, negotiations and convincing powers. "One can sum up the experience by saying that MUNs show you that you need to be a multi-faceted person and need to develop in all stratas," says Gupta.
Moot courts and debates are other extra curricular activities that enhance a student`s confidence. Moot courts are mock court trails that are conducted where students argue mock cases based on current topics. "Participating in moot courts is an enriching experience as besides understanding the application of various laws it hones our ability to argue effectively," explains Shonottra Kumar, a fourth year law student of Pravin Gandhi College of Law. "A good lawyer is someone who can win over and convince any audience of the merits of her or his case," she adds.

Given the current political and social scenario in our country, there is certainly a lot to debate. But a debate is not only about swatting up facts and figures, it is also about the ability to persuade. Harish Natarajan, former director of Debating at the Cambridge Union believes that debating helps students refine their ability to communicate. "Irrespective of what subject you study or career choice you make, it is as important to be able to communicate your ideas as it is to understand them," he says. Natarajan has been instrumental in bringing in the Worlds Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) 2014 which will be held at Rajalaskhmi Institutions, Chennai this year. Students from over 50 countries will participate in this debating event that is being held for the first time in the country.

Abhaey Singh, president, The Indian Debating Union, agrees that debate is rooted in the ability to communicate, and in particular in the art of persuasive communication. "Communication, I believe, is the single most important skill that any human being can possess, as it impacts our success, happiness and performance as individuals in virtually every sphere of our lives," he elucidates.
According to Natarajan, "debating improves confidence to speak in front of 1,000 people." Add to this only 15 minutes to prepare your thoughts before you present to those older than you, challenging those that you disagree helps you to think on your feet. It also helps to be a good at presentations, something that most professionals dislike or are not good at. "Debating is not just an argument or a squabble between two individuals, it is a rather healthy tool for knowledge transfer," says Thangam Meganathan, chairperson, Rajalaskhmi Institutions. Singh advises students to nurture the art of debating at an early age, and then hone and use it throughout their life."The power of words and the art of debating is immense," he signs off.

Co-curricular activity develops...

1) Critical and logical thinking skills

2) Ability to communicate

3) Analytical and research skills

4) Self-critical and reflective

5) Awareness of current affairs and history