Building Youth Life Skills: 6 Lessons for Government Officials

Publisher: Washington, DC: Mathematica
Jun 30, 2019
Swetha Sridharan, Poonam Ravindranath, Emma Pottinger, and Clemencia Cosentino

Key Recommendations:

  • Use needs assessments to inform the development of life skills policies.
  • Convene a working group of practitioners and researchers with deep experience in life skills programming.
  • Cultivate life skills through the core academic curriculum to provide continuous skills development at scale.
  • Encourage schools that have robust extracurricular programming to offer additional mentor-led, club-based life skills activities.

There is growing recognition that youth need more than academic knowledge to transition successfully into employment and adulthood (Dupuy et al. 2018). They also need “life skills,” a set of cognitive, personal, and interpersonal strengths that position them for success in their lives and livelihoods. Life skills can enhance young people’s agency and resilience, improve their psychosocial well-being, and predict a range of long-term outcomes, including health, job performance, and wages (Kwauk et al. 2018; OECD 2018, Kautz et al. 2014). The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), a donor collaborative, has invested in 18 programs to strengthen life skills in young people. Mathematica, the PSIPSE’s learning partner conducted an in-depth study of these projects. The study used interviews with implementing organizations, an extensive review of project documents and evaluation reports, and high-level literature and landscape scans to examine project experiences, set them in context, and draw out lessons for a range of stakeholders. This brief summarizes the lessons for government officials—on how to successfully devise, roll out, scale, and strengthen life skills policies for youth in low- and middle-income countries.


The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education


Mastercard Foundation
Echidna Giving
Dubai Cares

Time Frame


Senior Staff

Swetha Sridharan
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