YLSECS training program is perhaps the largest training program, in the state of Karnataka, aimed at empowering NSS officers and other teaching faculty with requisite knowledge and skills for imparting life skills to college going youth. The National Service Scheme (NSS) implemented in educational institutions of the state, through NSS officers, work towards developing the personality and character of the student youth through voluntary community service . In this context, training of NSS officers and teachers who can reach considerable segment of youth population was deemed appropriate which ensured adequate support by government and educational institutions contributing to successful implementation of YLSECS program.
A systematic and objective assessment of the quality of YLSECS training program and its effect on participants knowledge and perception was undertaken and it was observed that nearly 90% of the participants rated the quality of training as either “Very Good” or “Excellent” (data not shown) which inturn is reflected in the domain mean scores (Fig. 1). Training has significantly improved participant’s awareness about life-skills (level of awareness post training ranged between 91.5% for coping with emotion to 95% for communication skills) and increased their level of confidence in teaching life skills to students (percentage of participants reporting “very confident” ranged between 65% for coping with stress to 75% for communication skills post training). Considerable improvement in level of awareness was observed in the domains of coping with stress, coping with emotions and critical thinking. Interestingly, considerable proportion of participants who prior to training reported being confident in providing life skills training (without any assistance), later (i.e post training) reported they need some/more assistance for the same. It is likely that the participants, post training, would have possibly understood and got grounded about the nuances of life skills and more importantly the facilitatory role they need to play.
The successful implementation of life skills education programme depends upon the provider confidence (one who imparts or conducts life skills training) and on the continued support and regular refresher training he/she (provider) receives [13, 15]. Though considerable proportion of participants, in this study, expressed that they were confident in teaching life skills, only 30–37% of the participants, post training, perceived that they could independently conduct life skills training workshop without any (technical) assistance. This probably indicates that participants could be confident in teaching life skills in one-to-one basis, but not confident in conducting such training for large number of people in workshop mode. However, this is a natural process of learning and participants would feel confident in conducting life skills training workshop independently only upon implementing the training in their respective institutions and through the experience gained thereof. Furthermore, this describes the need for hand holding and supportive supervision for participants to conduct life skills training in their respective colleges. Therefore, as part of the program, following training, each participant is mandated to train 500 youth on life skills in their workplace. The YLSECS program team will provide hand-holding and supportive supervision to the teachers during their training workshops.
Active participatory learning is central to imparting life skills  and is considered the basis for training of life skills trainers [13, 17, 18]. YLSECS training program was strongly grounded on facilitation cum participatory approach to training and was designed based on adult learning principles. This ensured active participation and learning by the participants which is probably reflected in the outcome of training. Furthermore, all the trainings were facilitated by experienced life skill training experts (psychologist, sociologist and others) who were well versed in training utilizing facilitation methods. Facilitation is known to provide experiential learning especially when learning from groups is required or when situation/question do not have a simple right answer and learning from others experience and ideas is required . Life skills fit this criterion very well and hence the adoption of facilitation as a mode of imparting life skills to this group was envisaged.
Good quality training improves the professional skills and competencies needed for imparting life skills education among teachers [15, 20, 21]. Improving teacher’s skills in this regard is of high priority in Life skills education programme being implemented in educational institutions . The impact of skill based training is critically dependent on the facilitator (one who provides training) and most of the life skills education programme evaluation [10, 23, 24] especially in which teachers are trained to impart life skills education to students, do not provide information on quality of the training and outcome among the teachers trained. The present study, conducted in a low resource setting, provides information to fill this critical knowledge gap.
Despite demonstrating significant improvement in knowledge, confidence and ability to conduct life skills training among the participants, present study has some limitations. Firstly, participants knowledge and perceived ability was assessed immediately after training and hence they do not reflect the sustained improvement in the outcome. However, there is an inbuilt evaluation planned under YLSECS program with a comparison group at three time points within a period of 1 year post training. Secondly, assessment of confidence and perceived ability to conduct life skills training was assessed using self administered questionnaire. It would have been ideal to assess such parameters by observing the participants while they are actually conducting life skills training. This is also being addressed as part of continued evaluation of YLSECS program by observing the teachers providing life skills training to their students or community in their own setting. Thirdly, we didn’t assess the effect of facilitation as a mode of delivery, as this requires comparison with other methods of training (ex involving didactic method), due to resource constraints. However, feedback forms received from participants provides anecdotal evidence on the effectiveness of facilitation methods (data not shown). Finally, the participants being teachers were well educated with adequate teaching experience with many of them being NSS officers, they might have prior experience of life skills or maybe they are better implementers. Hence their understanding and acceptance about life skills would be better. The effect of such selection bias, if it exists, may not be ruled out in this study. Therefore, the results need testing if the training involves general population or other population groups.