Life skills should be offered as a subject in Vietnam's education curriculum to encourage a more well-rounded development of students, as heard at a recent education conference.

Deputy Director of Save The Children Vietnam Doan Anh Tuan cited increasing numbers of Vietnamese parents calling for life skills courses, arguing that such skills are needed in addition to academic knowledge nowadays.

The Ministry of Education and Training has already taken actions to equip students with basic life skills, Tuan said.

However, the inclusion of life skills courses in Vietnamese schools is difficult, partly due to a shortage of trained teachers and partly time concerns. Vietnamese students' educational programmes are already criticised for being overloaded and stressful.

An officer from Save the Children foundation, Hoang Tay Ninh, said that lack of life skills makes youngsters unconfident in crowds, dependent, selfish, irresponsible to family, and incapable of coping with sudden problems.

She cited a survey of 45 students from a class in central Ha Tinh province. All 45 students rode bikes to school but few could name parts of the bike and none could fix it if needed. Only four of them can swim and a third of them can cook. All of them remember friends' birthdays but only four remembered their parents' birthdays.

Others have blamed the lack of life skills for adolescent crime, for example the case of a teenager boy who killed his seven year old neighbour for money for computer games.

Ninh said life skills education is not an official subject at school now, it is mixed into Literature and Biology subjects.

"When teachers have to teach both life skills and their expertise, they are under pressure, which makes the teaching process less effective," she said, adding that few teachers are trained to teach life skills.

Le Anh Lan from the United Nation Children's Fund, said that the organisation started life skills education in Vietnam 15 years ago.

She said that now, as Vietnam updates education and training systems to foster more practical skills, is the right time to formally bring life skills education into the national education programme.

However, she said, life skills should not be approached as a typical subject.

"Life skills can be learnt in any subject, from anyone, anytime and anywhere," she said.

An officer from the Education and Training Ministry's Students Affairs Department, Vu Duc Binh, said the ministry issued life skills teaching materials to teachers to teach in five subjects at schools and outdoor activities.

Since 2009, Save The Children along with provincial and city education departments ran projects to improve students' life skills from primary school to university. The projects focused on health, money management and natural disaster response.

Le Duc Anh, a tenth grader in Hai Phong city's Do Son High School, said he benefited from the financial and money-management lessons.

"It helped me know more about money, the value of money, how to spend and save money effectively, and how to talk about money with my parents," he said.

"I hope to have more life skill lessons," he said, "It would be great to have life skills as part of our school curriculum."-VNA