Patmanathan Pillai

Ashoka Fellow
South Africa
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Patmanathan Pillai was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Life College is an educational model focused on emotional intelligence and operates in addition to the mainstream school system to impart life skills. The idea is based on the insight of what makes individuals successful and what youth need to support themselves—no matter what level of education they complete. Developed over eight years, Pat’s model of “psychosocial” education cultivates essential attitudes, behaviors, and competencies over a three-level program. Each level further prepares the student for a high “EQ”—emotional intelligence—based on confidence, communication, project management skills, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

The program is selective, and students are rigorously screened. At each level, they move from theory to practice, culminating in the launch of their own small enterprise. More than just simple business skills, the emotional skills needed to accomplish such a task can be widely applied. High-profile mentors (Life Champions) provide models for success, which most youth sorely lack in their communities. Life College acts as a catalyst to give students the ability to best use their mainstream education and experience success in life, however defined.

Life College can be easily integrated into the existing school structure. Currently in five schools in Gauteng province and launching in Western Cape, each school district becomes a hub, with one satellite school overseeing operations in the district. There are courses starting at age six and running through the university level, but each is packaged to be implemented at a range of institutions.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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