For a multitude of reasons, the improvement of study skills - a term sometimes used interchangeably with study strategies - do not feature prominently on most students' agendas. Study skills are widely regarded as peripheral to the educational process; the concern only of pedagogical specialists; or even as something relevant only to academically 'weaker' students, with ostensibly more talented students able to entirely forego consideration of study skills.
Former students' recollections of study skills - if they have any at all - often consist of vague, half-remembered tutorials about how some people are visual learners, and others auditory learners; the importance of taking notes; and the imperative of turning up to all scheduled classes. The existence or otherwise of study skills labs or other study skills resources at their erstwhile academic institution is something that has passed them by.
Yet on reflection, this is surely an insane state of affairs when one considers the ultimate aim of study skills: to learn more efficiently and effectively. This is particularly true in the context of the increasing recognition of the importance of education. According to the United Nations' report Global Education Digest 2011: Comparing Education Statistics Across the World (UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2011), the global gross enrolment ratio ('GER') in lower secondary education increased from 72% in 1999 to 80% in 2009, with the aim of universal participation in secondary education enshrined as an important goal almost everywhere it has not already been attained. New universities are being constructed everywhere from Astana to Addis Ababa, with the global student population growing seemingly exponentially.
With more and more students spending more and more time in formal education, study skills will only become increasingly vital both presently and in the years to come if colossal amounts of time and human capital are not to be squandered. But just as important as study skills are at the macro level, there are immense and rarely-recognised benefits to the individual who studies more efficiently and effectively:
A better understanding of academic material. As with any process, the less time and attention one is compelled to spend on its unproductive aspects, the more time and attention available for the core activity itself; pertaining to studying, this means that a student with better study skills will, ceteris paribus, develop a better (and in all likelihood, deeper) understanding of the academic material they are engaging with.
More enjoyment. Students with superior study skills will by definition be more proficient at studying; proficiency is one of the essential ingredients in making an activity enjoyable. In any given assessment, a student who is able to accomplish the tasks before them will almost certainly be happier during and after the assessment than a student who is unable to complete the same set of objectives.
Higher grades. Proficiency usually leads to better results. Students who can read and understand voluminous texts or symbolic languages such as algebra and musical notation with greater efficiency and effectiveness will be immeasurably better placed compared to those who carry out academic tasks in a broadly sub-optimal manner. They can digest academic material quicker and spend more time on activities such as memorisation and composition.
Greater opportunities. Higher grades lead to greater opportunities. To use the English educational system as an example, higher grades at GCSE level will give candidates better openings at A-level; a first-class degree should open many more doors than a 2:2. With a glut of graduates in Europe, the United States and China effectively competing for a stagnant pool of jobs, the value of study skills has never been more apparent to those students wishing to give themselves the best chances in life.
Increased life satisfaction. A student who enjoys learning and for whom the act of learning carries positive connotations will almost invariably get more out of life, and not only in formal education or in their professional careers. Conversely, those students for whom learning processes are fraught will frustration, wasted time and miscomprehension are likely to struggle in multiple contexts.