The School Curriculum and Preparing Kids for the Realities of Life
The years spent at school are the most important in life where you learn the skills that will set you up for life. The idea of schooling is that children learn a wide range of subjects that build a foundation onto which they can add higher education or practical qualifications if required. But a question is being asked as to whether enough hands on subjects are being taught in the curriculum to prepare kids for the realities of life?
Can your child or teenager write a cheque?
Let’s take a skill that may be on the decline but can still occur in life for different reason – writing a cheque. How many children or teenagers know how to write a cheque, what information they have to include and what the process is to cash one is they receive one?
It’s about more than writing a cheque however – it is an idea about how to run their daily financial lives when their parents are no longer in charge. And more and more kids are arriving at that point with little or no idea. One mum used the example of giving her son a £20 note and asking him to collect a lettuce at the shop. He asked if this was enough money?
Maths at school was something of a mystery for many of us with trigonometry and algebra and many of us will recall wondering if we will ever use it in real life. And while understanding these lofty principles is important, surely learning children about budgeting a household income, cost of their groceries and the other expenses that they will have should take a place on the curriculum?
Do they know what a mortgage is?
Another major area of life is the mortgage and what they are. Along with a lack of teaching about the cost of things, having a bank account and managing daily finances is a lack of explanation of some of the basics of life. Top of that list is the mortgage and the difference between owning and renting a house.
We all know that getting mortgages is becoming harder and our kids will likely face an even more difficult time. Large deposits, small numbers of available houses and intense competition will make the housing market something that previous generations won’t recognise. But if schools were to prepare kids for what was coming, learn them about getting a mortgage or renting a house, then perhaps they would be better equipped to deal with it.
Do they understand credit and why payday loans are bad?
During our lives, many of us will run into credit problems and have times when money is tight. But for young people, just starting their lives, the temptation to get credit and in particular payday loans to give them a cash boost is everywhere. These companies advertise on TV, are splashed all over social media and even appear in newspapers and magazine. Taking a loan of any kind is made to seem like a simple thing that doesn’t need much thought.
Instead, if kids were taught the basics of credit at school, then these pretty, colour adverts would have some background context. They would realise that you can get in to difficulty taking out credit and serious difficulty with payday loans unless you are extremely careful and strict. Perhaps they should also be taught what your credit rating is and how this can affect the things you do in life, such as getting a mortgage or taking a loan for a new car.
Many people today love DIY in one form or another. Whether it is making themselves a new piece of jewellery, putting together a set of shelves or upcycling an old piece of furniture into a new shabby chic masterpiece, we have a passion for DIY and crafts. Yet very little of this comes from school where art is as near to this kind of thing kids get and, let’s face it, doesn’t do much for the majority of kids.
Perhaps rather than trying to turn every kid into Picasso, schools should look at a wider range of crafts and skills that are also somewhat practical. Okay, you don’t need to know how to make a necklace or build a set of shelves but not only can it be useful, it can even lead into a career or a life time passion.
Another reason that these interests and skills can be good for kids is that it draws them away from the digital world for a time. Computers, tablets, games consoles, smartphones, they are going to be a huge part of life going forward but it is also important to introduce kids to other skills and activities so that their existence isn’t a purely digital one.
Here’s one to think about – we teach children to listen and write and read but do we teach them to talk? To hold a conversation, listening to someone and responding in kind? To have a debate or even an argument?
According to employers, one of the biggest problems with school leavers is their inability to have a conversation. Between time spent absorbing information in class and time spent absorbed by social media and games, they are spending less time actually talking to others. This means when they reach a workplace, they can find it strange to talk to customers and colleagues.
This lack of conversational skill can even affect them in their relationships both romantic and platonic. Yes, kids make friends through the internet but when you meet that person in real life, can you actually talk to them? Or do you revert to a type of Twitter speak where every exchange is limited to 140 characters?
Learning how to talk to people is important to build relationships and also to learn about people. This is both the good and the bad of them – how many times have we met someone, started chatting and realised there was something off about the person, we didn’t like what they had to say or they were not a good person? If kids don’t talk or understand conversation, they could miss those subtle signs and much, much more.