Daily, large amounts of high school students are faced with a reoccurring thought while sitting in the classroom: “when will this information ever be useful to me in the future?” This is a common issue with the current education system not only in New Zealand but around the world. Students are not being taught suitable information and skills that will be needed in their day-to-day lives after leaving school. For 90% of students, they will never need the majority of the information learnt at school. However when it comes to paying for university fees, entering the property market, deciding what career to choose, going for a job interview, or generally trying to survive living away from home, most students struggle to succeed. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed as currently students are not being prepared to live life independently after school. This affects a whole generation which in turn, will have huge negative affects into the future if left unfixed. With this in mind, there are many changes that schools could be making to create a higher chance of students succeeding in life. If simple topics such as budgeting and saving, how to make the right career choice or communication skills were covered at school, a generation that is better prepared for life will be created, hugely benefiting society in many ways.
Based on surveys in New Zealand, a very small number of year thirteen students say that they confidently know how to pay a tax bill, manage a credit card or have any grasp on how many bills parents have to pay. One thing that the current education system does not prepare its students for is money and how to handle it. Without noticing, adolescents have it easy during this particular stage in life regarding money. For example, for the first 10-15 years of life, money comes in the form of pocket-money from parents for doing simple chores. This money can be spent on anything the child desires. The next years from age 15 onwards to 18, is often when adolescents may have a part-time job therefore have a significant pay check every month. This is the key time when students should be starting to save for the future, but because they are not educated on how to effectively save and what for, they do not, instead wasting it on unnecessary purchases. The first 18 years of life are like a free trial, after that it’s pay to play.
A student in New Zealand has an average of $21,000 of debt. This adds up to $15 billion across the countries’ students that is owed. Partly, this is caused by the insane prices students are expected to pay for university, housing and the additional purchases students tend to make on for example alcohol, however the fact that on average it takes at least 15 years for a student to pay off this debt, and a large portion of them will never pay it all off, shows that there is a huge gap in the current curriculum. The current generation of students are never taught how to budget money, how much money to put aside for things like power, internet, rent and food every week or what is an acceptable price to get charged for these things. The curriculum does not cover fundamental skills like how to pay taxes or what they are let alone how to understand a contract, negotiate price or read and understand financial statements. All students will be required to do these once leaving home yet somehow they are expected to know how to do it straight away which is not the case. These topics are touched on briefly in finance, economics or business however not in enough detail. In addition these are not compulsory subjects therefore not all students get the chance to learn them. Schools need to create courses that cover things such as personal budgeting, saving and uses of money, investments, banks, taxes and generally how to handle your own money and use it wisely. If students continue to not get taught this crucial skill, as a country we are going to get into more and more debt, have less qualified professionals because no one can afford to go to university, and have a generation of people who do not know how to correctly handle or contribute money to keep the economy afloat.
More than 1 in 5 undergraduate students in New Zealand drop out of university or change subject within their first year of study. This means that 1 in 5 students are wasting a whole year of their studies and of their life while on top of that, a lot of money as well. This relates to the second important thing that the education system is not preparing students for: career and life choices and how to achieve them. The reason why so many of New Zealand’s students are dropping out of university is because they are rushing into the decision and therefore making the wrong decision on what they truly want to do with their life. This is because schools are not teaching students how to get to know themselves and find their own strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. The way the education system is currently run, schools are more focused on students obtaining good grades rather than worrying about whether or not these are in subjects that the students are passionate about or have the need to learn about. Schools need to allow students to find their own passions in order for them to make the right decisions on which career path would suit each individual best.
Another huge cause for the high rates of university dropouts in New Zealand is schools not showing students all the different pathways available to take when leaving school. They focus hugely on universities and pushing students to go down this track however university is never going to suit everyone. Many students go to university because they believe it is their only option to get a good career or become successful however this is not the case. Jobs such as a police detective, commercial pilot, paralegal, executive assistant and so many more are all examples of high paying jobs that do not require any university degrees as a prerequisite. If this was told to students in schools then it would show them that not going to university does not mean that you can not be successful or earn a lot of money; there are alternative options which can make you just as, if not more successful, than going to university. All schools need to provide sufficient information on all careers and pathways available for students rather than trying to push everyone to a very minimal range of options. If it remains this way, students will continue to make the wrong choices for them in regards to their future which is not fair on the student.
New Zealand’s current school curriculum is lacking another vital skill. Students are lacking knowledge of how to be successful in overlooked yet vital subjects such as literally obtaining a job and how to communicate with people. Communication skills is an area that students are not being educated about. This surprises many people as communication skills are often not thought about or seen as important. This is incorrect as communication is a lot more than just talking. Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing or using some other medium. People communicate on a day-to-day basis yet have never has there been a lesson on how to do it properly or what we should and should not do. Knowing how to hold a conversation, being a good listener, working through a conflict or working with others are taken for granted. The importance of these skills can be seen in our everyday lives, even at an adolescent age, however later in life when students leave school, only then is the true importance of good communication revealed and how far it can get you if you do it right. Think of it this way, in the words of Carol Morgan from Huffington Post, “on a job interview they are assessing your communication skills, not asking you to solve a calculus problem or about King Henry VIII(7th).”
Communication skills become extremely important in situations everyone will be faced with for example interviews or any time when it is required that a good first impression is made. This can clearly be seen in the situation of a job interview for example, with two people applying for one position. One may have all the necessary qualifications plus more, was an excellence student at school, has never done anything wrong but can not hold a good conversation or work with a variety of people productively. The other candidate however has less qualifications, was not a high achiever at high school although has great communication skills, gets on with people extremely well and knows how to work through conflict and solve problems on the spot. Who will get the job? Easy decision for the employer, the second candidate. Although the first had more qualifications, may be smarter and have a better record, the second applicant overrides this because they have the people skills and good communications and will stand out to the employer. Applicants must impress the employer in a very short amount of time and if they do not have the skills to effectively communicate their thoughts to the employer, then it is very hard to gain any positions. 90% of employers say that good communication is on the top of their list of factors that they like to see in an employee so why is this not a large area of focus in schools? This is why having a solid base of communication skills from the moment students leave school is so important. Not emphasising the importance of learning these skills during education is disadvantaging students who are not naturally good at it. There are always people who can talk to anyone and make a good impression however the vast majority are not like this, therefore, something needs to be changed in order to educate students properly. It is also very important that this learning is enforced from a young age. Introducing communication classes into the curriculum for sixteen year olds would not be effective because no one would take it seriously. It needs to be enforced in primary schools from a young age in order for it to have any impact.
As previously mentioned, currently students and New Zealand students in particular are not being sufficiently educated on important skills needed for everyday life. With our education system lacking vital topics such as the skill of money handling, knowledge of all pathways available and communication and relationship skills, students are struggling when they have to move out of home and away from the protection of their parents and high school. Currently, schools are set up to provide an education and help students get the knowledge they need to perform in a career, while leaving out the knowledge they need to live life in general. This is an issue because where else are students meant to gain these skills? This could be touched on in the home environment however having the attention of thirty or more students at one time in one place is a perfect opportunity to achieve this for students. Schools are focusing too much on knowledge. How often is it that students need to draw on their knowledge of physics, history, quadratics? Hardly ever compared to the skills everyone needs to use on a daily basis. What schools need to be thinking is “how can we use this lesson outside of the classroom? Every class should be able to draw out a moral that students can leave with daily.” (Ted Talk- Ted Dintersmith)