How many times have you been sitting in class and wondered “when the heck am I ever going to need to use this again?” The answer is probably never. Sure, if life was a test about finding the x and y intercepts of a parabola or how many people died in World War 1 then we would ace it. But unfortunately, or luckily, it is not so for 90% of us, we are never going to need this information that we learn at school again. However when it comes to paying for uni fees, buying your first house or going for a job interview, or generally trying to survive living away from home, most of us would fail. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed particularly in schools as currently, they are struggling to prepare students properly to live life independently after school. This affects all of us and do you really want that? Don’t you want to be given the best possible chance at succeeding in life, even if it means being taught the proper skills we need for a couple extra hours a week of your all ready boring school life? With this in mind, I think there are many things that schools could be doing to give us a better shot at succeeding in life. If simple things such as budgeting and saving, or communication skills were covered at school, a generation that is better prepared for life will be created and this will hugely benefit society in many ways.

How many of you could confidently say that you would know how to pay a tax bill or how to manage a credit card or really have any idea on how much stuff our parents actually have to pay for? Not many I’m guessing. One thing that school definitely doesn’t prepare us for is money and how to handle it. You may not have noticed, but for most of us we have had it pretty easy so far regarding money. For the first 10-15 years of life you may get pocket money for washing the dishes or walking the dog and save it the bank for some kind of new toy your parents won’t buy you. You might decide to spend it on lollies down at night n day or just chuck it in your piggy bank for a rainy day. The next years from about age 15 onwards to 18, we often begin to think that we now know how money works. You may have a part time job and have a decent paycheck every month or every holidays. This is the time when we know we should be starting to save for the future, but because we don’t really know what for or how to do it, we just don’t. Either that or we just prefer not to and spend it on more important things like food or new clothes. Pretty much the first 18 years of your life are like a free trial, after that it’s pay to play. The average student in New Zealand has around $21,000 of debt. All together this adds up to $15 billion across the countries students that is owed. This may partly be because of the insane prices students are expected to pay for things like university, housing and the additional money that most students tend spend on things like alcohol but the fact that on average it takes at least 15 years for a student to pay off this debt, and a portion of them will never be able to pay it all off, shows that there is something that we aren’t doing right at the moment. During my 12 years at school I have never once been taught how to budget my money, how much money I will need to put aside for things like power, internet, rent and food every week or even what is an acceptable price that I should be getting charged for these things. I have never been taught how to pay taxes or what they are let alone how to understand a contract, negotiate price or read and understand financial statements. All of us will be required to do these things when we move out of home in the next year or two yet we are just expected to know how to do it which is generally not the case.These topics are touched on briefly in subjects like finance, economics or business however not in enough detail and they are not compulsory subjects. 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, then 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 a generation of people who do not know how to correctly handle or contribute money to keep our economy afloat.

Our education system is lacking another vital skill. Even though schools are beginning to do a better job at educating students about the different pathways available and career options to take when you leave school, we are still lacking knowledge of how to be successful in things like literally obtaining the job and how we communicate with people. This leads me onto the next skill that students are going into the real world without which is communication skills. This may surprise you as you may think “oh communication is easy you just talk to people, we do that all the time,” but communication is a lot more than that. Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing or using some other medium. We communicate with others on a day to day basis yet we have never had a lesson on how to do it properly or what we should and shouldn’t do. Skills such as 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 this age, but as we get older and leave school, we will realise the true importance of good communication 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 we will all be put in such as interviews or any time when you need to make a good impression of yourself. Imagine if you were going for a job interview and it was down to 2 people, you and someone else. You have all the necessary qualifications plus more, you were an excellence student at school, you have never done anything wrong but you can’t exactly hold a good conversation or work with a variety of people well. The other candidate on the other hand has a few less qualifications than you, may have gotten a few merits and achieveds at school but has great communication skills, gets on with people really well and knows how to work through conflict and solve problems on the spot. Who will get the job? You or the other person? Easy decision for the employer- the other person. Although you have more qualifications, you may be smarter and have a better record, they are the one with the people skills and good communications and will stand out to the employer. You have half an hour in an interview to impress and if the employer isn’t left with something to remember you by and something that makes you stand out then you will never get the jobs. 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 are we not being taught how to do this better at school? This is why having a good solid base of communication skills from the moment you leave school is so important. Not properly emphasizing these skills during our education is disadvantaging students hugely who are not naturally good at it all ready. Because sure, there are always the cocky people or the ones who can talk to anyone and make a good impression but the vast majority of us are not like this so we need some kind of help in how to do this. It is also very important for this to work that it needs to be done from a young age. Introducing communication classes into the curriculum for 16 year olds probably isn’t going to be taken very well and no one will take it seriously. It needs to be enforced in primary schools from a young age in order for it have an impact.

As you can see, currently we are pretty stuffed when it comes to leaving school. Luckily as a country, New Zealanders are very good at winging it, so many students manage to get by with this unique skill however for many it does not work like that. With our education system lacking vital skills such as money handling, communication and relationship skills and just general old maintenance skills, students are really struggling when they have to leave home and mum can no longer do everything for you. Currently, schools are set up to give us an education and help us get the knowledge we need to perform in a career, it does not set us up for life in general which is an issue because where else are we going to learn these things? At home? Sure maybe but isn’t having the attention of 30 students at one time in one place not the perfect place to do it? We are focusing too much on knowledge. How often do we use stuff we are taught like knowledge of physics, history, quadratics? Most likely hardly ever whereas we need to also focus on skills we will be needing to use everyday. What we need to be thinking is “now 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)  

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