School is great right? It’s the place where we gain our core knowledge and are equipped with the ‘building blocks of life’. However, as I left formal education and entered the real world, I can’t help but feel there were some vital issues that I had a poor or little understanding of that should have been introduced to us at school.
This article is not intended to discredit or criticise the UK schooling system, however, I can explicitly say that my school experience had an [over]emphasis on rules: (skirt lengths, chewing gum, maintaining uniform standards), that it sometimes missed out on developing some of the practical skills that all adolescents need in later life.
There are some things you can learn habitually; however, I believe as a generation there are some things we could have learnt formally, or at school, that would have better equipped us for life. Here are the ones I’d have loved to have learnt:
1) How taxes work
In the UK, the legal age of employment is 16 years old. It therefore seems appropriate to educate children about what a payslip looks like, what tax brackets are, how they are defined, the difference between national insurance and income tax and further deductions that can come from your pay package. Don’t get me wrong, a quick Google search can inform you about all of the above, but given that almost every employed person, in any job, in every pay grade, receives a pay slip, it would have been great it we were all taught these as standard practice.
2) How to apply for a mortgage
Granted, it’s a bit premature for 12 year olds to begin planning to buy their first property, I get it. However, according to The Guardian 2017 statistics, home ownership in England is at the lowest it’s been in 30 years. Is this to do with the state of the economy? Mostly. Would better education of young people, starting from basic knowledge at an early age would help? Possibly. The government has previously introduced schemes such as Help to Buy to incentivise and aid young people into buying homes easier and earlier, however financial support is not the only answer. From personal experience, people who have parents who are home owners get most of their guidance and education from them. But what about those whose parents aren’t home owners? All young people deserve support in understanding the basic and more technical aspects of property and home ownership.
3) The importance of having good credit
The academic rhetoric goes like so: get good grades, go to a good university, get a good job that will give you good money (the ‘live happily ever after’ is sold separately). But what we fail to realise is that, as we get older, access to money is just as important as having money itself. At the age of 18, our credit history is birthed. As such a vulnerable age, we are more susceptible to acting irresponsibly when it comes to loans, credit cards and general money management. Especially as a student. I was always aware that it was important to have good credit, but the extent of how important only came once I’d done my own extensive research and looked back in hindsight at some of the not-so-wise decisions I’d made.
4) How the stock market works
A company I’d once worked with offered shares of its stock to all its permanent employees as part of its company benefits. This is common practice in many industries. I recall one time, sitting in a workshop that was organised to help educate staff members on how to make the most out of their shares. I remember feeling lost, completely out of my depth and it was as if the whole session was in another language! Not all young people are as ignorant as I was, I understand. However, this is another case whereby if I had been exposed to the basic terminology and concepts of stock trading, this may not have been such an overwhelming situation for me. At compulsory school level, we probably do not need to learn how to trade on Forex. However, as this generation moves towards being more and more technologically advanced, basic knowledge of trading real and crypto currency would definitely be advantageous.
Things I did learn at school
- How to play a basic version of Pachelbel’s Cannon but not how to enrol on the electoral register.
- Egypt is the only place in Africa that has historical significance (slavery is the only part of black history, right?)
- How to make a wooden pencil case but not how to write a CV
- The importance of ‘good grades’ but not the importance of interpersonal skills such as eye contact, positive body language and other employable skills.
- Wearing a black skirt (instead of grey) is worthy of being sent home and missing almost a full day of curriculum.