Saturday, May 28

What should be taught at school?

I'm a teacher, so can't avoid discussions of how to make education better and what we should do to make students more successful.

Despite ongoing attempts to make education relevant, there is strange mismatch between what is emphasised in education and what people want to learn in the real world.  My experience relates to education in Britain, but I'd imagine that experience in other places is not completely different.

'School reform' by Funky64
This excellent list from discusses the '50 things everyone should know how to do'.  The list, which overlaps strongly with this book by Samantha Ettus, is an example of the kind of thing I mean: how many of these key life skills are taught in school? And how many does the average person leave school without knowing how to do?

Here are my picks on the ones which are definitely taught to most school pupils, at least to some extent:

- Operate a computer
- Handle a job interview
- Recite basic geography
- Sew a button onto clothing

Four out of fifty - not great going for 13 years of compulsory education!

'Buttons' by andrea joseph's illustrations
To be fair there are many other useful things which are taught at school - reading, maths, appreciation of poetry...  But I think that the mismatch is largely due to the emphasis for teaching knowledge at school - when most of the items listed are skills.

Technology and Psychology

Another interesting aspect is that many skills on the list relate to technology or psychology - two growth subjects, but ones which are still marginal in pre-university education.

Examples include:

- Use Google effectively
- Change a tyre
- Deliver bad news
- Manage time
- Remember names

The shape of the school curriculum owes a lot to tradition, and with people's needs in the modern world adapting fast, it will be interesting to see how educators respond.