School is the best time of your life, yes? Actually, when many people reflect back on their education they might wonder why they bothered, and in retrospect would swap learning Shakespeare’s sonnets and quadratic equations for tangible skills that they’ll use every day – such as these….
There are some people who love dealing with cash, and some who detest it. Perhaps worried that they’ll lose it or spend it unwisely, or fail to prioritise it. From mortgages and interest rates, to payslips and working out a car’s efficiency, these are skills that are never explicitly taught. Indeed, do most people know what a good mortgage deal is, without blithely acquiescing to the advice of lenders? The suspicion is that if a pupil of any ability learned the basics of financial good sense, saving, investing and credit, rather than algebra or trigonometry – both useful but hardly essential for everyone – the world would be a much more prudent place. Parents can help as well.
Speaking is something we learn very early. Speaking well is something some of us struggle to pick up, and listening is a skill many never learn. And yet when was the last time that you went a day without engaging in conversation with someone you knew or a person in the street? Probably never. From dialogue in shops to job interviews, and talking at dinner parties through to chats on the phone to relatives, a proper, concerted attempt to improve people’s language and listening skills could benefit them in a huge range of situations. No, social media doesn’t count.
If someone asked you right now how the UK government system works, what would you say? How about local authorities and council tax, the legal system, or the NHS? Further afield, could you identify members of the EU or Unicef, and do you know what they even do? Some of these organisations or items of knowledge might be of no interest, but others might just give you a greater appreciation of the world around you – and yet there is no, one lesson in school that can give you a greater understanding in one go.
Imagine how useful a single ‘practical skills’ class would be for virtually anyone. Yes, the internet and in particular YouTube can often bail you out of life’s little problems such as wiring a plug or tightening a tap, but there comes a time – when water is gushing into your kitchen at a rate of knots – when you just need that slightly more expanded skillset. From filling up a car radiator to putting up a set of shelves, training in such skills might save a lot of time and money when you live on your own and disaster strikes; even if your training helps you identify that you need professional help quickly, it will have been worth it.
Lessons require you to think about a given problem or circumstance in a class, but rarely do they give you a realistic scenario to solve. Even if they do, suggested answers may encourage thinking in a prescriptive way, with no room for experimentation or adaptability.
These are real world problems, but there are also many other facets of thinking. Learning to argue and critically analyse, to come to a conclusion or use logic to defeat a problem or reinterpret it, are all fantastic skills to possess.