35 Things They Should Teach In School, But Don’t

When you were at school, did you have the impression that once you’d left and become an adult, you’d automatically know what you were doing?

That you’d have it all figured out and know everything you need to know to do life right?

Yeah, me too.

Only it turns out that’s not the case at all.

Life is one long learning experience, and there are so many things they could have taught us at school that would’ve been more useful than Pythagoras theorem or what Henry VIII did to each of his unfortunate wives.

If we think about the financial ins and outs of life that we weren’t taught about at school then this list would be endless.

So, let’s stick to the personal development and relationships side of things.

Here are just some of the life skills we really should’ve learned at school but never did.

1. How to deal with failure.

Failure is inevitable, but many of us are poorly equipped to deal with it. Kids need to be taught how to view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, and not something to be ashamed of.

2. That success isn’t all about the numbers.

Kids need to learn that success in life doesn’t just come down to the amount of money in your bank account or your follower count on social media.

It’s about so much more than that, like being fulfilled, having a good quality of life, and helping others.

3. How to take criticism.

It’s impossible to go through life without being criticized by someone for something, and those words can hit hard.

But, assuming the criticism is somewhat valid and given constructively, it can be used as a learning opportunity much like failure.

4. How to handle conflict.

Conflict is another inevitable part of life, so we need to know how to handle it well, diffusing situations and looking for constructive solutions.

5. How to apologize.

We all make mistakes and we all hurt others, intentionally or not. An apology can go a long way to healing that hurt and repairing our relationship with the other person.

Genuine apologies require honesty and a willingness to admit wrongdoing, both of which are incredibly useful in maintaining healthy relationships.

6. How to say no.

It’s so important to learn when you should say no to something, what your boundaries are, and how to say no politely.

7. Cultural diversity.

Racism is rife in our society, and children need to be taught to value, respect, and celebrate the differences between the various cultures around the world and in their hometown.

They need to be taught from a non-biased, balanced perspective, not shying away from the injustices in our past, but looking hopefully toward a brighter future.

8. Gender identity.

It’s important to teach kids that there are so many different ways a person can identify, and that we’re all allowed to decide how we want to live our lives and present to the world.

Again, this all comes down to respect.

9. How to manage stress.

Stress is a huge problem that can have devastating physical and mental effects. Stress-management techniques will set kids in good stead to deal with the challenges life will throw at them.

10. Honest sex education.

We need to start being more honest with kids about the realities of sex, and how joyous it can be, as well as how to do it safely.

11. Consent and respect.

Younger kids should be taught not to invade each other’s personal space. Older kids should be taught how to check consent and be a respectful sexual partner. 

12. How to minimize waste.

Waste management is a huge problem in the modern world, and if we’re not careful we’re all going to drown in it.

Kids should be taught about composting, about which materials can be recycled and which can’t, about the recycling process, and how to minimize their waste and use of plastic in particular.

13. How to interact with animals.

In this modern world, many of us are incredibly disconnected from nature. We see ourselves as something entirely apart from the other animals we share our planet with, and a lot of kids don’t even know how to pat a dog.

Kids should be taught how to interact with animals, with calm, unhurried movements, treating them with respect and not like cuddly toys.

14. The realities of the meat and dairy industries.

Kids need to know where the meat and dairy products they eat actually come from, and should be educated about the conditions many of those animals are kept in.

That’s not to say they should all be encouraged to go vegetarian or vegan – although reducing meat and dairy consumption is vital for our planet’s future.

But they should be made aware that these products come from living beings, they don’t just appear in the supermarket by magic. And they should be shown how to make good choices and source products from animals that have been humanely treated.    

15. How to vote and how the voting system works.

Voting and registering to vote can be very confusing, but it’s a hugely important thing to do. Schools should educate kids about how the system works where they live, and why it’s important to vote so that your voice is heard and your views are represented.

16. How to spot fake news.

Fake news is everywhere, and can cloud our vision of the world.

Children should be taught how to identify fake news, and how to verify things they read rather than just taking them at face value. This will also teach them critical thinking which is a valuable life skill to have.

17. The history and culture of the native inhabitants of the land you’re living on.

In countries that were characterized by colonialization, the native inhabitants are often all-but-ignored, as if the country’s history began the moment the first colonizers arrived, rather than centuries or millennia before.

All schools should educate children about the history of the land they’re living on, however controversial, and the culture of its traditional owners.

18. How to grow fruit vegetables.

Growing your own fruit and vegetables, whether you only have a windowsill or a whole garden at your disposal, is an incredible satisfying experience.

And if you’ve got the space for a proper vegetable patch, it can be a very cost-effective way of eating a nourishing diet full of fresh fruit and veg.

19. Gardening.

Beyond gardening for the purposes of growing food, we should be taught the basics of how to look after plants and how to recognize common flowers, plants, and trees.

Gardening is an incredibly healthy pastime, getting you out in the fresh air doing wonderful physical exercise.

It can be quite meditative and seeing the fruits of your labor grow is so rewarding.   

20. How to forage for edible food.

If you were ever to find yourself in a tricky situation, knowing the types of berry and plant that you can eat in your local area could be a literal lifesaver.

21. Basic survival skills.

Beyond just what to eat when out in the wild, kids should be taught how to make a fire, tie some basic knots, and find shelter should they need to.  

22. Basic first aid.

How to perform CPR, how to bandage a wound, what to do in the event of an accident…  these are skills that are fairly easy to learn, but could save a life.

23. What fruits and vegetables are in season when.

Eating fruits and vegetables in season helps connect you to the land and the regular cycle of the seasons. It’s far better for the planet too.

So, we should all be taught about the fruits and vegetables that are ready to harvest at different times of year, and what fruits and vegetables are grown locally rather than imported.

24. How to cook nourishing, balanced meals.

Some schools do teach some basic cooking, but cooking skills should be taught as standard, with a focus on how to make delicious balanced meals out of fresh, unprocessed ingredients.

25. Basic DIY.

Basic skills with a paintbrush, hammer, saw, and drill are all things that everyone could benefit from knowing.

Being able to deal with a problem quickly yourself rather than calling your parents or a professional can save huge amounts of time and money.

26. Home maintenance.

Things like how to change a light bulb, how to check if a smoke alarm is working, how to take a meter reading, and how to check if a fire extinguisher is in working order are basic things we all need to know.

27. How to maintain a bike or car.

We’re all going to need some kind of vehicle to get around. So, we should learn how a bike works and how to maintain it, change a tire, etc.

And we should also get a grounding in car maintenance, as well as a basic understanding of how a motor works.

28. The realities of sweatshops and how to buy ethically.

Kids need to be taught to value their fellow human being above their wallet.

They should be told about the working conditions in many less developed countries where products for the western world are made, and how to avoid buying products that perpetuate the problem.

They should be educated about how buying locally, ethically, and second-hand where possible can help the planet and their fellow human beings.

29. How to look after your clothes.

These days, many people view clothing as disposable, something that can be bought cheaply, worn a few times, and thrown away.

Kids should be taught that clothes need to be treated with more respect. They should learn about how often clothes really need to be washed and other tricks for making sure they last longer.  

30. The kinds of jobs that are available in the modern world.

The 21st century has opened up new employment opportunities and ways of working that never existed before.

Schools need to keep up and teach children about the wide variety of jobs that are really open to them, not just the traditional paths.

31. How to interview well.

We’re all going to have to go through job interviews of one sort or another in our lives.

Practicing interview techniques at school, and how to answer standard questions like “Tell me about a problem which you solved through teamwork” can help give kids an edge in the future.

32. How to manage your emails.

Something we all struggle with, but wouldn’t be hard to master if we started young. It promotes organization, prioritization, and time management skills.

33. How to have a healthy relationship with social media.

Social media is everywhere and it’s pretty hard to avoid. But it can be addictive and damaging to our mental well-being, so we need to be taught how to use it healthily.

34. How to protect yourself online.

Our virtual world poses some genuine challenges to our security and safety. Learning how to protect your privacy online, how to spot and avoid scams, and how to deal with online bullying or harassment are among the skills we need to learn.

35. The benefits of learning a foreign language.

And last but not least, kids shouldn’t just be taught languages; they should be shown why learning a foreign language is such a wonderful thing.

It expands your mind and horizons, helps you unlock a whole other culture or multiple cultures, and brings incredible opportunity with it.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.