Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati
Thinking back to the pre-smartphone age in which I completed my studies at high school, I often wonder: did school achieve its purpose in my life?
Before I can answer that question I must first define what the purpose of a high school should be. Here are some thoughts from some of the best pedagogical experts on the planet:
The purpose of high school, I believe, is to prepare students for a meaningful life in the 21st century; to be a good citizen, economically self-sufficient and respectful of themselves and others.
– Terry Doran, Retired School Board President, Berkeley Unified School District
Most of what our students need to know hasn’t been discovered or invented yet. ‘Learning how to learn’ used to be an optional extra in education; today, it’s a survival skill.
– Dylan Wiliam, Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for K-12 Classrooms
My role, as teacher, is to evaluate the effect I have on my students.
– John A.C. Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning
I’ve extracted the following:
- School must prepare students for life
- Schools must focus on the effect they are having on their students, and this effect would presumably be best measured by how students have fared in adult life
- Students must be taught ‘how to learn’, in order to cope with a rapidly developing and changing skills market
Using these extractions and my own intuition as a compass, I believe that schools are focusing too much on real-time strategies that improve grades, but are not focussing enough on:
- Alumni, and how school has actually helped or hindered them in life
- Modern technology and the quick integration of this into the school curriculum
- Skills and knowledge which are readily applicable to life after school
Using these conclusions as a solid foundation, I’ve drawn up my list of the five most important things that we should be teaching our kids at school (but most of us, through rigid curriculum expectations, cannot).
1. Teach kids how to manage money
From credit card debt to budgeting and student loans: personal finance should be a thorough and comprehensive part of every high school curriculum.
2. Teach kids about FinTech
High school Business Studies and Economics courses haven’t caught up with the current trend in cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin and OMG), Distributed Ledger Technologies (such as Blockchain) and electronic forms of payment such as AliPay, WeChat Pay, Impesa and True Money Wallet (to name but a few).
The way that people use and perceive money is changing rapidly and in order for kids to be prepared for the ‘real world’ I believe they should be taught about these various technologies.
I’m currently studying for a Professional Certificate in FinTech through edX (with the University of Hong Hong) and I can tell you – it’s fascinating! When I learn something new from the course I pass it on to my students in my Money Management ECA, which I run after school once a week.
3. Teach kids about digital marketing
Kids need to be taught about the power of social media – when used to promote products and services. By showing kids the benefits of digital marketing, we make them realize that compulsive selfies or photos of their dinner serve no purpose for their career in the long-term, and can be a real waste-of-time.
Schools should aspire to turn their students into independent learners and critical thinkers, and should, therefore, prepare students for the possibility of entrepreneurship one day. Digital Marketing is now an essential component of any company’s advertising strategy, and our students need to learn the power that social media can have in building a business’s platform.
4. Teach kids the importance of integrity
The importance of managing one’s reputation (especially one’s online reputation) has never been more important.
One inappropriate photo uploaded onto social media, or one public outburst recorded on someone’s smartphone, and everything you have worked for can literally be destroyed in an instant.
It’s not a nice thing to admit that we now live in a somewhat dystopian ‘Big Brother’ society; but it is the truth. Our students need to know the realities of this, and see it as an opportunity (not a disadvantage) – they can just as easily build up a good online reputation as a bad one.
5. Teach kids problem-solving skills
As technologies rapidly develop, it’s now become impossible for schools to teach absolutely everything a child needs to succeed in the workplace or business arena.
Whilst schools must keep up with the times by upgrading curricula on a yearly basis (in my opinion), they must also give students the opportunity to work on projects in which they have to solve problems.
Theme days, group-work, camps and special programs like CREST Award are great ways to take students out of their ‘comfort zones’ and challenge their capacity to think laterally and quickly.
Just as salaried employees and business owners need to skill-up on a regular basis, schools should upgrade the skills portfolio that they are providing for their students in real-time. New developments in fields such as STEM, Business, ICT and Economics needs to be filtered down to the classroom level quickly, so that students receive relevant training in adaptability and problem-solving.