School didn’t teach me how to adult

It has been four months since I received my group certificate to complete my tax return, and I still have not done it because 1. I have no bloody clue how and 2. I am too utterly lazy to attempt.

They say school is a stepping stone for your future. But why am I sitting here at age 22 not knowing how to complete a staple life skill? And you know what, too often I find myself in a situation thinking ‘why on earth didn’t school teach me this?’

How cliche of me to say that the most important skills in life you don’t even learn in school. I am still slowly figuring them out for myself now.

I learnt algebra but didn’t learn the fundamentals of life – how to manage my money, how to do basic first aid, how to vote, how to land a job – you name it, I probably did not know how to do it. I am an adult that was not even prepared for the adult world.

Where were the classes that actually taught me stuff I needed to learn?

The perceptions of parents being solely in charge of embedding life skills into their children is rubbish. Sure, they are a big part of it, but schools should be reinforcing them too. Because what happens to the kid who has parents in an ongoing financial rut? I am pretty sure their parents aren’t a good role model for money management. Will they end up living paycheck-to-paycheck too? Or how about that girl who doesn’t feel comfortable discussing things with her mother? How is she supposed to know essential health checks for women?

Now I am not bagging out teachers or parents, they do a great job. But the curriculum should be prioritising an individual’s well-being over pressuring kids to ace that new song on the recorder.

If you’re still not on my page, take a look at this Buzzfeed video:


Yes, these lessons do have educational benefits but they didn’t teach me how to adult.

But I promise I am not the only one feeling this way, many people question why life skills aren’t strongly embedded in our education system. Even young students are taking a stance , many saying they aren’t prepared for life after school and want better life skills taught in their schooling journey.

So this leads me into my list of essential skills of ‘how to adult’. Ultimately a taster of adult tasks to prepare students for the real world after school life. This is only a snippet of life skills to consider but here are the top six they should begin with:

1. Personal Finance

We have maths, business, economics, accounting and finance, but most focus on money in businesses rather than our personal funds. This could be why the International Monetary Fund has pinpointed Australia with the fastest growing debt – rising from $60,000 to $245,000 in the past 20 years. This one figure shows why it should be standard curriculum in our education system.

School should be teaching or even assisting with:

  • Banking
  • Budgeting
  • Taxes
  • Loans
  • Credit Cards
  • Insurance
  • And super


2. Relationships 

How to deal with breakups; what to look in for in a partner; what not to look for in a partner; how to be a good partner; how to spot manipulative behaviour; how to not be a pushover; setting personal boundaries; how to deal with conflict; how to be a good friend; consent. A new report even showed children’s desire for these lessons – they want more than just a biology class.

Educating students on this could potentially help us avoid common pitfalls in relationships or situations later on in life.

3. General Health

Sex ed is standard. But what about general health?

The only female health chat I can recall was grade five and seven puberty and sex ed. Other than that, it was up to my mum to teach me the rest. But some girls may not feel comfortable chatting with their mum. It should be a standard practice to educate the importance of papsmears, breast checks and other girly stuff.

As for men, it is a well known fact that they do not visit the doctor as much as women. With  80% of young men less than likely to visit once per year. But this isn’t due to lack of accessibility but because many do not want to discuss those ‘bits below the belt’. This highlights the importance of school informing about essential health checks and certain symptoms to watch out for. It should also be educated about the importance of seeking medical help if something’s not right, and attempt to get rid of the negative stigma surrounding seeking expert advice.

To think that some health issues could have been curbed by a bit more guidance during schooling is rather upsetting.

4. First Aid

Recently at work, a girl fell suddenly ill and an ambulance was called, but at the beginning we were all clueless because not one of us 20 employees knew first aid. Think about it.  Would you know what to do in a situation like this? What happens if your best friend got bitten by a snake? Or how about if they were bleeding to death? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Research shows that while people are wanting to help out in an emergency, more than two-thirds of people don’t know what to do. In fact, it is assumed that 15% less deaths would occur if people could perform first aid prior to paramedics arriving. Generally first aid training is standard in physical education, but shouldn’t we all know what to do in an emergency?

5. Cooking

Food is essential to live, so cooking is important for everyone. Not only this, but Australia is facing an obesity epidemic, with two in three Australians overweight. So rather than schools just teaching us the food pyramid, how about showing us. And not the typical home economics where you learn to bake. Show us how to make wholesome and healthy food so we can lead a healthy life.

6. The Gap Year

Sure, we get the whole university chat – searching for the right one, how to apply, what degree to apply for, heck I even did multiple personality tests for the best degree to fit me. Most schools enforce that university education is the next step, it is the norm. And students seem to follow this, with over one million students enrolled in Australian universities at the end of 2015 and the number continuously growing. But how about the students that don’t want to dive straight into higher education?

Studies have shown that gap years have many beneficial outcomes for students, whether it is a much needed mental health break or ‘finding yourself’. Schools should be highlighting this as an option, and for the students keen on a gap year, they should be helping plan for their future too! This could include providing information on appropriate tours,  cultural awareness and differences, things to be wary of overseas, visas, passports, or even assistance planning and booking.

Knowledge is power. Schools should be embedding standard life skills if they want children to succeed in the real world. Yes, these are soft skills. But sometimes they are deemed more valuable than reciting dates in ancient history. Because when am I going to use that in everyday life?
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School is a stepping stone for our future, and:

“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life.”

– Plato

So let’s make a change today, so children can be prepared for what the future throws at them. And unlike me, know how to do basic life skills by the age of 22.

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