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Five things we wished we’d learned at school (and where to learn them now)

From money management to media literacy, some vital life skills are missing from the curriculum. Here’s how to fill in the blanks

From money management to media literacy, some vital life skills are missing from the curriculum. Here’s how to fill in the blanks

Vital life skills
1. Sustainable living

As well as teaching the science behind the climate crisis, what about how we can positively respond to it? Lessons could take in the basics of living an eco- friendly lifestyle, from eating local, seasonal food, to using environmentally friendly cleaning products.

A host of organisations already encourage schools to showcase topics like recycling, composting and sustainable transport. Time to add it to the curriculum? 

Definitely, but what if your school days are behind you? Not a problem, because there’s a wealth of insightful information out there to help people live low-impact lives, including from your very own Positive News. 

One of our most shared articles of 2021 was this piece about responding positively to the climate crisis. Ethical Consumer Magazine is another valuable resource. So is Pebble Magazine. 

Image: Alessandra Caretto

Life skills
2. How to understand ourselves

Learning how to meet our deepest needs is a key life skill, and one that can take many years to master. Things such as identifying a satisfying career, understanding and coping with what happened to us in childhood, and nurturing self-esteem are among those that often crop up. 

Life coaching and therapy can be effective ways to better understand ourselves. The UK Council for Psychotherapy and British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy are good directories for those seeking the latter. 

There’s also the School of Life. It offers self-help steers on salient subjects via online videos, books and Zoom classes. The organisation has a physical presence in cities around the world, but many come to it through its website. 

Image: Leon Ell

3. Basic money skills

From budgeting and managing debt, to interest rates and saving, many of us leave school pretty clueless on matters of the wallet.

In England, some financial education is now included at school for students aged 11 and over. Money-saving expert Martin Lewis, who spearheaded the inclusion and wrote a free-to-download textbook on the topic, is now calling for primary curriculums to incorporate it too. 

Money Saving Expert has also launched a free financial education course for adults, dubbed Academoney. It is provided jointly with the Open University.

Image: Pawel Czerwinski

4. Media literacy

Teaching students to apply critical thinking to the media is a key 21st century skill, say proponents of media literacy education. 

Finland leads the way globally, while organisations such as the US-based Media Literacy Now campaign at the grassroots.

In our digital age, media literacy also includes understanding how websites profit from fake news, how algorithms and bots work, and scrutinising suspicious websites. 

A host of courses are available to teach people how to navigate the minefield of media misinformation. The UK government keeps an updated list of such courses on its website. Over in the US, Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that promotes media literacy, has a wealth of resources on its site to help people stay safe on the internet.  

Image: Pixelkult

5. Relating to others

Schools are already required to teach young people about ‘healthy relationships’, but some think this is so vital to wellbeing that it should be extended. 

The NSPCC, for example, publishes free age-specific lesson plans. The one for 12–18-year-olds includes information about sexual exploitation, grooming and harmful sexual behaviour, while also – on the positive side – sharing characteristics of healthy relationships.

Image: Ruta Celma
Main image: Manny Pantoja

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