April 9, 2020

Re-thinking the education system – what basic skills should everyone have?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the education system lately – as some of you know, I’m the co-host of the Remix Podcast with Shawn Kanungo and one of our recent episodes talked about how schools trained people to be followers and I thought that school should be teaching students to be leaders, to understand how to fail or even to want to fail (or at the very least, want to start things and not be afraid of failure). That made me think about how I would re-design the system and while I am not an expert by any means, I do think that there are some requisite courses that all students should go through to be successful in this world (whatever definition of success you want to use but here, I mean that they grow up to be self-sufficient, growth-oriented individuals who generate value in this world and get paid well to do it).

Here are some of the things that I would like to see (or would have liked to see) in terms of courses and topics:

A course on financial literacy

How do credit cards work? What does the interest rate mean? Why does inflation exist? There are a lot of great financial concepts that I think everyone would do well to understand – I certainly did not know what any of these terms or concepts meant until a little later in life and it was only by having to think about and understand these terms as an adult did I really learn about what these meant to me and the impact on my life. Understanding how to open a savings account, investing in stocks or index funds, credit ratings, all of these things would certainly help young kids think about their futures and how they may be able to invest for the long term.

A course on technology literacy

I think for me, this ended up being a side effect of being exposed to computers and being amazed at the power of the internet but these days, I believe it would benefit students to understand what the internet is, how it came about, what it means to be secure or private and where data is stored (and how it is accessed). Students should understand what social media is and both the benefits and drawbacks of technology and what it means to access ‘free’ apps that are not really free. Understanding how to type, create a website, even edit video should probably be part of the course – these are skills that can help multiply other expertise you have.

A home economics course

Again, this is a side effect of having to live by myself out in the world, but the world would be a better place if everyone took a basic home economics course to learn how to cook simple dishes, sew, do the laundry, fix basic things around the house / car and how to clean around the house. I remember working as a Residence Advisor at UBC and we had university students coming to university having never washed a load of laundry in their life and not knowing how to use the laundry machines at all. I had fellow Residence Advisors creating posters that showed students how to wash laundry – this isn’t to make you laugh but more so to recognize that as a parent, it may help your child to expose them to things that they may not otherwise be exposed to.

Learning how to learn

This is one of those things that I wish I had learned earlier in my life because learning how to learn would help me exponentially grow in the future. A small investment in being able to learn effectively would pay large dividends. I noticed this because after getting out of university (where arguably, I had no idea how to learn anything), I needed to learn on the job / learn how to apply my knowledge and theory to real life and I quite frankly sucked at it. Even now when I am studying for exams or certifications, I just know that I’m not using my time as effectively as I could be. How do students learn things? Perhaps they are audio or visual students. Or they learn through experimentation. Whatever way – it would be good to know that early on to take advantage of your natural tendencies.

Learning how to make and evaluate decisions

Again, another meta-skill that will pay dividends in the future the earlier you learn, I wish that I had learned how to make and evaluate decisions better early on in my life. We make decisions every single day – from what to eat and wear, to whether to invest in cryptocurrencies or what to say on a date. Tony Robbins says that the quality of your life depends on the quality of the questions you ask, which is just another way of saying that if you can better evaluate and make decisions in your life, you’re going to have a better life.

Learn how to create value

I thought perhaps that students should all learn about entrepreneurship but I’m also not sure that everyone is born to be an entrepreneur – it requires a certain mindset, passion and determination that maybe not everyone wants to have (and they don’t necessarily have to have either). But what I do think is important is understanding how people, businesses or organizations create value. This is applicable whether you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer or even an employee. When you learn how to create value, you can then create more value which usually, but not always, translates into more time or money or both for the person generating the value.

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