Should teens learn essential life skills at school?

When teens leave school, a lot aren't equipped to handle the pressures of adulthood

OPINION: When I was growing up, it was a certainty that my brother and I would go to university and "get good jobs" as soon as we'd left school. We were fortunate to have good grades and for the most part enjoyed school, so university enrolment was as much expected by ourselves as it was by our parents.

The concepts of starting my own business or thinking outside the box were never offered to me and never occurred to me. In fact, kids who didn't go to university were subconsciously labelled as having failed the education system; simply "getting a job" or staying in our small town wasn't deemed as being successful.

Fast-forward a lot of years and 2018 students have myriad more options than 2001 me did. There's still university of course, but more and more school-leavers are foregoing tertiary study in favour of starting their own businesses, travelling the world, learning on the job, or all of the above – and all of those options are OK.

But when they leave the safe confines of the classroom, are our teens equipped to handle the pressures of the outside world? Have they been set up to succeed in a world that doesn't always match to what they've learned while sitting at a desk? I worry that they're not.

English, Biology Statistics and everything in between are still obviously essential school subjects. But I think a Life class is essential too – one that should be compulsory.

In this class, students could learn how to be safe (and kind) on the internet, including how to identify fake news and read critically. It would dive right into money management; not simply budgeting, but making money work for them including spending well, saving, investing, giving, Kiwisaver and retirement, buying a house. And until they buy that house, how to be a good tenant. Also how to use online selling platforms to make money out of stuff they don't want anymore – or even connect with the community to find work, paid and/or volunteer. (And let's not forget how to do your own taxes!)

A life class would teach teens the basics of nutrition and cooking (because we all know that youthful metabolisms don't last forever). Teens would learn the realities of alcohol, cigarette and drug abuse; not just "don't do it" but "these are the stories of people who did it and wish they hadn't".

They'd learn how to put together a great CV and how to impress in an interview, how to deal with colleagues and bosses they don't like and their rights as a young employee.

For those heading off for further education they'd learn how to take notes - and how to get the best out of those notes. How to be involved in their communities – and why they should. They'd learn Te Reo. They'd learn about what makes a healthy relationship; they'd learn about sexual consent.

Yes, teens can learn some of these essentials in certain subjects, but not every teen has to. There's also the argument that parents should be teaching these kinds of things, but not every parent has the know-how to do so.

Since it's all essential education that needs to happen at some point in their lives, it makes sense to me that it happens where they're learning everything else - in the classroom.