By the time we hit our 20s, most of us have been in schooling for more than a decade. What do our skill sets look like after this time? Gina reflects on her schooling and identifies the skills she wished she’d really honed, beyond equations and essays.
As I’ve moved on from my school days to university and into the workforce, the gaps in what I was taught become all the more obvious everyday! Here are three skills I wish I’d started developing sooner.
#1 Learning by doing
I’ve worked a lot of jobs, and a lot of different jobs. From late-nights bartending to designing national social impact campaigns, working as a corporate strategy consultant to operating as a freelance writer and consultant, all those jobs had one thing in common—no one actually showed me how to do my job.That isn’t to say that I wasn’t given mentoring, coaching and feedback throughout my profession (and, indeed there are a few hella cool folks out there who have really shaped who I am as a young professional). But at the end of the day, the responsibility fell on me to navigate the lay of the land.For me, being thrown into a practical environment where I had to apply all the things I‘ve learned allowed me to deepen my understanding of the work, rapidly build on the skills I already had, and also confirm what I was passionate about and wanted out of my work and career.
Over a decade of primary and secondary schooling, I was afforded only five days of practical work experience: a one-week work placement during Year 10. And while it was a great opportunity to be exposed to the professional working world at a young age, the short timeframe and limited opportunity for longer-term engagement made the experience lack meaning.
Having the opportunity to learn simply by doing is something I would have greatly appreciated having more exposure to in school.
Problem-solving is embedded in the Australian curriculum, from solving mathematical problems with equations and formulas to examining problems in social sciences and humanities classes.But the ways in which problem-solving was framed for me was not conducive to practical and real-life problem-solving. In mathematics and science, I was given lists of formulas and equations that I was to commit to memory and apply in exam situations. I was taught what the textbook said rather than being encouraged to challenge the core drivers, trends and underlying systems surrounding the equation.
For my sake and that of all young Australians, we need to be adequately taught how to look at ambiguous and challenging problems—be they social, business or personal. We need to learn to solve them with structure, creativity and thoughtfulness, as this is absolutely critical for navigating work and life. It’s also an increasingly in-demand enterprise skill by employers across Australia.
#3 Emotional intelligence
I’ve already written about the existential crisis that I was catapulted into throughout university. This piece was inspired by numerous empathetic conversations I shared with my friends and peers who also faced similar challenges navigating the journey of defining their self, identity and values.
Emotional intelligence is about learning what your values are and how they shape your decisions and actions. Figuring out who we are, what makes us tick and what we want from life is a necessary coming-of-age journey that I believe we all need to undergo. And developing a thorough understanding of these concepts in a psychologically safe environment like school can be transformative.Recognising, and more importantly, leveraging the schooling environment to support the development of emotional intelligence should be positioned more front and centre in education. It should be seen not just as a necessity, but also as an opportunity: an opportunity to allow students to truly understand themselves, and the many weird and magical systems we live within. In this way, students are positioned to truly flourish.
Of course, this is just one person’s reflection of how school prepared me for life, half-a-decade after finishing secondary school. And for me, school is more than just learning how to add numbers and write long essays. The time we spend within its walls go a long way to shaping and forming who we become.
The next review of the Australian Curriculum is coming up in 2020, and will involve major education stakeholders across government and industry. The last review occurred in July 2014, and highlighted the curriculum’s history bias and heritage gaps, and the “basic” approach of the curriculum. It will be interesting to see what findings are made in the 2020 review, six years later. Already at a state level, governments are considering reforms to their education systems, as industry leaders recognise the rigidity of current examination procedures.
I know there were a lot of core skills that I wish I had learnt during my years in school. And as these reviews and reforms take place, I hope that relevant bodies and institutions consult young people throughout the process to ensure reforms to our education system are being informed by frontline and lived experiences.