Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught In School, But Usually Aren’t

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught In School, But Usually Aren’t

Even though we learn a great deal in school, some of the most essential skills we need as adults aren’t universally taught in a formal setting. Here are some of the subjects and skills we wish we’d learned in school. (You can still learn them now. It’s never too late!)

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10. Computer Science

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

While computer science exists as a subject and computers are widely used, there’s relatively little or no emphasis on programming skills. Even if you don’t plan to become or raise a future programmer, learning to think like a computer scientist is a fundamental skill everyone could benefit from.

9. Speed Reading

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

Being a speed reader doesn’t make you a genius or necessarily help you truly comprehend books more than everyone else, but speed reading techniques can still be useful to know. Techniques like skimming, for example, to get a preview of a book before you dig in, and clustering the words you read to get the overall gist of a long piece quicker, could help time-strapped students with their incredibly long reading lists.

Comprehension is more important than churning through texts, but it’s nice to have speed reading skills at your disposal even later in life.

8. Time Management Techniques

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

Time management courses are usually reserved for CEOs and upper management employees, but if there’s one thing a busy student or worker (of any age) needs to learn, it’s how to make the most of their limited time. Perhaps our procrastination and productivity issues would be lessened if we were taught GTD or other productivity techniques in high school or earlier.

7. Study Skills (Or Learning How To Learn)

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

The ultimate life hack is “learning how to learn”. As with time management, the best teachers incorporate study skills into their classes, but it’s often not formally taught. Learning to take better notes, using more efficient ways of studying (highlighting doesn’t work as well as taking practice tests) and, perhaps most important, remembering what you study are all fundamental skills every student should develop.

6. Basic Money Management

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

Teaching kids about money should start in the home, but, as you know, many of us weren’t fortunate enough to get that early personal finance education. Maths classes could incorporate some real-world examples to teach kids the basics of budgeting, compounding interest, and simply saving more than you earn.

5. Survival Skills

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

Some survival skills are good for everyone to learn (you never know when your car is going to break down in a remote area, for example, or you have more modern/urban emergencies like someone breaking into your home). Wilderness survival skills include things like building a fire and finding water and urban survival skills include topics like how to make meals from very limited supplies. In both scenarios, life-saving first aid skills are important.

4. Negotiation Skills

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

It’s amazing the number of times negotiation is needed in our lives — when we’re buying a car, trying to get our bills reduced, negotiating our salary, or even just trying to get our significant other to get pesky chores done. Many schools have debating teams, but negotiation is something we could all learn to be better at.

3. Basic Self-Defence

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

One semester in high school, I was taught square dancing for PE. I think basic self-defence moves would have served me better today. (To be fair, the school also taught Judo, but only for the boys. We girls got to do “modern dance”.)

2. Mental Health

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

All of us have to deal with mental health issues from time to time, whether it’s how to handle stress or anxiety…or more difficult subjects like depression or addiction (personally or with someone you know). When mental health topics emerge in the news or something tragic befalls part of the schol, we talk about it more, but we’d all benefit if the discussions happened earlier.

1. How To Apply For Jobs And Handle Interviews

Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't

If the point of school is to help prepare us for work and to become productive, successful citizens, then exploring our career options, interviewing for jobs, and writing effective resumes should be part of our education.

Many schools do teach these skills and subjects in one form or another, but they’re not a universal part of our curriculum. Perhaps we’d all benefit if at least some of these were.


  • – how to do your tax (like an accountant would)
    – how the government works and how it affects you
    – how to vote for the right government for you
    – how to speak to officials/police/federal police
    – how insurance works
    – how and when to buy a house/rent

    “it goes on like this for a while sir…”

    • Yeah I completely agree. Forget sewing, home economics should cover all of this stuff in first year of High School

  • Thanks for the thoughtful list. Most if the suggestions are very useful. I’d replace speed reading with politics though. When I mean politics, I mean Machiavellian politics rather than politicians & government specifically. It’s a shame that Machiavelli is viewed as evil – as much if his advice is about influence and negotiation.

  • Speed reading through skimming and scanning texts is introduced as a comprehension skill from year one and the new Mathatics syllabus introduces money management and is being implemented next year in NSW.

    • New mathematics syllabus? You mean the 3 year old Australian Curriculum from ACARA? Queensland has been using that since it was created.

  • We were taught finance in school. In grade 5 we did a program called “Earn and Learn” where we’d have to run our own store (we’d rearrange the room every second Friday and sell toys, food etc. from our table). One group of kids ran a casino and made bucketloads. Then throughout the week we’d have to sit down and work out how much we made, how much we spent and try and finish the ‘game’ with the most money.

    They stopped doing it in grade 6 because they found out kids were photocopying the play money.

    Then in high school we did a similar thing (in year 8 or 9, I think) where we’d have to run our own business (nothing like Earn and Learn though) and work out what it cost to run a business before spending time managing a ‘personal budget’ of buying groceries, cars, houses and stuff like that.

    But yeah I wish they’d taught a little more of that in school,

    • We did this too, my “business” was selling cars. (Well, cut outs of cars from magazines)

      I made a shit-tonne of money and we have to shut it down because I had all the money, and people were trying to copy my idea and there were too many people selling the same product that there was no demand for. They actually used this to explain monopolisation and demand and supply, as well as over-saturation of markets.

  • Self defense is really important, not only is it great exercise, but it has many other positives requiring discipline, placing emphasis on negotiation rather than conflict, teaching restraint, dealing with adversary, and many strategies for defusing situations.
    All of these are applicable in every aspect of life
    And it’s much more fun than the pointless shit they made us do like throw javelins and shotputs
    What bully would pick on someone who knew how to supplex them?

    Here are my additions to the list, and they’re kinda joined at the hip:

    Treat others as you would like to be treated, this used to be the entire underlying message of sane religions, but now that everyone’s a snarky atheist, maybe we need to teach it in schools
    And maybe we should send some of our ‘leaders’ back to school as well

    The most important subject IMO and only now just being begun to be introduced to high schools
    The best way to teach people to become rational skeptics, getting them to think about: What is true? What is right? What is real? What is the best way to live?
    And to be able to analyze ideas with no clear answer, make arguments and discuss them without getting offended and hurling insults as most people tend to do, which is why religion and dogmas still exist, including the most dangerous kinds: statism and ‘global warming’

    Instead of having segregated religious studies classes where the kiddies continue to stay closeminded and ignorant, teach them about all of them, even the dead ones nobody believes in anymore, babylonian gods, norse gods, aztec gods, so they can see how ridiculous it is to think that their god/s and beliefs are correct
    And for the record, I’m agnostic

    • Hell, I’m pretty sure we used to do at least a limited version of the later ones there.

      Debating classes. Especially if you could force the kids to debate a subject they held the opposite opinion to, it would allow them to see the merits and flaws and understand how someone might reasonably hold that view, without vilifying them.

      • Our school didn’t have that,

        We had these little culty sessions once a month in primary school and once a year in high school where you got put in a classroom with all the other kids whose parents put down the same religion, and then they’d bring in people from the local church or whatnot and indoctrinate the kids a little bit
        It was a bit like sunday school… except at a public school and not on a sunday

        Religious studies in high school was an elective, but that doesn’t do much to broaden one’s horizons if they don’t choose it, and the ones that don’t are the ones that can get a little nutty

        • I went to a Catholic high school (I’m Atheist, but it was the only school in my town which offered music as a class) and we of course did Religious Studies. It started in year 7 being based mostly around Catholicism, but towards the end (around year 11 I think is when they started it) it turned in to more theological studies, we studied all of the religions, and even got to go on excursions to different temples/mosques/places of worship.
          I’m still Atheist, but it just means I can talk about Religion and why I don’t believe in it with a bit of knowledge behind me.

          • That’s cool, I thought they just had nuns teach you everything and gave you holy water to drink at recess
            Wonder if other religious schools do similar things

        • I had those scrpture classes every Tuesday afternoon. My mother isn’t at all religious but wouldn’t let me go to the “non-religion” class instead of the Roman Catholic one, which I was put in purely because that’s what I was baptised as, for reasons that elude me to this day.

          I wound up joining the band because band practice got me out of going to scripture, so at least I learned to tootle a mean euphonium.

    • I had to chuckle at the idea that ‘religion’ is about being closed minded; the freedom, intellectual enquiry, openness and exploratory impulse that characterises the west is largely a result of its Christian heritage. For closed mindedness go check the atheist based societies of Mao, Stalin, Hitler (he was a pagan of convenience, and despised Christianity), Pol Pot; and of course, Islam, the greatest ‘dead hand’ religion of all time.

      • Actually, when I wrote that, I had islam in mind, and religious studies would benefit them far more than any other group lol
        I knew someone who I had to let go, because he got more nutty the more he read from his favorite brand of book, I don’t think he’s even read the whole thing, and yet he has chosen that as the book to live by, that it is the uncorrupted word of god and tried to push it on me. Never read any other books, only knows about other religions from what he’s heard rather than read for himself, doesn’t know any history outside of his book, no need!
        Now if he was exposed to other religions earlier in life, instead of being so insular, maybe he would have turned out differently.

        You are right about the west’s foundation upon christianity, I’m not saying religion is bad, religion has been very positive and constructive overall. It is the glue that built civilizations and to suddenly remove it would be dangerous. The romans allowed people in conquered lands to keep their gods and religions because it worked better that way. But there are a few aspects that need to be reduced.

        The problem begins when people cling onto the words too closely, accepting their translation, given explanation or own interpretation as correct, not factoring in edits, errors, different context and accept it arbitrarily without question

        The problem gets worse when dogmatic beliefs are shown to be false when challenged with logic and evidence and people continue clinging onto those beliefs, that becomes a breeding ground for ignorance. This is not limited to religion, it happens in science as well, it’s more a human psychology thing than anything, it can be dealt with when made consciously aware of.

        The problematic stage is when you start forcing others to accept your views, and make actions based on your beliefs that affect others, use religion to justify your actions. Religion doesn’t have to be just spiritually oriented, statism is a religion that replaced god with people who think they are god, it’s a recipe for disaster.

        Global warming is another religion gaining support, all the aspects of a religion are there, original sin that we’ve put too much carbon in the atmosphere and faith that this is true despite contrary evidence (yeah try bringing it up to a believer, I’ve tried!), sacrifices to save the earth like the pagans did, melting ice cap apocalypse, al gore as the pope, white coats instead of white robes, hippies telling you to go vegan because meat production produces a lot of CO2 (dietary restrictions in a religion?!), and worst of all it allows governments to have even greater control over the economy (haven’t we learnt from history yet?)
        During the last Rio earth summit, they lit up the Christ Redeemer statue with a green light, I think that says everything.

        • Love how you talk about the nutter at work then go off the deep end in the last paragraph.
          Good example!

  • How to talk to police – what you are required to answer and what your rights are.
    About how government works. In grade 6 you don’t care. A bit older when it will actually be impacting you soon.

  • Critical thinking!!

    Every day you run into people that are convinced to believe in nonsense.

    – Understanding how to assess claims, how to look for objective indicators of questionable methodology, how to look up citations, how to recognise common logical fallacies and common techniques for deception.
    – Understanding your own biases. Understand there are things that you will want to believe are true before you even thinking about assessing the evidence (or lack thereof). How to be vigilant of your own biases, and learn to follow an objective assessment despite your “gut feel”.
    – Studying historical examples of deceptions, cults, quacks, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias etc.

  • Good list. The advice under basic money management should read spend less than you earn, though, not save more than you earn.

  • I’d teach kids how to iron a shirt. It amazes how many people 10 years younger than me cannot iron a basic dress shirt. It’s so simple, and yet they look at the iron as if it’s some alien technology.

  • 1. How To Apply For Jobs And Handle Interviews

    Dunno about anyone else but I was actually taught this in school. I think it was in year 10, before we were sent out to find work experience.

    • I was taught how to apply for jobs in one of my mandatory home ec classes (for some reason?), as in how to target your resume/cover letter to the job you’re applying for instead of generic bs. In that class I also had an assignment to make a 30 minute “demo tape” for a radio station.

      In retrospect I kind of wonder if our home ec teacher was just some random who walked in off the street.

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