Following a 2013 inquiry, the British Youth Council have unveiled new plans to improve life skills learning in schools. The ‘Curriculum for Life’ aims to improve the education of young people in a variety of different areas. This includes finance skills, sex education, cultural awareness and political literacy.
So what exactly is this ‘Curriculum for Life’, what is the point of it, and will it realistically work?
Education is integral to our upbringing. Schooling shapes who we are, who we become and unlocks the potential that we have. Alongside core academic lessons, subjects like PSHE help to inform young people on issues that affect them.
A recent inquiry has discovered that PSHE is not reaching its full potential.
It discovered that teacher training in the subject was not of a good standard, leaving students with ‘time-filler, random lessons’. With Theresa May’s devolution of responsibility to schools, the report suggests that this must mean an increase in standardised training.
The outcome is a campaign for a Curriculum for Life, backed by 130,647 young people.
It looks to improve the training of teaching staff to decrease the importance of outside organisations, and involve pupils in shaping their own lessons and curriculums. At its core, it believes that PSHE should play a far more prominent role in schools.
But do we actually need this ‘Curriculum’ to become good citizens?
There would certainly be benefits; specifically in improving political literacy. Through improved training, teachers could feel more confident in engaging young people on important issues. Understanding the basis of our democracy, the important details of individual parties and how voting systems work can be of great benefit to wider society.
Similarly, sex education is an important guide to an often overwhelming period in a young person’s life. Even if it is seen as the ‘funny lesson’ or gets youngsters giggling, familiarising them with sexual health is vital. In 2018, however, it is imperative that sex education is inclusive of measures for LGBT students too — something still appallingly void in today’s system.
This Curriculum also comes with its negatives. A nation-wide overhaul of training for teachers in a seconded subject is no easy feat. Not only does it go against the May government’s autonomous approach to education, it will also be very costly.
While training could potentially be beneficial, much of this teaching is hypothetical. Training children how to deal with their own finances won’t automatically make them good with money. More broadly, teaching life skills from a textbook can be a risky and redundant exercise. These lessons must come from experience, from your own mistakes — it is a part of growing up.
Another problematic area is teaching ‘cultural awareness’. A broad phrase that must be questioned as regards to just how honest, how inclusive and how open those discussions would be. Issues like LGBT rights, religion and feminism all mean different things to different people, and that includes teachers too. Streamlining that into a singular ‘national’ approach would be almost impossible.
The Curriculum for Life clearly offers some benefits. Wider political literacy and inclusive sex education are surefire positives.
What it proposes however is potentially problematic in areas of cultural sensitivity. By throwing in broad terms like ‘cultural awareness’, it opens up a debate on what exactly that means.
Implementing this Curriculum would not be cheap, and large parts of it would essentially be attempting to teach life experiences from a textbook. Learning experiences in such a hypothetical way is not always the answer — people grow and learn from making their own choices and mistakes. It is the way life has worked for a long time, and the way it should continue.
Feel free to contribute to the debate in the comments below.