Student Life

Prepare to Fail or Prepare to Succeed

By Isabella Ureta @bondibella_

Isn’t absurd that students are taught subjects at school that are just totally useless to their future.

Yes, learning Algebra and Biology are important for good academics but, realistically speaking, school teaches you nothing useful about life skills which are critical to personal wellbeing and development.

As it stands right now, it is so difficult for young people to build a proper foundation for themselves without the knowledge of certain life skills that are important in preparing them for adulthood. The Australian education system, like many others, currently lacks courses that prepare students for adulthood, careers, and social development within its curriculum.

At school, we are taught to focus so much on academic achievement instead of learning things that will help us to develop holistically. Algebra? SOHCAHTOA (sine, cosine, and tangent)? Apart from being such a boring subject, I personally have never used that outside of a math class. We have been made to believe that these kinds of subjects are important to help us to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, but I can think of more useful topics that would have been more valuable to me at school.

It leaves me to question why we are taught such useless topics at school, when we should be taught how to prepare for the future to avoid failure? This is happening everywhere. It is a serious global concern that we, as students, are taught to follow a system that either sets us up for failure or places us in serious bad debt that we have no idea how to get out of.

Philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey believed that education should also prepare students to take a full and active part in shaping their future society. He believed that school was a place where students should learn how to develop the necessary life skills and behaviours to become upstanding individuals or citizens.

One of the most important life lessons that students should learn from childhood is the value of money management. Results from a case study on financial education in schools, conducted by Robert Drake of Financial Literacy Australia, show that more than half of Australia’s youth between the ages of 18–24 have consumer debt and one-fifth of young people with credit card debt hardly ever pay the full balance every month.

A few years ago, I was so deep in debt that I got completely depressed and stressed over finding a way out. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do. One of my close friends gave me a book called The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape, who is a best-selling author from Australia. I admit that because I hate reading, I was hesitant about this book. However, I was still interested in getting to the good stuff, and my friend insisted that I read it. He mentioned that it is a step-by-step guide with easy instructions to follow so that I won’t jump ahead of myself.

So, I started reading and following all the steps outlined in the book and wow! This was the solution I needed. I was so impressed with the information and tips I was learning and honestly cursed all my wasted days in high school learning useless subjects. Oh, how I wish I had learnt all this helpful information back then.

I feel so empowered by what I have learnt, and these tips need to be revisited yearly, even monthly as a refresher since things and situations can change. But what have I really learnt so far? Let’s start with how to manage my money. Money management was a major lesson for me, investing my money and putting it on autopilot, ridding myself of credit cards and debt, and saving for rainy days. I had received the motivation that I needed to deal with my debt and right now I have zero debt to my name, and I have begun saving for a house deposit.

Many young adults like myself have dreams of one day owning their own home. In The Barefoot Investor, Mr Pape highlights common mistakes that people make when buying their first house.

According to property research firm CoreLogic, Australian house prices are increasing rapidly and that is worsening the ability for young persons to afford homes. Thankfully, low interest rates and generous tax breaks for housing are allowing people to invest in the housing market.

What I learnt from Mr. Pape, most importantly, is the need to save. He stresses the importance of setting up savings targets that are possible and sustainable. A healthy savings account can put you in a better position as a creditor, so the banks won’t charge you extra for lender’s mortgage insurance. It is wise for people to develop healthy spending habits. Therefore, including financial education in schools is undoubtedly a need.

The Barefoot Investor is no ordinary book. It is a guide on ways to improve your financial literacy, or according to Mr Pape, how to be “financially fireproof.” I must say though that what may work for me, may not be what works for you. I truly wish that I had the opportunity to learn these lessons in personal finance at school many years ago, but it is never too late to start securing your future.

This guide is designed to help Australians achieve a sense of financial control, and the advice that The Barefoot Investor gives is very helpful. Ensure that you remain critical about the information you are receiving and do what works best for you and your situation. In relation to implementing realistic life skill lessons in schools, I believe that it is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the education sector to help develop young adults for the world outside of the classroom. To be well-rounded, students need to be influenced academically, socially, and morally.

Featured image: Which path will you take? Photo: Laenulfean/CC/flickr

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