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Why it's Essential to Teach Real-world Skills in Classrooms

Updated on January 7, 2013

In my days as a high school student, I was immersed in a fact-giving culture of education where tools for analytic and critical thinking were rarely present or encouraged; creativity and imaginative twist on ideas was rarely encouraged or would be out of context and embarrassing if brought up in an unwelcoming environment. Another side-effect of your average knowledge culture is a lack of motivation in terms of “the big picture”…why is the work important and what you would be able to do with it in the real word. Acknowledging how learning applies to the real world context is to extract some of the real world into the classroom. Talking about visionaries in the field, what paths they took to make it and how their knowledge and personal ambition helped, is very important in inspiring teenagers to think beyond high-school and start thinking about their futures way before college. This thinking will hopefully create a culture of early responsibility, curiosity and inspiration. It could also encourage students to take on internships after high school and even take a gap-year off to work, travel and gain real-world insight before entering college.

And what about a compulsory course on “Life Skills” where students learn about insurance, filing tax returns, managing finances, taking out a mortgage and investing? Isn't this more important not only in the sense of know-how but also in that it gets students to think about careers and their futures? By babying students and not challenging them beyond the worksheets and recitation that adds to some of the lethargic monotony of teenager-hood is detrimental to creating possibilities of personal impact in theirs societies and leads to disillusionment and false thinking that one must wait to "grow up" to be able to contribute to the world meaningfully. Teens want to be challenged and they want to feel useful. When they are denied their contributions and ideas, they turn to distractions. No wonder there is such a thing called teenage angst.

What many teenagers lack is a perspective of the world beyond the bubble of the school system. For college kids, it’s even more-so important to be mentally ready for the world beyond the classrooms. Universities and colleges should organize and create “ready for life beyond college” teams and work with students to finance their internships, travel, research on the field and other activities that put them in touch with the world beyond school. The investment is worth it. Students will be more ready and mentally empowered to make certain lifestyle and job decisions and their experience will help them get employment much more easily. Then, they would be more likely to give back to the alma maters that helped finance their futures. I believe that this is a much wiser investment of school funds then building multi-million dollar buildings that are oftentimes more aesthetic than necessary.

Yet another skill that is price-less and one that is often overlooked for the classroom-learned knowledge are social skills. It is very surprising how limiting the interaction between students can be. By making lessons interactive, teachers can create better learning environments and push students to work together in order to build on their social skills. For many students, school is the primary means of interaction with others, and to just sit and not participate and talk with teachers and classmates is detrimental to effective education. To express ideas clearly, to be able to make eye contact when speaking, to interact and learn about and from those you share time with daily is essential to real-world success. How many directors, managers, teachers and CEOs are there without social skills? I would say very, very few…if any. In order to work with people and especially manage them, you need to communicate with them, relate to them and make them feel important.

So this is my plea to the education systems around the world: please make education in schools use real-world success as the objective even if there is bureaucratic red tape of what teachers can teach that is based on passing state-designed ability tests. Focus on tangible, real-world skills and get our future generations mentally, emotionally and practically ready for the world beyond school. And never underestimate experience as the best education there is!

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

-William Arthur Ward


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    • AnesaK profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from USA

      Thanks for your comment, Denise! I am a huge proponent for training programs and apprenticeships; I think they can complement higher education or replace it altogether...depending on the individual's needs and career desires. I look at Germany where vocational schools are very common (although I don't agree that students need to choose univerity or vocational school before high school...there are indeed some flaws in the German system), and there are very low rates of unemployment currently; Germany's doing better economically than most cuntries, and I do believe it is because they train their population highly in technical skills. Too many American students are not ready for the workplace with only university knowledge, and this should change.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Well said! Our society needs more skill ready graduates that have experience in the "real world" both in terms of personal skills, and in terms of job skills. There seems to be a chasm between what is taught in the schools and what is needed in the work place. It takes a lot of time for research to catch up with what is happening in society and be translated into textbooks and classroom teaching. I believe that the cost of a college education is becoming so prohibitive that in the near future, we will see more on-the-job training programs for those who are willing to work and learn as they go.


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