Are our current school curriculums outdated?


Graphic by Maryam Girowall

It is an undeniable fact that the world has changed immensely over the past century. But even though most of society has adapted to life, the school curriculum has not.  

200 years ago, education was provided solely for the elite. However, as industrialization changed everyday life, a need was created for universal schooling — but for all the wrong reasons. Factories wanted employees who were agreeable, showed up on time and did what they were told to do. Likewise, sitting in a classroom all day and being told when to eat, what to learn and whether or not you are allowed to go to the bathroom are principal aspects of formal education. But, it was also great training for factory life. 

“Workers who had always spent their working days in a domestic setting had to be taught to follow orders, to respect the space and property rights of others, be punctual, docile, and sober,” economist Joel Mokyr at Northwestern University said in an article with Quartz.

One of the key findings of a study done by We Are Restless was that 40% of youth feel that education is badly aligned with work opportunities. In adult life, having the knowledge to do things like saving money, filing taxes and managing credit are essential skills for living. A study done in 2016 by PwC, a tax service company, shows that K-12 educators have expressed their desire for financial education, with 92% of those surveyed agreeing that it should be taught in schools. Only 12% actually teach finances to their students. But even though so many educators agree, school, which is supposed to prepare students for the real world, fails to teach any of these skills. Instead, the school curriculum is determined to teach traditional memorization methods, which, realistically, will rarely prove useful in the real world. Schools are adamant about forcing students to fit into a box, convincing them that there is a single method and answer for everything. While in reality, it is quite the opposite; working with others and thinking outside the box is what will actually help you in the future. However, for decades, schools have been setting unrealistic standards on what a classroom should look like, and refusing to change them, labeling students as “defiant” when they try to speak up about it. This perpetuates the idea that the material being taught is not actually helpful, causing students to feel suffocated, and their desire to succeed academically vanishes. 

Older generations like to call us lazy, incompetent and ungrateful for not appreciating school. But despite what they believe, Gen-Z is bright, but we are simply more critical of some aspects of school. The fact that schools refuse to change their curriculum to adapt to today’s world is only making students’ disdain worsen. If you really think about it, when in life are you going to need to know how to analyze a Shakespearean sonnet? Why is it that taking a literature class which teaches you little to no real-life skills is necessary, but subjects such as finances are not a priority? While the standard school curriculum does give students the ability to find out what career path they want to follow, ultimately, a big chunk of what is taught will never find the opportunity to resurface, and that is a problem that needs to be looked at.