Students not prepared for real life
THERE'S a point in adulthood where many of us step back and go, "Christ, I am not prepared for any of this."
And a lot of it falls on our schooling. We spent years learning to measure the angles of a triangle, but navigating our taxes remains a nightmare. We memorised quotes from every Shakespearean tragedy ever written, but networking events can put the fear of God in us.
The narrative goes that if you study hard, get high scores and land a spot at a good university, you'll breeze into a decent job.
But worrying research shows this is definitely not the case - and it's the next generation of workers that face a big struggle.
STUDENTS NOT EQUIPPED FOR LIFE AFTER SCHOOL
Concerning new research has found students are not adequately equipped to brave the workforce, due to an emphasis on school tests like NAPLAN and the ATAR results.
The Mitchell Institute report stresses the importance of teaching about life after school, saying "trade-offs within the curriculum will be necessary".
The report suggested a key issue was focusing on scores that could be numerically measured, like the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) tests, rather than the workplace.
"Narrow proxy measures of academic achievement are made a priority - as demonstrated by the emphasis that many schools place on lifting NAPLAN results and Australian Tertiary ATARs."
As a result, many young people are disengaging from learning, and failing to hone the life skills necessary for the world outside of school.
News.com.au approached around a dozen university students to ask what they wish they'd learnt in high school.
Lazarus, 23, who is studying a Master of Physiotherapy at the University of Technology, Sydney, said he wished he had learnt more about networking, and knowing the right way to approach prospective employers.
His friend Daniel, doing the same degree, added that he wished he'd been taught how to finetune resumes before starting university.
While most students felt confident doing their taxes, they said "money management" was a big thing they wish they knew, including how to save and what to invest in.
Mitchell Institute Policy Analyst Kate Torii stresses the importance of learning "real world" skills like networking.
"Exposure to the world of work provides opportunities for students to build connections with professionals outside their usual family networks, and to learn by "doing" in real world contexts," she wrote in The Conversation.
"This offers some valuable benefits - enriching school learning, building students' employability, and helping them develop the capabilities (such as problem solving, collaboration, and resilience) that we know are valued in work and life."
'HUGE SOCIETAL PRESSURE' FOR HIGH SCORES
This isn't the first report to address concerns about how we're failing our students.
Last month, research by Year13 found high school students were focused on picking subjects as a means of maximising their ATAR score - at the expense of expanding their skill sets.
Saxon Phipps, founder and director of Year13, told news.com.au young people believe they can gain a higher ATAR result by choosing easier subjects.
For example, a student who should be doing Extension Mathematics might do the easier General course as a means of scoring higher in that subject.
"There's a huge societal pressure," he said. "Even if they don't use their ATAR score, they're doing it for the glory that comes with a higher mark."
In addition to contributing to mental health issues, this meant students weren't adequately prepared for the outside world upon graduating high school.
And to what benefit? The university dropout rate is higher than ever, with recent Federal Government figures showing that students packing in their degrees has reached its highest levels in a decade.
At the same time, only 71 per cent of graduates were able to secure a job straight out of university, while almost 15 per cent were still unemployed four years after graduating.
In 1986, it took university graduates an average of one year to gain full-time employment. It now takes almost five years.
Earlier this year, Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel called for a broader discussion into how the skills students learnt in school could be applied to real life when they graduated.
"The total percentage of people studying advanced mathematics has almost halved between 1992 and 2012, from 16 to 9 per cent," Dr Finkel told news.com.au. "Maths in particular is a core enabler of all STEM subjects. It's the language of science.
"There could be some misinterpretation here, but it seems kids are consistently being told to pick subjects that maximise their ATAR rankings."
He also said every single parent, teacher, student and careers adviser needed to at least understand how the ATAR system worked.
"We want young people to study the most advanced studies they're capable of, and for the doors of opportunity to remain open," Dr Finkel said.
"Every time a kid gets the wrong message, that door slams shut."
A review of the curriculum is expected by 2020.