When it comes to actual life learning, universities strangely lack a curriculum. Yes, they do teach you how to groom your hard and soft skills and give you the best subject knowledge they can, but when it comes to actual helpful knowledge, you’re left to fend for yourself.
To be fair, it does make sense that you learn real-life lessons after you make mistakes. But there are a lot of different aspects of adulthood that, if taught about in universities, would actually make life easier for us.
It’s not that universities or the overall higher education system don’t teach you stuff. But having done a post-graduate degree from a well-reputed university, and having worked with people who’ve done the same, I’ve realized that while universities do pride themselves in grooming students for growth, they hardly venture out of the domain students have chosen for themselves. Even though there are multiple subjects and avenues, every decent human being should know about to become a well-rounded individual. What are those lessons? Let’s find out…
Mental health and anxiety management
Everyone has mental health issues, but the stigma attached to such illnesses has made even basic awareness inaccessible. But that doesn’t mean people would stop feeling anxious or get over their illness or phobias. No matter what field you belong in; whether it’s business or marketing, sociology or history, science or even engineering, everyone can have social anxiety, stage fright, or other phobias that can go unnoticed for a lifetime unless recognized and diagnosed.
Thus, universities need to teach you how you can manage your mental health while being a part of a very competitive world and understand how to handle pressure at workplaces, how to have a commendable sense of self-worth, and how to build your self-esteem. And no, this shouldn’t be offered as an extra-curricular activity, but as a core subject or exercise. Because no matter what field you’re in or which elective you choose to excel in, if your mental health isn’t managed, it can make growth harder for you.
Tax filing and returns
Taxes are an inevitable part of adult life, but sadly, many people don’t know how to become a filer, let alone file for tax returns or follow the right rules to become a tax-paying citizen. That they leave such an important part of your life untaught is an atrocity.
What can universities do? Have interactive and engaging sessions where people can learn how to register as taxpayers, when to pay taxes, and how to file for returns. This won’t just make them more responsible, but will actually teach them a life skill that can actually help in life (as opposed to the Pythagoras theorem which, to be very honest, I’ve never used after learning it back in school).
Alternate career routes and options
Universities teach you a one-shot way to success without talking about what happens when you fail. They teach CV submission skills without telling you what to do if you don’t get a response even after you send your application to 20 different places, English language skills without figuring out what you’d do if you weren’t very good at it. They don’t teach serial entrepreneurship, freelancing, not even the basics of startup bootstrapping that can help you if you’re not part of the 9 to 5 life.
That’s majorly insufficient and if you summed up all the money you pay these institutes over the course of your studies, also infuriating.
And after the onset of the pandemic, it’s even more important to learn how to grow digitally. Universities should teach the right use of social media platforms for career growth, building your personal brand, and creating a valuable digital presence.
While universities teach personal finance, they do it on such a professional level that every concept seems foreign. Understanding how to manage your salary and cash flow are so important, if you don’t do it well from the beginning, you find yourself starting from step one every month.
I agree that institutes can’t make you get your life on track, but the least they can do is teach you how to do it. How to open a bank account, how to become resourceful, and at the very least, how to save your money without going through your paycheck entirely. They shouldn’t just teach the complicated investment jargon, but also how to invest with actual asset management companies. These are real-life skills that need drilling in your brain, not the overly complicated methods of calculating a hedge fund that you won’t even know how to invest in if your basics aren’t clear.
Of all the life skills people should learn, sex education is probably the most important and should be taught way before university. But that may be too forward for our society. So in that case, university-level sex education is probably the only choice. Teach people about STDs, HIV, other similar diseases, and most importantly: consent.
University is mainly where people start engaging with the opposite gender, especially people who’ve spent their lives studying in segregated schools and colleges. If this isn’t where they’re taught sexual responsibility, they would hardly learn it anywhere else.
Another thing that connects to this domain is self-defense. Combine this with sex ed and you have a win-win course right there.
Pakistan is a pretty great country when it comes to cultural diversity, but not so great when it comes to the awareness of said diversity. We’ve got four provinces, hundreds of different tribes with unique cultural values, over 70 different languages that are spoken in the country, but all we talk about is a measurable few. Sure, you don’t have to teach Punjabi folklore to business students or Balochi language to science grads. But at least tell them about it? Educate them about the different variations of life that are being lived in this country instead of repeating the same few chapters that are taught since primary school.
Every person who is ever going to venture into a professional life will have to come across different people who speak different languages. Just because you don’t belong to an ethnicity or cultural group doesn’t mean you cannot learn about them.
Summing it up…
These are just a few different things we’ve shortlisted that can be a part of an average person’s high school education. However, there’s so much more to life than just these points. Universities in our country, or maybe in the whole world, focus on the outer image of a person. How they talk, walk, read, study, and observe. But what they miss out on is the inner nuances that make up said person. Our curriculums focus on the superlatives, the meritocracy and the excellence, even though what they should be teaching is humanity, practicality and life rules.
I don’t say that what universities are teaching isn’t important. Sure, it is, and it’s all important when it comes to adult life. But when it comes to education, what’s missing is the constructive concepts and practices that can actually help you get your life together, rather than jargons that can only help in certain areas of life.