Real Life: Will Our Students Be Ready?

"Welcome To The Real World, eh?" by Now I'm Always Smiling.

There is a theme running through many of the conversations I seem to be having at the moment. Provoked by a number of things like Jamie Oliver’s recent TED Talk about food, a meeting last night with a property investor, a presentation by Robyn Treyvaud about online safety and a discussion with a colleague about his daughter’s struggles to contend with health insurance, student loans and rental contracts, I wonder… are students leaving school with any of the knowledge/skills they actually need to survive life?


Jamie Oliver stated that kids should be leaving school with at least 10 recipes up their sleeve that will empower them to get through their first few years of independence without relying on junk, canned, frozen and microwaved food. He argues that this sort of education used to take place at home, but it isn’t any more and schools have the chance to fill that gap. Jamie is dealing with the third generation of people who have not learned to cook at home! No wonder everyone eats such low-quality food and are heading towards serious diet-related illnesses. Can schools step in here? I think so… and here are the benefits:

  • Kids will leave school knowing how to cook for themselves.
  • As they grow older and their cooking skills develop, they can be shared with their families to ensure that cooking is “passed on”.
  • Kids who develop a serious interest in cooking and kitchen work will leave school prepared for that industry – a massive industry that mainly picks up its people once they’ve gone down other paths and hated them.
  • Kids who develop an interest in food and writing will have a head start into the area of recipe-writing and food-related publishing.
  • Food preparation and cooking is actually very scientific and would, if taught well, cover a variety of scientific concepts that might otherwise be taught in a dry and unengaging way.
  • Food preparation and cooking involve reading and following complex procedures and is therefore very powerful in developing students’ ability to read and comprehend written instructions.
  • If given the responsibility, students can learn all about budgeting for food, the practicalities of shopping and the harsh reality of wasted ingredients – all vital life skills.
  • Once basics have been covered, cooking is very creative and would enable students to innovate and express themselves through food.
  • By learning to cook food from a variety of cultures, cooking develops open-mindedness in students and encourages them to be risk-takers not only with the kind of food they cook, but also the food they eat.
  • Food preparation, particularly, involves serious fine-motor skills. How many students leave school knowing how to cut a tomato effectively, or how to peel a potato?
  • By educating students to act and behave responsibly in kitchens we would be passing on vital safety skills.
  • By educating students about nutrition and how to cook food in ways that optimize the nutritional value of ingredients, we would be paving the way for a healthier future for these future adults!


Property Investor, Nick Cartledge, last night spoke about  a passion of his: unlocking the terrifying minefield of buying property through education. The first thing he does with potential clients is educates them. He explains the complex terminology and breaks down the facts and figures that so many of us do not understand and often run away from!

But, why don’t we understand them? Why are we scared of terms like “negative gearing”, “tax deductible”, “interest rates” and so on? The answer is simple. Nobody ever taught us. Yet, we would all aspire to buy a house or apartment at some point in our lives, preferably not too late right?

Surely schools should be educating students about:

  • Process involved in buying property
  • Loans and interest rates
  • Contracts
  • Basic laws
  • Credit cards
  • Processes involved in setting up bank accounts
  • Financial planning
  • Pension plans
  • Medical insurance
  • The cost of living!
  • Future financial constraints, such as the education of children

Not only would educating students about these issues prepare them for the real world that they will imminently be a part of. It will also expose them to large and vital sections of industry that they may be interested in working in.

Online Safety

Robyn Treyvaud recently ran a series of presentations at our schol about the issue of online safety. Robyn was very successful in her time at our school because of one key factor: she was honest. Brutally, openly honest. Honest with parents, honest with teachers, honest with students. The kids loved her for that, she knew what they were doing when they go online and she spoke to them in a way that didn’t patronize them, didn’t tell them off and didn’t pretend it wasn’t happening.

Everywhere, kids are going online and interacting in all sorts of ways and parents and teachers need to know what they are doing and educate them about how to do it responsibly, safely and purposefully. That is the reality. Enough said!

So What?

Now, I am sure that there are schools currently doing these things and I would love to hear more about them. I worry that we have gone down the road of academia and left the vital life-skills by the side of the road somewhere. The only problem is that our students are going to have to walk all the way back up that road and pick up those life skills somehow. Usually by making mistakes. Usually by getting ill. Usually by getting into trouble. Usually by falling into debt. Usually by relying on someone else.

Is that really what we want?



  1. msdenise6dh

    I’m with you, Sam. I think you’re asking all the right questions. But I also think it would be even better if parents and members of the community could join us in our efforts to prepare kids for the real world, esp in the areas you have highlighted. An example of this is a group of parents at our school who spend their Sat mornings with several year 12 and 13 students, teaching them how to plan, buy and prepare a variety of healthy meals. It has been a positive experience for all involved. The school provides the facility but the parents provide the lessons.

  2. Robyn Treyvaud

    These are the right questions Sam..tough but need to be asked..of school management teams and their boards, of policy makers, parents and business leaders. I think there are visionaries out there, such as Jamie O but for him to make his dream come true he needs money and a commitment from a range of people that have not quite seen what he sees. Thankfully we now can amplify these ideas and visions through TED to reach global audiences and in the process harness the good intentions of more than just a handful of passionate people. At a personal level, be the change YOU want to see in the world [Gandhi].

    • Mr. Sam

      I wonder if Jamie Oliver would work with international schools? Although, to be honest, 99% of my students eat very good quality food and many of them can cook!

  3. teresattung

    I agree with you 110% about cooking, Sam, and would even take it back another step to gardening and growing some of their own food. The more I dig into sustainability, the more I realize that the food industry is massive part of the problem and the potential solution. Food is one of the most practical and accessible means of engaging students with a wide variety of concepts – all those you mentioned, plus understanding where food comes from where it goes.

    I did a cooking activity after school last week with the Roots and Shoots members and they were all incredibly engaged – FIGHTING to cook. How often do teachers have students fighting to complete something in school? It was incredibly language and mathematically rich, not to mention all the social and fine motor skills that went into it.

    The disconnect with food is one of the saddest phenomenon of the developed world. Growing up on canned Campbell’s soup and reheated school tacos, I want to give our students learning opportunities that I never had.

    You’ve also got to watch this TED talk by Dan Barber. He’s incredible:

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