I’m a fan of formal education and even then have to admit that the innovation age is making school curricula outdated. 

At the heart of this is the industrial age approach of selecting a ‘stream’ in the 9th grade or the 11th grade, or while applying for college. As a young teen, one is expected to identify what their interests might be, and zone in on that for the next few years, often feeling trapped and worse, unmotivated. 

That model does not hold true anymore. The internet has democratized access, changed our notion of what is and what is not possible, and thrown open an abundance of opportunity, regardless of where you are. The pace of change is staggering and often blurry, with education failing to stay abreast. 

Through sheer happenstance and divine grace, almost 15 years ago, I ended up at a liberal arts college, where I was introduced to a new model of learning. The focus was never on selecting a ‘major’; rather the emphasis was on building one’s general abilities, which would then provide the foundation for any career track (and subsequent career changes) my friends and I decided to pursue later in life. It was phenomenal.  

Based on my college experience, and subsequent life learnings, if I were to start a school, here are 10 things that my students would learn, with the goal of preparing confident, well-rounded teens, who dream big, have the intellectual and emotional wherewithal to navigate uncertainty, and squeeze the most out of life.

  1. Learning to code: Because code is the language of the 21st century.
  2. Learning to emote freely and emote well: Because to live well is to live freely, wearing your mistakes as a badge of honor. Boys would get extra credit for acing this course 😛 It is also astounding how this is not covered in schools today.
  3. Learning basic math and clear writing: Never ceases to surprise me how a good number of competitive jobs globally look for just 2 basic things – individuals who can do basic math (no, not calculus) and individuals who can write cogently.
  4. Learning a sport, ideally a team sport: Yes, cricket counts.
  5. Learning about nutrition and learning to cook: The body is our temple, and knowing how to cook is a life hack (which I still haven’t hacked).
  6. Learning some psychology: EQ can be nurtured, and the closest academic body of knowledge that comes close to teaching us about other people is psychology.
  7. Learning some history: History seldom repeats itself but it often rhymes. Though the way history is taught in India is borderline travesty (the topic of another post), it does teach us a thing or 2 about how the more things change, the more our human motivations remain the same.
  8. Learning personal financial management: A little goes far here. We never know what our risk appetite is until we know how to manage risk in the first place.
  9. Learning communication: Both verbal and non-verbal. How we relate with people, is how the world relates to us.
  10. Learning discipline: Because most things worth accomplishing in this life take time.