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15 Things Gen Z & Millennials Wish They Had Been Taught in School

We asked Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe what they think should be taught in school that isn’t. These are their top answers…


Gen Z and Millennials’ education has taken a hit in the past year and a half. With schools shut down and learning mostly remote, the majority of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe tell YPulse that their education has been severely set back because of COVID, and many are feeling overwhelmed when thinking about the upcoming Fall 2021 semester. In YPulse’s recent Education report, nearly half of secondary school students tell us COVID has changed their university plans, and 69% wish they’d learned more about alternatives to a traditional university education growing up. What’s more, 63% of primary and secondary school students agree with the statement, “I don’t need a university degree to be successful.” In YPulse’s Life Plans Rewritten trend report, 63% of 13-39-year-olds also told us that the pandemic has caused them to reassess their life goals, highlighting just how drastically COVID has altered Gen Z and Millennials’ educational plans. 

In all the upheaval of a year that became symbolized by a dumpster fire, young people all over the world are rethinking long-standing structures. With this in mind, we wanted to know what exactly they wish they were learning to better set off on their new life paths. In our recent behavioral survey, we asked the open-ended question, “What do you think students should be taught about in school that they currently aren’t?” Here are the top 15 responses:

What They Think Should Be Taught In School:

Among 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe

  1. Financial management skills / Economics
  2. Ethics / Mutual respect / Kindness
  3. Practical life skills (e.g. housekeeping skills, technical skills, etc.)
  4. Sex education / Healthy sexual habits / Sexology / Sexuality
  5. Emotional intelligence / Social skills / Communication skills
  6. Civics
  7. Racial and gender equality / Cultural awareness
  8. Career skills / Career choices
  9. True history  / Slavery / Colonial history
  10. Mental health skills / Psychosocial Skills
  11. Discipline / Good manners
  12. Ecology / Environmentalism 
  13. Computer skills / Science / Coding
  14. Entrepreneurial skills
  15. Foreign languages

Financial management skills is the top answer by a long shot—nearly twice as many respondents listed this as the top skill that should be taught in school compared to the second topic on the list. Young peoples’ finances were heavily impacted by the pandemic, spurring them to prioritize saving money and investing. Four in ten young European consumers tell us they hold investments, and 82% say saving money is important to them. What’s more, three-quarters of 13-39-year-olds are interested in learning how to improve their financial situation, and 78% of students agree with the statement, “I wish my school would teach us more about personal finance.” Since they’re not getting it at school, young people are finding their financial advice and management elsewhere. In the last year, services aimed at helping Gen Z manage their finances have popped up, including French startup Vybe, which is building an online bank alternative for European teens. Then there’s social media (where young consumers turn for many educational needs) which has become a hotbed of money advice and influence: financial advisors have flocked to TikTok to help users with tips on all things money management, and the hashtag #investing has a whopping 3.4 billion views.

While their number one response shows young European’s pragmatism—and throws light on their lingering COVID anxieties—their second most popular answer reveals a more emotional side: a desire to learn ethics, mutual respect, and kindness. In fact, “soft skills” like this show up throughout the list: emotional intelligence / social skills / communication skills clocks in at number five on the list, while mental health / psychosocial Skills and discipline / good manners come in at numbers 10 and 11. While these types of skills are not usually prioritized in traditional educational settings, Gen Z and Millennials are placing a higher premium on mental, social, and societal well-being. And while these generations have long been focused on mental health, they doubled down during the pandemic. In YPulse’s State of Mind trend report, 54% of 13-39-year-olds in the U.S. told us their mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. In this time, young people increasingly sought out professional mental health and mental health alternatives: the number of young people who spoke to a mental health professional went from 41% in 2017 to 56% in 2020. Self-guided mental health tools have also been in demand, with the popularity of mindfulness/meditation smartphone apps increasing in the last year. 

Racial and gender equality / cultural awareness also appeared high on the list, highlighting young people’s ongoing commitment to justice. Though last year’s Black Lives Matters protests sparked in the U.S., the movement went global, showcasing just how universal issues of discrimination are. A recent study in the U.K. found that many teens of color in the U.K. have experienced racism, and when YPulse asks young people about the issues that they are passionate about, civil rights, human rights, and racial/ethnic discrimination are among the top. It’s key for brands to understand that this issue is important to young consumers in Western Europe, too. 

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE education behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.