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Gen Z & Millennials Wish They Were Learning These Skills In School

Young people want to see students learn more than just their core subjects in school…


TL;DR

  • Gen Z and Millennials rank real-world skills like personal finance management and home economics as the top things students should learn in school
  • Even as diversity in education has grown, young people still say students aren’t currently learning “real,” culturally diverse history
  • Real survival skills and mental health education are topics young people want to see students learn in the classroom

The majority of Gen Z, having grown up with near unlimited access, rely on the internet and social media for anything they want to learn. In fact, YPulse’s Education report shows that 84% of Gen Z say they would use the internet / online resources if they wanted to learn something new, as compared to 41% who say they would turn to a teacher. And, really, why wouldn’t they choose the instant access to information they carry in their pocket? There’s a YouTube video for everything, and now, an even quicker TikTok. 

But, they’re also turning to the internet out of what feels like necessity. Evidently, there are a range of topics and skills students don’t feel they’re learning in the classroom, and so turn to other sources. When YPulse asked 13-39-year-olds what they think students should be learning in school that they aren’t currently, as an open ended-question, their top answers range widely—and beyond usual class subjects:

What students should learn in school that they don’t currently

13-39-year-olds

  1. Personal finance management / Financial literacy
  2. Basic life skills or necessities / Home economics
  3. Interpersonal skills
  4. Diversity / Inequality 
  5. Real history (more cultures, non-American POV, etc.)
  6. Survival skills / Coping skills
  7. Investing
  8. Religion
  9. Civic responsibilities / Civil behaviors
  10. Mental health / Mental wellness
  11. Current events

Personal Finances 

The number one thing young people think students should be learning in school, that they aren’t currently, is financial literacy. And, according to our Personal Finance and Services report, 81% of Gen Z agree they wish their school would teach them more about personal finance. In America, Forbes reports that “A separate high school finance class is only required in five states, and while another five states require that such a course be offered, it is not mandatory to graduate.” 

Even college students have been struggling with this; YPulse’s Self-Taught trend report found that personal finance is the number one topic college graduates wish they had learned about in school. Millennials clearly feel the impact of these missing courses still, as when YPulse asked them what they wanted to learn in 2022, finance management was their top response. They want Gen Z to have the education they did not, and the young gen is already identifying the same need.

Finances are on young peoples’ minds for a variety of reasons; the current state of the economy has even young members of Gen Z worried about the rising costs of living. They’re also thinking about paying for further educationYPulse data shows that 38% of Gen Z currently in college are paying for it themselves, and 41% of students planning to go to college are planning to pay themselves. One 21-year-old male college student tells YPulse students should have “More comprehensive classes on finance and paying for college,” because “Plenty of students, including me, aren’t provided with the appropriate resources to ensure their success for the future. Paying for college straight out of high school can be incredibly overwhelming, so I think it’s [would] be best to normalize teaching kids about making the process a bit smoother.”

YPulse data shows that the majority of young people turn to family members and friends for financial advice, but many turn to the internet and social media. Knowing this, a variety of brands and apps who focus on helping Gen Z with their finances are meeting them there. But, beyond dedicated professionals developing these sources, YPulse’s Fintech report shows that more than half of young people trust social media and influencers to give them good financial advice. In fact, many are listening toTikToker named Humphrey Yang, showing young people are finding people who speak their language (read: skits on TikTok) when school leaves them missing information.

“Real” history and Diversity / Inequality

While young people have been especially concerned about financial issues this year, issues of racism, social inequality, and acceptance of diversity are top problems they say their gens have been facing for years. This, combined with the increased visibility of social movements like Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ activists, has prompted young people to reevaluate the way history is being taught in schools. Many young people tell YPulse students should be taught “real history,” which their responses indicate meansa curriculum which includes more diverse perspectives and more honest lessons about the history of minority groups.

One 37-year-olds female parent said they feel students “should not be shielded from history because it may be uncomfortable.” YPulse data shows Gen Z are open to having the conversations previous gens would deem uncomfortable; they’re highly involved with the social causes they care about, especially through social media. Some have even taken the initiative to provide educational resources about the topics they care about through their own activist groups in order to bridge the gap between what they learn in the classroom and what they feel everyone in their generation should know. 

Not only are these young people thinking about themselves and their peers, they think about the change they’d like to see for the next generation through their education. One 16-year-old female student says students “should be [taught] about equality and other stuffs pertaining to race” because “it is gonna have a great impact on the next generation[. It will] make us aware.” 

Survival skills / Coping skills

Much of what Gen Z and Millennials think students should be learning in school is straightforwardteaching them basic life skills like taxes and home economics, or keeping up to date on current events. But others are focused on skills they don’t just use on paper, and that concern their personal safety as much as their growth of knowledge. When young people tell YPulse that students should learn survival skills, they mean it literally. One 14-year-old female student says self-defense “should be a part of a student’s curriculum so they can learn how to react in situations where people are trying to harm them.” Another 24-year-old female says students should learn “what to do if they suddenly become homeless,” “because you never know when that might happen and you should know what to do if it does.”

Others consider emotional survival skills. With all that goes on in the world around them, a 27-year-old female says students should learn coping skills because “kids have a hard time coping, and struggle to reach out.” YPulse data shows mental health is a top issue young people are facing, and 54% of Gen Z and Millennials say it was negatively impacted during the pandemic. But, instead of getting information on mental wellness in school, many young people are turning to social media and brands for wellness information of all kinds. And during the pandemic, they learn to manage their anxieties through activities like exercise, meditation, and even listening to music. 

Our Self-Taught trend report shows that mental health is one of the top things young people are researching in their free time, but the classroom would still be a valuable place for these skills to be taught. As one 33-year-old male tells YPulse, students should learn about mental health “because most schools don’t teach it and it’s such a big part in everyone’s life.” 

YPulse paid users can access the full Education report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse paid account? Find out more here.