Reading, writing, and math — these are the foundational skills that all kids should understand by the time they finish school. However, they’re far from the only subjects and skills students should study in order to prepare them for their lives in the workforce.
That’s why we teach subjects like social studies, history, geography, and science — to provide kids with a well-rounded education. However, many of these subjects are taught using outdated curriculums, and other emerging subjects and skills are being ignored.
There’s no national standard for curriculums, and each school district has the ability to choose what they think students should study. Nationwide, that means some students are getting access to better learning opportunities than others, and the majority of school districts haven’t updated their curriculum to prepare students for the future.
Here’s why we need widespread modernization in school curriculums.
The Skills Students Need Are Evolving
School is intended to help prepare young people for their future, including their careers and the daily tasks required to function in modern society. However, most schools’ curriculums are currently not keeping up with the evolving needs of students.
Our society is always changing and in the last ten years or so, the demand for workers with modern skills like programming and data analysis has grown. Unfortunately, few standard public schools have started incorporating these subjects into their curriculums, meaning that students have to actively take the initiative to learn them.
School districts should be continually evaluating the curriculum they use to ensure that it meets the evolving needs of students. That could mean changing, eliminating, and adding to the curriculum on a regular basis.
Modernization Accounts for Cultural Context
Many schools still use textbooks from decades ago to teach subjects like history. While this might not seem like a problem since the facts of historical events do not change, our cultural context and understanding of them do.
Old textbooks frame historical events in certain ways and discuss them using outdated language and attitudes. By switching to new learning materials, schools can reflect the current cultural context and help students develop a more nuanced view of historical events and other subjects.
Students Need to Learn How to Work with Technology
Educational leaders are struggling with ethical questions, such as how to bring technology into the classroom in a way that promotes equality and helps each student succeed. Today’s students will never remember a world without the internet and the pace of technological advancement means that their world by the time they graduate from high school will be vastly different from the one they knew in kindergarten.
Even parents who limit screen time for their children have to admit that being able to expertly use different types of technology is important preparation for today’s world. The future of education and the future of work will rely on digital technology.
Yet, only the most well-funded schools are currently taking full advantage of the technology options available to them, and low-income districts often can’t even afford to provide students with basic hardware.
Why Aren’t Curriculums Being Updated?
So, why aren’t curriculums in the United States being updated and modernized, knowing the potential benefits?
Well, in many cases, it comes down to funding. Many schools simply lack the funding they need to maintain their current buildings and staff, let alone fund new curriculum initiatives. While some schools in wealthy districts are embracing the future of education, many schools simply can’t keep up.
Complacency is another obstacle. Many administrators simply don’t see any issues with their current curriculums and don’t want to bother with changing them. Changing curriculums is a huge undertaking, especially in large school districts, and human beings are naturally resistant to change.
Students Deserve Better Curriculums
In today’s world, kids need a lot more than basic reading and math skills. Calculators and artificial intelligence are quickly replacing the need for skills like mental math and simple writing tasks.
Instead, students will need to develop critical thinking and robust problem-solving skills. They need to learn how to make technology work for them so they can harness it and use it in their daily lives. They also need to learn important social skills and cultural competence to thrive in our diverse world.
Students deserve better than the outdated curriculums our public schools are giving them. They will be entering a world that’s very different from their parents — and they need an education that reflects those differences.