People take school for granted in some places. There’s no question about whether a kid will attend because school is accessible and valued. Kids may even feel annoyed or frustrated that they’re made to go. In many countries, however, school is a privilege. Why does school matter so much? Here are 15 reasons why:
#1. Schools teach social skills
For most kids, school is the first setting where they learn to socialize with others outside their family. They learn to make friends, listen to teachers, and work through problems. Learning these social skills early on gives kids an important foundation for their interactions in society. Studies show education can increase what’s called “learned effectiveness,” which includes traits like self-control and cognitive ability. Students also learn “soft skills” like good communication, teamwork, and flexibility. Going to school doesn’t automatically teach social skills; it’s still the responsibility of teachers and other adults to encourage healthy socialization. When they spot unhealthy socialization – like bullying – they should intervene appropriately.
#2. Schools can teach empathy
Empathy, which is the ability to understand another person’s feelings and experiences, is one of the most essential “soft skills” a person can have. Schools can be the perfect environment for teaching this to kids starting at a young age. They’re learning to interact with other people, understand different perspectives, and develop good communication skills. Teachers can teach empathy by modeling it, talking about emotions, encouraging community activities, and integrating listening activities into classwork.
#3. Schools help young people build confidence
Being self-assured and confident in one’s abilities is crucial to healthy self-esteem. People who don’t have much confidence are more likely to be taken advantage of and struggle with anxiety. In a school setting, kids get the opportunity to build their confidence early on. As they learn to read, write, solve math problems, and more, their confidence in their abilities increases. A teacher plays a very important role in this. It’s their job to celebrate a student’s progress as well as their hard work, as many struggle with certain subjects.
#4. Schools encourage critical thinking
Critical thinking is an essential part of any subject in school. Whether they’re studying literature, science, or history, students can develop critical thinking techniques. They use these to absorb the material, form their own ideas, and express themselves in writing and speaking. These skills translate to every area of life, whether it’s in academia, the work setting, or relationships. How do schools teach critical thinking? It needs to be intentional or schools run the risk of just teaching kids how to memorize facts. Teachers can improve their students’ critical thinking skills by asking open-ended questions, encouraging students to think for themselves, presenting real-life problems, and encouraging interaction between students.
#5. Schools teach the value of the learning process
It’s not unusual for students to question the point of any given topic at school. “When am I ever going to use the Pythagorean theorem?” they might ask. “Who cares what happened two hundred years ago?” While a student will probably not use a specific math formula in their daily life, the process of learning is what matters. Good schools teach kids the value of learning for its own sake. It trains the brain how to focus, analyze, and remember. In the future, that training kicks in when you need to learn something new or solve a challenging problem.
#6. Schools help young people develop future goals
School introduces students to a wide variety of subjects. More often than not, a student connects with certain topics on a deep level. Whether it’s through a research paper or group project, they get opportunities to explore their interests further. Students consider what they want their career to be and develop goals for the future. With support from teachers, any student can see what’s possible and work towards their passions.
#7. Students benefit from school extracurriculars
Schools are more than just classrooms. Many also offer sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities. Some of these can lead to scholarships, which give students access to higher education. Even if a student doesn’t thrive in a classroom setting, they can find something else at their school that benefits them. Do extracurriculars help with academic achievement? It depends. One study found that it depends on factors like parental educational level, age, and sex. In early adolescence, girls who participated in extracurriculars saw improved academic achievements, but in later adolescence, it was better if they didn’t participate in as many extracurriculars. This could be because schoolwork becomes more challenging and time-consuming. Some students will need fewer distractions to do well, but others will be fine with extracurriculars. It depends on the specific student.
#8. Schools strengthen communities
School can become an important source of community for many students. For some, it may be the only place they feel safe to be themselves. For students, feeling like they belong and are part of something bigger than themselves is very important. They’ll feel supported and encouraged, and even when they leave school, they’ll strive to find and build community wherever they go. School can also serve as a community space for parents, so it benefits whole families.
#9. Education reduces poverty
Education is an essential part of reducing poverty around the world. When children receive an education, they’re able to access jobs with higher incomes. Other factors (like gender) impact what kind of a job someone can get, but it’s generally true that as a person gets more schooling, their income potential goes up. That benefits their whole families and can end cycles of generational poverty. According to a UNESCO policy paper, around 60 million people could escape poverty if all adults got just two extra years of schooling. If all adults finished secondary education, it would lift 420 million people out of poverty. If a country wants to reduce poverty, it needs to invest in schools.
#10. School is good for gender equality
In addition to reducing poverty, education combats gender inequality. In many places, girls receive less education than boys. This affects the jobs they can get and makes them more vulnerable to poverty, violence, and exploitation. According to the World Bank, limiting girls’ education costs them between $15-$30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings. When they go to school, girls increase their income potential and safety. Research also shows that in countries that value education, maternal death rates go down. There’s been significant progress in education; the gender educational gap is less than 1%. However, there are regional pockets where inequality is still a major issue. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 1 in 4 young women can’t read or write. The impacts of COVID are still being analyzed, but it’s likely that girls’ education was negatively affected. Schooling for girls will need to be a priority for pandemic recovery.
#11. Education is linked to better health
Education (or lack of education) has long-term consequences for a person’s life. When someone gets good schooling, they’re more likely to earn a good income. They’re also more likely to get a job with fewer physical risks. Combine safety with higher wages and better health follows. On the other side of things, research shows when someone doesn’t get a good education, they’re more vulnerable to health issues. They may also be less likely to see a doctor (because they can’t afford it) and less familiar with good health information. This makes education not only an economic issue but a public health one. Countries need to invest in good schools if they want to ensure a healthy society.
#12. More education can lead to less stress
More education leads to better-paying jobs. Not shockingly, having a higher income makes life less stressful. This is important because stress is linked to serious mental and physical health issues. According to a report from the American Psychological Association, people with low incomes experience higher stress levels, which plays into disparities that affect life expectancy. A good education and a higher-paying job could help reduce some of that stress. That doesn’t mean going to school is naturally stress-free. Reports consistently show college students experience high levels of stress and burnout. Schools need to protect the mental health of their students, so they can finish their education and get access to higher incomes.
#13. A mother’s education impacts her children
Parents obviously have a big impact on their kids, but research shows the relationship between moms and kids could be unique. According to one study on maternal education in the US and UK, maternal education is “most strongly associated with children’s cognitive development.” It’s also a key predictor of other resources that affect a kid’s well-being. The more educated a mother is, the better her kids do. That affects a kid’s educational achievements and even their health. School doesn’t just affect individuals; it’s generational.
#14. Schools can address (or reinforce) societal inequality
Schools, especially public schools, can be diverse spaces where kids meet people who are different from them, learn to work together, build deep emotional connections, and get equal opportunities. These are key ingredients in addressing inequality, but schools can also reinforce inequality. How? Funding is a good example. In the United States, the districts with the most Black, Latino, and Native students can receive $2,700 less per student than districts with the fewest students of color. High-poverty districts, despite needing more funds, receive about 5% less than low-poverty districts. Instead of improving equality, this type of discrimination in schools makes it worse.
#15. Good education benefits entire countries
Schools benefit individuals and communities, so it makes sense that a whole country will do better when they have good schools. Starting from a young age, citizens receive the education they need to get higher-paying jobs. This creates a society of skilled workers and boosts the economy. An educated society is also a healthier society, and when people benefit from schools, they’re more likely to invest resources back into schools for the next generation. Agencies like the World Bank recognize the importance of education for a country’s economic development.