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What 2019 Year 12 Graduates Wish High School Had Taught Them

The Australian education system is failing, and here's why...

What 2019 Year 12 Graduates Wish High School Had Taught Them
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

I can’t even count the number of times I heard my school talk about “setting me up for my future” throughout my senior years of high school. They offered careers counselling and we went to careers expos, we had assemblies and talks about university, we filled out a booklet about our goals for the future, and the list goes on. So, when I finally stepped into the big wide world at the end of this 13-year long education tunnel, you’d think I’d be prepared for anything and everything, right? Turns out, the one thing I was prepared for was university, and that’s about it.

I’m not saying these activities and presentations weren’t helpful. I’m just saying that universities and careers aren’t the only aspects of your life that you have to think about when you leave school. Plus, I never had one class about writing a resume, attending a job interview, or basic work rights, so maybe Aussie high schools aren’t even achieving an adequate standard of education in the one area of adult life they focus so heavily on in senior year levels.

To get a sense of what my peers thought about this, I asked my fellow graduates this open-ended question on social media:

What do you wish school had taught you?

Unsurprisingly, one of the most common responses, taking up a total of 40%, was to do with “taxes”, “superannuation”, “insurance”, “buying/renting a home”, and/or “money management”. All the aspects of our adult lives that were shoved aside to make room for extensive promotion of universities and TAFEs. Very helpful.

The second most popular response, making up a total of 25%, was about the pitiful excuse for sexual education we receive in high school. I can make my peace with having to research financial questions online, or asking adults around me, but I’m not willing to accept that topics like “consent”, “sexual assault and rape”, and “sexual orientation” aren’t given the adequate time and emphasis in our classrooms. I guess it’s no surprise that I know two girls in my social circle who have had unwanted sexual encounters with boys our age, who were attending our school at the time. And these are only the girls I know personally. There are hundreds of girls throughout our schools who have been raped, assaulted, or taken advantage of in some way, and I think our education system should take some of the blame.

People seem to think that sex is an ‘adult issue’, but I guess they’ve just forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager. All around you people are having their first sexual encounters, discussing what they’ve done, what they wanna do, who they wanna do it with. Sex is extremely prominent in teen society. Your high school years are the time when you’re trying to figure all that out, and teachers aren’t doing their students any favours by avoiding the most important topics.

The internet is rife with unrealistic portrayals of sex and intimacy, and too many kids are left believing that what they see in pornography is 100% real. It's normal for kids to be intrigued by these kinds of sites, but proper sexual education in high schools would provide a more well-rounded understanding of sexual relationships, so they don't have to rely on the oftentimes degrading and harmful sexual content they can find online.

Not only should we be teaching kids about the literal act of sex, but we should be teaching them to be smart about their sexual encounters. Teach these kids that they can say no. That they can say yes and then change their minds. That the only way to get consent from someone is to receive clear, confident verbal confirmation. Not “I guess”, or a reluctant “okay” after 14 rejections. They should leave their health classes feeling empowered and comfortable in making their own decisions, totally sure of how to refuse sex, accept sex, gain consent from others, and ensure a mutually comfortable situation. Barely anyone’s first time is totally perfect, but these classes aren’t about that; sex ed is about protecting our children from unwanted, dangerous sexual experiences.

One of my best friends had her first sexual encounter with a boy in our year level at the age of 14, and it wasn’t consensual. My blood boils to think about it. How are kids supposed to have any idea about sex if they haven’t been taught the appropriate way to behave in a sexual situation?

In addition to this, my high school health classes barely mentioned anything about same-sex relationships or questioning your sexuality, which is yet another huge part of figuring out who you are in those formative teen years. Teachers should be building the confidence of their students, encouraging them to be proud of who they are, and providing them with the information they need to be safe and comfortable in their sexual experiences.

The Australian education system is failing. Our high school curriculum doesn’t teach teenagers how to be safe and comfortable in the many new experiences they’re having, and judging by the results of my social media survey, they’re not even preparing them for their futures like they so adamantly claim they are. But hey, I know Pythagoras’ theorem! That’s just as necessary, right?

high school
Alivia Mantel
Alivia Mantel
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Alivia Mantel

Writer & Musician from Melbourne, Australia. Passionate about the environment, mental health, and good vibes.

See all posts by Alivia Mantel

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