Help us teach life skills, say parents

New Zealand parents want their children to be taught life skills at school, according to a new study.

The report, carried out by Australian study fund ASG and researchers from Monash University, is the first of its kind to investigate parents’ views on the state of education in New Zealand.

“Historically, social and life skills are taught within the home and the development of skills and knowledge needed for a successful career have been taught in school. However, perceptions about what equals academic success is changing and so, for today’s parents social and life skills are becoming an increasingly important element in education,” says John Velegrinis, CEO of ASG.

“The report confirms that parents want teachers to play a greater role developing their children’s life skills. However, there was a strong but divided stance on discussing topical issues, such as sexuality and cyber safety; with the level of input depending on the cultural background and age of the child,” says Mr Velegrinis.

Of parents surveyed, 66 per cent say schools should do more to teach their child social skills, and when ethnicity is factored in, the proportion increases to 91 per cent among Indian and other Asian parents. “The findings suggest there are increasingly blurred lines as to where responsibility begins and ends as parents’ perceptions of their traditional roles and responsibilities change,” says Mr Velegrinis.

The analysis revealed that parents have strong views on how the school environment keeps pace with topical issues, such as sexuality and cyber safety.

Just 32 per cent of all parents agree schools are the best place for their child to learn about sexuality. When cultural influences are factored in, only 26 per cent of New Zealand parents believe that sexual education is best learnt at school versus 58 per cent of Indian and other Asian parents. Furthermore, 74 per cent of New Zealand parents agree they can openly talk about sex at home, but this falls to 45 per cent for Indian and other Asian parents.

“While the topic of sex education may be culturally dependent, parents, teachers and schools must have ongoing discussions about issues such as sexuality and sex education to best determine how much of it is part of the curriculum, and what needs to be done at home,” says associate professor Shane Phillipson from Monash University. “This is important to make sure no child misses out on this essential developmental opportunity.”

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