Schools Prioritize Academics over Job Skills and Mental Health

According to a new study lead by the University of Buffalo, personal growth and job skills have taken a backseat to an increased focus on standardized test scores in many schools around the world, especially in the United States of America. The study, published in Education Administration Quarterly, aimed to analyse school principals’ outlook and priorities when approaching education, rather than on the students themselves.

The surveys asked principals to choose their top three priorities among the following goals:

  1. Basic literary and numerical skills
  2. Academic excellence
  3. Personal growth
  4. Job skills
  5. Work habits and discipline
  6. Human relations
  7. Moral values
  8. Multicultural awareness.

Academic excellence was the clear standout, with 83% of public school principals choosing it as one of three top priorities in 2012. Professor Jaekyung Lee, PhD, Lead Researcher and Professor of Learning and Instruction at the University of Buffalo said, “The balanced development of both academic and soft skills is crucial, not only for well-rounded child development in schools but also for career and life success,” in reference to the team’s findings.


Even though the study itself was based and sampled in the state of New York in the United States of America, it evidently reflects the situation here in the subcontinent as well. Focus on clearing standardised tests and exams, from the annual Board Exams to entrance tests like the Joint Entrance Examination (for engg.), is considered a priority from a very young age, with the so-called ‘coaching centres’ recruiting even middle schoolers to prepare them for the same. Soft skills and job skills are relegated to the back burner, while exam strategies and tricks to play with the examiners’ psyche are unabashedly and openly drilled into the minds of the youngsters by schools and coaching classes alike.

Unless the system changes to keep pace with the ever-changing world around us, the next generation to enter the job market will be at a severe disadvantage compared to their better-educated and better-equipped colleagues.

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