Caitlin says she believes she has the skills required to vote responsibly. (ABC RN: Matthew Crawford)
There’s a lot to come to grips with as adulthood approaches.
In the not-too-distant future there will be voting, job interviews, and living without parents.
We asked teenagers how prepared they feel for the challenges of adulthood. To what extent is school preparing them for “real life” and, if it isn’t, then how are they acquiring those skills?
In short, we asked: “Are you ready?”
Are you ready to vote in a general election?
Voting is a crucial civic duty. So what will it be like for first-time voters when Australia next goes to the polls?
Caitlin, who is in Year 12, thinks her education has given her the skills she needs to vote responsibly.
“My schooling has taught me how to teach myself,” she says.
“I know how to research topics, I know how to teach myself what I need to learn.
“And so that’s taught me how to research politicians, and their policies, and their views, and who they are as a person — to guide me in where I need to vote and were I should vote.”
Are you ready to choose your news?
Never before have we had so many news options to choose from — and never before has so much care been needed in making those choices.
Fact-checking news stories may be new to us, but Year 10 student Jack says students need to be given the skills to do so.
“One thing that should be added to the school curriculum is better ways for students to choose the information they’re consuming — being taught how to verify sources, check the validity of news sources, check quotes and see who experts are,” he says.
“I feel we all have a duty to get the facts straight. And, without that, we see a normalisation of things that are false.
“And then things that are false get more meaningful, detracting from more important things.
“So we have a real moral responsibility to make people accountable for what they’re saying and posting.”
Are you ready to care for others?
Aayushi says if one of her parents became ill her role would be largely to support the other parent. (ABC RN: Matthew Crawford)
Many people are lucky enough to grow up with great care in a well-supported home.
So what would it be like for a senior high school student if someone at home fell seriously ill — a sibling, or maybe even a parent?
Aayushi, who is in Year 12, says she would be ready to support her parents in providing that care.
But she worries about being able to ask for support herself.
“As kids we’re really scared to show our vulnerabilities,” she says.
“That’s something we learn over time.
“So sharing with other people that this is what’s going on — if I have to care for my parents, or if I care for my sibling — that’s a lot.
“Putting yourself on the spot out there when you’re trying to discover who you are, and where you fit in the world, is really scary.”
Are you ready to leave your school friends?
The teenage years can be a turbulent time for friendships. Friends come, and friends go.
Mia, a Year 11 student , says she hasn’t always had the easiest time when it comes to her social life.
“The last year has been fine but primary school and the first half of high school were pretty tough,” she says.
“I had a friend go overseas for 12 months and then she didn’t come back to the same school afterwards. She was my closest friend in the group and so it really disrupted the dynamic of where I sat and how that worked.
“I do quite a bit with my friends. I’ve got the advantage of living so centrally in the city — there’s no limitation placed on us by location or accessibility of stuff.
“We’ve got a good network. I definitely don’t rely on the school for my social engagement with people.”
Are you ready to feed yourself?
It all sounds so simple: eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, rein in the fat, avoid treats.
But just how hard is it for young people to embrace all the health messages while entering a world of culinary temptation?
Cohen says the education system could do more to help students make sensible eating choices.
“At school I definitely think the one thing that should be added is more experience around nurturing plants, around farming, being a gardener, and directly producing your own food,” the Year 11 student says.
“I think the education system only contributes to the idea that you earn money, and then you buy the stuff you need.
“If we had more of a rounded idea about growing your own food and then eating it, then that would be awesome.”
Are you ready to work in a team?
It’s the line that appears in a million job listings: must be able to work in a team.
Year 11 student Wren wonders about the tension between working in a team and standing out from the pack.
“If you’ve got some very important people working with you and you want to try and impress them, and be given good opportunities by bigger leaders in the group… [you have to] portray yourself as being very able and efficient,” she says.
I think honesty is important but I think it’s sometimes hard to be completely honest when you’re trying to impress particular people.”