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Cooking Up A New Curriculum

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How do you boil an egg?

It's not a ridiculous question. In fact, it's one some of the most well-educated and intellectual people out there would struggle with. They might be clued up on Chaucer and know Tolstoy to a T, but ask them about baking, boiling or frying and, quite often, they will be stumped for an answer.

I'm generalising of course. It's not just the straight-A students who lack life skills, it's everyone.

By the time the national curriculum was introduced in 1988, home economics was "food technology" and regarded as akin to design and technology. Politicians have occasionally brought up a return to practical cooking in schools - Ed Balls prompted much debate with such a pledge in 2008 - but the reality is, too many school-leavers have never been near a saucepan or an oven glove.

It's not just cooking. It's everything from changing a light-bulb to cleaning a loo. As a rent-paying adult in a full-time job, I'll freely admit that I'm still blurry on the nuances of mortgages, tax bands and interest rates. I've spent more hours than Jimmy Wales intended on Wikipedia, familiarising myself with everyday concepts like ISAs or credit ratings. Better that than to admit I'm clueless.

It's time to address just how clueless we are. We're taught "No to drink and drugs" or "Don't have unprotected sex", but less time is dedicated to life skills like basic finances, reading the electricity meter or following the instruction manual for IKEA flat pack furniture.

The coalition government has committed itself to changing the curriculum, waxing lyrical about students doing more practical science experiments or learning history in chronological order. We mourn declining numbers of language students and lament that standards in GCSE maths are falling.

Well, I'm yet to use quadratic equations in my daily life, but I make myself dinner every day. There needs to be a place for both in the classroom.

These are not simply the cries of an adult without common sense, true as that may be. The problem of childhood obesity will never be tackled if generations continue to lack understanding of nutrition and balanced diets. If teaching kids how to make their own burgers means one less Big Mac a week, surely it's worth finding an hour in the timetable and making the health and safety implications work?

In an ideal world such skills would be the preserve of mums and dads. But the nuclear family is becoming more and more of an anachronism; time poor-parents simply don't have the opportunity to impart such wisdom. Education must keep par with societal changes.

Food for thought at school is one thing. It's time for some food for food.

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