Bravo for making life skills compulsory courses in schools

Zhu Ying
Household skills like cleaning, repairing appliances and raising animals often can be more helpful than some of what is currently taught in schools.
Zhu Ying

Cooking will become one of the compulsory courses in Chinese primary and secondary schools in the upcoming fall semester, along with other household skills such as cleaning, repairing appliances, growing vegetables and raising animals.

The new curriculum of labor education released by the Chinese Ministry of Education in late April soon became trending online.

The topic "Ministry of Education orders Chinese primary and secondary school students to learn cooking from September" has garnered a readership of more than 870 million and attracted over 98,000 people to participate in discussion.

In my opinion, household skills like cooking are more helpful than some of what is currently taught in schools. To be honest, I have forgotten most of the math and chemical formulas that I've learned.

But the table etiquette that was taught in a lesson when I was in the sixth grade stays with me.

Bravo for making life skills compulsory courses in schools
Ti Gong

Homemade croissants are served during family time.

Why should children learn to cook? Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Cooking is an important life skill.

The experience of some of my husband's colleagues during the city's lockdown is the best proof.

Coming from other provinces and living alone in Shanghai, they barely cooked and used to "live on" food delivery apps before the pandemic.

The sudden suspension of delivery services in the early stage of the lockdown caught them entirely off guard. With no kitchen tools or cooking skills, they ate nothing but instant noodles. Their situation wasn't eased until they got help from friends and received supplies from the government and their company.

In order to survive, some of them began to learn how to cook and they proudly posted photos of their own dishes on WeChat Moments. It seems that cooking gave them a sense of achievement.

2. Cooking is an excellent opportunity to build relationships.

I always miss the days when I made wontons with my grandmother and mother. We wrapped them together while chitchatting, and it is one of my most precious childhood memories.

Cooking together allows parents and children to talk and share thoughts, thus boosting communication. Inheriting the family recipe for wontons passed down from my grandmother and mother, I shared it with my peers during my study in the UK. I promoted it at the Food & Culture Festival when I was an international volunteer in Egypt. All my foreign friends were amazed at the delicacy and asked me to teach them.

More than an essential need, food also serves as a communication tool, and we can build our bonds with family and friends through cooking.

3. Cooking contributes to good eating habits.

Even the pickiest eaters are willing to try the food they are involved in cooking.

My baby girl was once reluctant to eat, and I invited her to watch me making a sandwich as she was too small to help. She seemed excited and curious and, to my surprise, she ate the whole sandwich.

Working together in the kitchen also provides a perfect opportunity for discussions to start about food choices and nutrition.

Apart from cooking, grocery shopping with kids is also productive, educational and fun-filled. Before the city's lockdown, I often took my daughter to supermarkets where I taught her numbers, letters, colors, shapes, sizes and social skills, like greetings and sharing.

As a parent, I am very much in favor of the government's move to let children learn essential life skills. However, many practical problems need to be solved, for example, how to grade the classes and who will teach them?

I think these life skills should be instilled by parents in their everyday lives more than taught by teachers in schools. Only by integrating the skills with life can children understand the true meaning of the skills, which are not only necessary for self-care and sufficiency but also help them better cope in the challenging world.

I'm going to stop here because I'm hurrying to the kitchen. As a cooking newbie, I have to learn more about it first before teaching my daughter.

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