Why is home economics not taught in schools anymore?

STEM, under-enrollment and competive college environments are major culprits for the downfall of home economics

Although there has been a resurgence of interest in life skills and domestic housework education particularly among college students, home economics remains dwarfed by language arts, math, science and humanity subjects in elementary, middle and high schools.

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COLLEGE STUDENTS TURN TO ‘ADULTING’ CLASSES FOR BASIC LIFE SKILLS

In the last published brief from the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences in 2013, the number of students enrolled in a home economics class was a little over 3.4 million, which were taught by more than 27,800 teachers -- a 38 percent decline from 2003.

FOX Business consulted current educators to see if home economics is still in decline and received confirmation from three sources. Here are the top reasons cited for the shrinking home economics field in primary and secondary education.

Focus on marketable skills

STEM is a huge focus in modern education. (iStock)

“In higher ed, there is definitely an air of: ‘How does this develop marketable skills?’ Which, it seems, has trickled down into the K-to-12 arena,” said Brett Murphy of Brett E. Murphy Tutoring & Consulting. “Teaching to the test and metrics have never been more important, and sewing and cooking don't qualify.”

Conversely, STEM classes are in high-demand to prepare students for the current work environment, according to Christopher K. Lee, the founder and career consultant at Purpose Redeemed.

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There is “a belief that professional work is more valuable than domestic work,” he said. “Compound this with budget cuts, home economics is among the first classes to get eliminated.”

Moreover, Lee noted that most of society assumes that people will learn critical life skills at home as they grow up.

Under-staffed and under-enrolled

Home economics classes aren't extinct but they are under-staffed and under-enrolled when compared to other course subjects. (iStock)

The remaining home economics classes that are available today are named “Family & Consumer Sciences,” high school teacher Dee Harris said.

Harris is also the founder of the education enrichment website The Skillful Learner.

“These courses are still taught depending on the school district or state,” she explained. “But, they are usually the first set of courses to be dropped due to not having certified teachers to teach the courses, courses being under-enrolled, budget cuts and states or school districts feeling that these courses or skills are not needed.”

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In regard to under-enrollment, Lee added that most still hold a gender-based view of home economics.

“Home economics is often viewed as housewives' work,” he said. “Because society has encouraged girls to pursue professional careers, and in many cities, a dual-income household is necessary for most families, there is a decrease in emphasis on home economics.”

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Competitive college recruitment

There is a focus on standardized testing and advanced coursework for the students of today. (iStock)

The students of today are more college-bound and focused on getting into an elite university, Murph noted.

“When I was younger, I took honors and AP to challenge myself but didn't have a full plan of how to be perfectly marketable to colleges. These days, many of my tutees are specifically strategizing how to maximize difficult classes to look attractive to top-tier colleges,” he said. “With this competitive mindset toward coursework, it's clear why people perceive home economics to be trivial and unimportant.”

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