High school might not have been the best time for everyone, given all the weird bodily changes, high-strung awkwardness, envy, failing grades, lovers quarrels and more, but it was definitely a time for self-discovery. It was perhaps the most valuable time period of our lives, one that has shaped us into who we are today.
Formative years are always tricky and high school has often been the scene of our most painful life experiences. However, that hasn’t deterred us form watching countless shows based on those moments.
Despite the hatred we might have borne for our respective high schools, we often find ourselves immersed in young adult shows based in school settings. That’s perhaps because we have an opportunity to replace our own memories with some more favourable adventures or simply because high school is the moment we all started to tell our own stories.
Films and shows tend to romanticise the quintessential high school setting and make it appear more melodramatic and less mundane than it actually is. It becomes a means for us to escape reality and history.
Netflix has a wide range of coming-of-age shows, films and more that are set in the high school premises. If you are looking for some good school shows on Netflix, take a look at some of our recommendations:
10 best school shows to watch on Netflix
Elite (Carlos Montero, Dario Madrona, 2018-)
Three working-class students receive a scholarship and enrol at a private school in Spain that is full of rich, elitist students. They soon find themselves sparring with these students who try to cover up the dirty laundry that might dethrone them in the school as well as in society.
Steeped in gender conflicts, class and financial struggles, the series deals with jealousy, sexual tension, financial upheavals, criminal activities and more. The show questions and subverts teen drama cliches and raises solid issues regarding the contemporary social injustices plaguing modern society by juxtaposing it against a teen high school premise.
Sex Education (Laurie Nunn, 2019-)
One of Netflix’s most popular series, Sex Education, is set in Moordale high, where teenage hormones and sex drive is at an all-time high but the knowledge imparted regarding the same is almost non-existent, thanks to the uptight headmaster. Awkward teen Otis teams up with the badass high schooler Maeve to start giving out sexual health guidance for misinformed teens.
Dealing with critical issues and social taboos in a well-nuanced manner that has equal parts humour and drama, the show addresses abortion, sexual assault, homophobia, erectile dysfunction, safe sex and more. Star Emma Mackey, who plays the absolute feminist icon, Maeve Wiley, revealed how she would rather be remembered as a feminist than “an asshole”.
Haikyu (Haruichi Furudate, 2014-2020)
Based on the popular Japanese manga series, the show is based on a volleyball club in Karasuno High School where competition and loyalties run high alongside jealousy, crumbling friendships and high-strung tournaments. Hinata has to strive hard to prove his worth in a team that reeks of strong athleticism.
The anime feels nearly operatic and sublime. It is high in melodrama, action and more, and the creators possess high knowledge of the game, which makes it very enticing. The evolution of Hinata’s athletic psyche and his battle with insecurities and self-doubts humanise him and make the show a work of art.
Never Have I Ever (Lang Fisher, Mindy Kaling, 2020-)
Indian American girl, Devi, is in high school and deals with the pressures of teenage life and having an immigrant family while reeling under the tragic demise of her father. She finds herself caught in a love triangle that threatens to disrupt existing friendships, sanity and much more.
The show is a fun and delicate journey through high school with a sweet and funny look at young love, jealousy, aspirations and friendships. Devi is socially awkward and suddenly finds herself to be the focal point of attention which is unnerving and exciting. Fisher has said that “the love triangle will be significant for the run of the show”.
Riverdale (Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, 2017-)
Based on the widely popular Archie comics, the show is a dark and sinister take on high school drama and features four high-schoolers Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead as they juggle academics and romance while fending themselves and their townsfolk against sinister secrets, dangerous criminals, bloodthirsty mercenaries and more.
While the show’s first two seasons had been pretty enticing, given the riveting premise, it slowly started losing tempo. Ardent fans of the comics have not been fans of the show, but overall, it is one of Netflix’s most successful ventures in The CW deal. Although there has been severe criticism about the lack of representation in terms of sexuality and colour, the show is a teen favourite.
Trinkets (Son Dunn, 2019-2020)
While grieving her mother’s death and failing miserably to adjust to her father’s new family, Elodie Davis, a socially awkward teenager, finds herself striking an unlikely friendship with Moe and Tabitha at the Shoplifters Anonymous meeting in her new high school. Although they have varying personalities, the girls are united by their mutual habit of shoplifting.
Family, school and social issues plague the teenagers’ lives as they are kept floating by their strong friendship. The show abounds in representation yet caters to a specific demographic. It is a feel-good source of entertainment that makes the rite of passage and the teenage rebellion seem less cliched and mundane.
Atypical (Robia Rahis, 2017-2021)
This American sitcom revolves around the life of the Gardner family whose son, Sam is autistic. While the dysfunctional family is initially wary of his autism, they soon learn to embrace it, while Sam himself deals with the repercussions of transitioning from teenage to adulthood.
Infused with sharp and witty dialogues and well-timed humour, the show is wholesome and adds a different dimension while dealing delicately with the topic of autism. While autism has often been misrepresented in pop culture, after the backlash the first season received, the show amended itself by incorporating a more neutral and well-researched viewpoint that won hearts globally.
Degrassi: Next Class (Linda Schuyler, Yan Moore, 2016-2021)
Although it was originally scheduled to be the fifteenth season for Degrassi: Next Generation, the showrunners recognised the importance of a new premise due to changing times. Set in Canada, the show deals with the lives of high school students and their daily battles with homophobia, blatant racism, mental health issues, sexuality crises, cybercrime, affinity towards substance abuse and more.
“We realised that the kids we’re talking to today are a new generation from the kids we talked to in 2001 when we came out with Degrassi: The Next Generation,” said Schuyler. “Then, we were very much talking to millennials. There’s a new generation, Generation Z, who weren’t even born when we started that show. That was a very sobering fact… We’ve done a lot of research into Generation Z and decided we need a reboot.”
Baby (Isabella Aguilar, Giacomo Durzi, 2018-2020)
This Italian drama series focuses on Chiara, a high-performing and promising student in an elitist Roman private school. Chiara’s role model student facade conceals a scandalous secret nightlife where she indulges in promiscuity and sensuality to seek her identity and purpose while constantly quashing gender and societal norms.
This coming-of-age drama is based on the actual underage Roman prostitution ring that was busted in 2014. The teens are troubled and bubbling with rage and anxiety about their lives. It is dark, eerie and disturbing as one sees through the “grooming” procedures. On a quest for self-discovery, the teenagers often spiral down dark paths while yearning for attention, love, sexual awakening, and many more.
Greenhouse Academy (Giora Chamizer, 2017-2020)
Following their mother’s tragic demise, siblings Alex and Hayley attend a private boarding school for gifted children to become future leaders. However, they soon stumble upon a dangerous secret that the school hides as well as the plan to destroy the planet. Only they can save humanity from the verge of extinction.
The series will seem like a breath of fresh air; the simplistic plot makes it a fun watch despite the cheesy cliches, stereotypes, and flaws.