As the famous Winston Churchill quote states, "those who do not remember history are surely doomed to repeat it." History is important because it shows trends of culture, society, economics and other aspects of human development. By studying history, it is possible to find causes and effects of important events and use the knowledge to inform later decisions.
Without a grasp of what has happened in the past and how it led to later events, it is impossible to make an educated guess where events are leading. Studying broader history, not just of one's own country, can bring to light common threads of occurrence and showcase issues such as resource scarcity, propaganda or political strife that plague all developed societies. They can also look at what courses of action have been tried and see what happened.
History can also help understand complex sociopolitical climates. Everything that happens is the result of something that happened before, which in turn had its own cause. In order to understand the political climate of the Middle East, one would need to understand the aftermath of the Cold War, and in turn World Wars I and II, and so on.
History is more than just a series of names and dates for students to memorize for a test; it is the whole of human experience up to the present.