Career decisions at school – an obvious necessity most would say. But is it? I have come to question this premise and come to the conclusion that it is in fact unwise. Career education yes, the more information that we can give kids about what job types exist, and what their requirements are, the better. But to force career decisions on them prematurely has any number of negative ramifications.
Regardless of how much career information is given to them, how many kids of thirteen or fourteen years old really know what it is that they want to do for a living for the rest of their lives? How many eighteen year olds really know the answer to that?
The consequence of this is that all too many bad career choices are made. Currently most people go through a few careers before they finally settle in the one that they will remain in until retirement. The problem with this of course, is the amount of resources that are wasted on the way. Each time a student drops out of college, or changes to a new course while studying, or wastes an entire degree to follow another direction, the economic implications are profound. It is a major cost to government, businesses, the taxpayer, parents, and of course the students themselves.
The reality is that we are forcing children to make career decisions through premature subject choices long before they are mature enough to make choices of this magnitude. Consequently, subjects are chosen because of parental or educator pressure, or because their friends are doing a particular set of subjects. Fear can influence subject choices too – fear of a particular teacher, or of a bully in the class.
What alternatives are there though? Children have to make their subject choices in grade eight so they can identify the high school they will attend. At high school they need to their minds made up about their subject choices so the high schools can streamline their always limited resources.
Well, this writer believes there is an alternative. It will mean a radical departure from the status quo, but we can’t go on wasting valuable resources at this rate, especially in the current challenging times. The concept I am proposing is to give children a general, broader education until the end of grade twelve. After grade twelve, every student will spend two years in four diverse internships at minimum wage. One of these internships will include a field in or related to their “chosen” career. Only after the internships will people make their final decisions. If they decide they want to study further, they will first do a year of study at a grade thirteen level only in those subjects that they will need to enter the area of study they wish to pursue. This will also get them back into study mode again, and perhaps can be done at the institution where they will be obtaining their tertiary education, to give them a taste of University or College life.
This has a number of advantages. Firstly, the students will be in their early twenties when they finally make their career decision. Aside from being older and thus able to make more mature decisions, they will also be more informed. They will have had a taste of the real world, what is out there, what environments they may or may not enjoy working in. They will be in a better position to stand up to parental pressure, and making career choices to be with friends is less likely. They may even have accumulated a bit of money to spend if they decide that they do wish to study further. There is great potential that relationships are built up with employers who may contribute to their studies.
I firmly believe that the drop-out rate will drop dramatically, as will the number of midway course changes. I believe that there will be fewer career changes, and all of this will result in a significant saving of resources, much more than is needed to cover the increase in costs at school level.