Aditi scored a high 98 percent in 10 Std Board examinations. Her parents were jubilant and at once decided that she was apt for the IIT (Indian Institute for Technology) and admitted her in the best coaching centre for the same. Less than six months the stress was showing and she had one simple request to make, ‘will someone please explain to my dear parents that I am not fit enough for the IIT. I can do engineering but from a second rank /tier college’. How many parents make the same mistake of equating 10 Std Board marks as the ultimate test of scientific ability is anybody’s guess. As a result children suffer.
The process of deciding the best career is a complex one and becomes more complicated with the intervention of the emotions and expectations of parents. The entire bunch of a dozen girls, from 12 Std, performed poorly in the entrance tests for admission into engineering and medicine – best friends from the same school and all being pressurised by respective parents, to pursue these two ‘star’ courses. The coaching for two long years was a nightmare. But finally, their parents granted them the freedom to choose whatever they liked – some have chosen home science and nutrition, biotechnology, hotel management, fashion designing, architecture, English language, psychology and journalism! How happy they were now they said.
Parents are clearly anxious about their children and their future which springs from love. But the choice of career cannot be based on fear and insecurity. The ‘market value’ and the ‘social prestige’ of a career are supreme it seems. Parents talk of ‘the package’ their child could get at campus placements. For children who are likewise oriented this line of thought is perfect. For they agree to it and that seals their fates.
But there are other segments of brighter kids who are independent thinkers and know themselves better and have a desire to chalk a different path. They have dreams of their own and preferences of their own. In such cases, coercion becomes distressing. They need to be listened to, to know their aspirations and their thought process. All may not be perfect here too but they need proper guidance to pursue their goals. Many times in spite of guidance their minds are clouded by fear that has been transferred and ingrained by parents and eventually in spite of hours of discussion they make the same mistake of choosing what is ‘socially desirable and parent- wise proper’. This means that the mind gets badly prejudiced against certain professions and refuses to open up to the entire range of choices. They succumb to the pressures and surrender – a waste of talent.
A small percentage of parents are truly liberal and free-minded and encourage their children to think on their own about their abilities, their interest areas and to be bold to take independent decisions. One such father knew that his bright daughter was interested in English language and creative writing and gave his full-support to her to proceed with her choice. His dilemma was different – where do I find a good coach or a coaching centre for honing her language ability in Nagpur city? The choices for coaching for other- than- a- handful courses are dismal. The entire city seems to be geared towards filling up the seats for engineering and medicine, a strange scene, we admit.
Parents are under stress to be liberal and democratic to allow their children to make their own choices. They are being bombarded by schools, by teachers and by counsellor alike. So they employ democratic means of ‘brain-washing’ their children. ‘You can choose whatever you like, but…if you get stuck without a job later on then…’ ‘All professions are good but this one is the best, nothing to beat it…’ ‘You will be able to do it easily, so do it now and later maybe you could make a switch for something else…’!
All parents love their children and have good intentions and are willing to spend a fortune to educate them. But that does not seem to be enough and that does not seem to be the best thing to do. With all good intentions a lot of harm is being done to young minds. So what should be the course of action?
The process of making a career choice has to be child-centric. What are at stake are the future and happiness of the child. What are critical are the ability and the interests of the child. An objective assessment of the child’s aptitude helps to understand the natural gifts of the child. Parents should keenly observe the abilities and inclinations at all stages, at middle school, at high school and higher secondary school as well. Children at 99% at high school may drop to 70% at higher secondary level and the only reason for the drop is not necessarily friends and face book. It could be limitations of ability.
Parents need to widen their knowledge and be aware of new careers and opportunities. They should encourage discussions at home, on aptitude, interest and opportunities for various careers early on in life and let the child reach a logical conclusion. Encourage freedom of thought and speech. Have faith in your own children that they can chart their own course. After all the future belongs to them you would agree.