Monday, 14 December 2015

Can schools help motivate students to aim higher?

Time flies! It feels like it was only yesterday when I was a Primary School Parent and now here we are starting to feel the slight jitters of Subject choices/College plans/Career goals ahead. Although I am working in the arena of education for sometime now, when it comes to my child, I’m just like everyone else. Concerned about the choices that he or she will make. Will they be sensible ones?. Can I gently nudge him towards something better (read lucrative) without appearing to do so? In other words, nag to instil some sense of urgency into his thought process with regard to plans ahead. I marvel at how some children are so self motivated and go after what they want whether it be a place in the MUN at school or the university that they aspire to study at.

I believe that to a large extent schools can inculcate and encourage students to aim higher. Career counsellors must provide that bit of support when it comes to higher education. Right from Year 9, children should be exposed to a variety of workshops/discussions, Tools for Self evaluation, University visits, Panels by Industry experts along with active parent involvement . Right from year 9. That way, there’s ample time for students to research, discover new areas that might become a passion, gain an opportunity to ‘try out’  or job-shadow , get motivated by the academic journey of someone successful in their locality and in the process start thinking about what they would like to do in the years ahead.
It is disappointing to see very little of the above happening at schools here. Don’t get me wrong , there are schools that have a fabulous academic Counseling departments where the focus is career counselling  and no one in that department is a teacher having to juggle two functions. We at Varsity Connections are really proud that our career counselling activities have been  integrated into many schools’ Career Counseling activities. So the main intent of todays piece is to put down what I would love to see at the schools here in the UAE. Here I am wearing 2 hats, that of a parent and that of a Career Counselor.  

1)    All schools to have a dedicated Career cell staffed by dedicated professional Career Counsellors
2)    Career development activities as a year round initiative with clear goals defined for the individual year groups.
3) Provide standardized psychometric assessments for students. In my opinion every student needs to take one as it gives them a clear indication of skills and interests that they may not have been aware of and more importantly giving them an understanding of where challenges lie. This makes choosing of subjects or career pathways easier.
4)    As an outcome of point 3, student portfolios can be compiled.
5)    Invite industry experts to come in and talk about what’s happening right now within their realm.  This will give the children(and us parents) an an idea at least, about whats ahead in terms of opportunities. 
6)    Invite range of Universities to come to the school. Don’t stick on to the old tired career fair format. Be innovative.  Make it compulsory for students to come and interact with them. It doesn’t matter that those Universities are not ‘good’ ones or as we hear it all the time ‘Local ones’. Have an orientation for the students before the fair and encourage them to ask questions. Trust me they will learn a thing or two.
7)    Provide support for students looking at interning or volunteering. Develop links with places that the students can volunteer at, develop skills and yes clock hours for CAS or DOEd and so on. Those activities should be very aligned with the Career Counseling department.
8)    Ensuring that all co curricular activities/clubs at the school are actually incubators of sorts, promoting creativity among the children.
9)    Maintaining continual updates with the parent community regarding timelines and goals  as defined in the beginning of the year.
10)Arranging information sessions for parents and ensuring that they are aware of the various steps in the high school journey starting with subject selection, criterion for entry into the senior grades, exit points possible and so on.
11) Tie ups with prominent and highly ranked  Universities globally to conduct Immersion or summer programs. This will give the students a taste of the brilliant and inspiring atmosphere at those Universities and give them a feeling that yes, it is possible for me to study there.

At the end of the day we want our children to be prepared to face the future and an uncertain one it is looking at the pace at which things are changing . Our children need be confident of their potential and reach beyond their comfort zone to step into exciting and new opportunities . I believe the school is an important stakeholder in this process and must step up in order to support active and Deep Learning .. 

There are loads more in my wish list but I thought I'd restrict my thoughts to points related to Academic and Careers rather than Learning support and social issues.
Parents and colleagues out there, jump in with your take!

'The Illiterate of the 21st century will not be be those who cannot read and write  but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn'  - Alvin Toffler

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