Career choices post school have always presented a skewed ratio, particularly in the south where the rush for engineering, followed by medicine, has left other courses and colleges that offer them in the dark. In fact, there are very few schools in the city that offer humanities at the high school level, resulting in little or no exposure about its possibilities.
There is a mad rush for science stream and those who are unable to make it to that end up with commerce. This choice is made purely on the basis of cut off percentages, irrespective of what the interest/aptitude or long term aims of the student are.
The Krishnamurti Foundation Institute (KFI) is an exception here, following a system that is vastly different from others. Niyantri, who graduated from KFI in 2008, says “My school definitely played a major role in my decision to pursue psychology by offering offbeat subjects and not pressurising students to take science or commerce. Even in classes IX and X, all subjects are given equal importance.
In fact, in KFI there are no groups, you can mix and match subjects more or less according to interest and that makes it attractive to everyone. When you need to choose your subjects, the teachers individually sit with every student and discuss. Apart from that, we also answer an interest inventory.”
It is also interesting to note that work experience is offered as a subject and students can choose to work with a designer, in a bookshop or any other place based on interest. This is truly a coming-of-age approach to education to mould free minds. But the very fact that this is probably the only school in Chennai that follows this approach is testimony to the daunting situation.
One other misconception is that it is pointless to take science unless one wants to follow it up with a professional degree in engineering/ medicine.
In fact, pure sciences are low on the demand list too. Most students who take up engineering feel that they have landed nowhere, for engineering is a commercialised, industry oriented degree and if one is really passionate about the sciences, then to expect satisfaction here is futile.
Nikhil who tread the conventional path says, “Physics was my first love like many other engineers. I wanted to pursue a career in it but was discouraged by my family as they thought it was not lucrative. Even though my parents had best interests at heart, they didn't foresee that if you are not interested in what you do you can be disillusioned to the extent that you will eventually end up doing something very different from what you learn in your course…. which is a pity and a colossal waste of a degree. So unless you are interested in creating and building things, an engineering degree is meaningless.”
Many of the Engineering students echo similar sentiments and yet there are more and more people who are unable to deviate from the tried and tested path. Hence to meet the demand, more engineering colleges are budgeted for, giving rise to an unequal unhealthy relationship among disciplines.
However, there are people who have chosen to follow their heart and not give in to the undue peer pressure that plagues the decisive years of life.
Poorvaja who is headed to LSE for her Masters in Development Management recalls her story, “I initially decided to take commerce because of my interest in journalism and economics. I felt that choosing the commerce group made sense because I was inclined towards the social sciences. My parents were pretty supportive of my decision because I was sure about what I wanted and more importantly, my aims in life. Many however thought I was making a mistake by choosing a stream that people chose when they had no “choice”. Subsequently, choosing economics for my UG was the best decision of my life. It opened doors to so many things I could do, and use my strengths optimally. My decision to go into the development field now has been due to my exposure as an economics student. There are multiple options like research, finance, consulting, policy making international relations and administration. I am glad I chose to find my own path! I found that many of my peers were taking decisions based on their parents'. Parents sometimes tend to fulfil their dreams through their children and that could blow up the child's future badly.”
So, well-weighed decisions always have a positive outcome. It is not by chance that they happen but with a focussed effort in the right direction. Awareness therefore, is a crucial determinant of the future. Wine tasting, photography, sports journalism, scripting translation, bartending— all seem to have lucrative returns if you have the flair! It is really about exploring your options and having the courage to chase your dreams.
Parents have a major role in shaping their children's personalities. To constantly thrust their ideas and opinions, supposedly arising from experience, on the children and not letting them be on their own, they will only create dependent, needy children who cannot make decisions by themselves or understand consequences. Every individual needs a certain degree of freedom and only guidance after a certain age. And the parents, school and peers need to be that support system and in such a way that it helps realise the student's abilities. This is the only way that children will be able to create their own space, be content with it and not be overburdened by the aspirations and plans of the parents. Counselling for parents must also be made a priority. There are multiple online forums that offer services in career counselling as well as psychometric tests in case of uncertainty. A quick search on Google will run you through a number of dedicated websites and discussion platforms devoted to this idea. Any trained psychologist will also be able to conduct these tests as well as counselling. Ideally, schools must implement both in their system and guide the student according to the result. Subsequently decisions become easier at the college level and offer a contrast to the current situation where most students are quite unsure after their graduation as to where they are heading.