Where to now?
In the forty odd years as an educational practitioner how often have I heard these words emanate from students when completing their final year in high school?
There is always so much hype that occupies the journey of being a ‘senior’ with the liberties and expectations that accompany that. Yet as the end of school days approach this is replaced by the anxieties of both doing well enough to pursue ‘the’ career as well as that which accompanies leaving the familiar cocoon of school, a community that can often be a safe haven for the student.
Where to now?
Final school farewells for Year 12s are often bittersweet. Traditionally a mixture of euphoria and anxiety. A time of celebration, where both tears and glee are palpable.
For the millennial generation it is a tough economy. The pressure to succeed academically, to achieve a high UEI (university entrance index) is becoming greater and greater.
In the last forty years the trend in NSW’s education has been, in the main, for students to remain at school until they complete year 12. As a consequence, more and more there is a need for emotional and psychological support for our students. Teachers, counsellors and pastoral carers are seeing increasing incidences of depression, eating and anxiety disorders and deliberate self-harm in schools. Youth suicide is increasing, more so in Australia than in other parts of the western world.
At the end of their school career students may see entrance into Australian universities as the be-all or end-all. Yet in reality this is becoming more and more difficult. As an alternative some students with appropriate ability are choosing to do the Internationale Baccalaureate, which, if they are successful in, can give them an entrance into overseas universities. The Achilles heel of this is that unfortunately many, perhaps academically our nation’s crème de la crème, remain overseas after they complete further post-graduate studies.
For a myriad of reasons other students who do not present such academic aptitude in their final years of schooling may have a sense they have not made the grade and feel worthless perhaps, hopeless.
What practical measures can be taken to ensure the best for those of our youth who are our nation’s future?
At present times it is a tough economy however, the reality of career satisfaction is perhaps more obtainable than it ever has been. The choice of occupations in the 21st century is endless.
In the last years of school preliminary investigation of career choices is paramount for students. Work experience (usually undertaken in year 10) and volunteer or community service work can arm them with some knowledge of a future career path.
Another tangible method of assistance in affording students access to the alternatives that can be offered to them is with the help of School Career Counsellors. With their assistance personality tests can be undertaken to demonstrate which occupation is best suited for the individual. The most frequently used personality inventory is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Assisting students to develop an awareness of their own core strengths is also an essential part of the process. Knowing who you are and what you can do is integral to the transition phase of a student into post-school life. Developing emotional resilience, enhancing self-esteem and social competencies through pastoral care programs that are part and parcel of many schools’ curricula can be very beneficial.
It goes without saying that parents can play a crucial role in how successful the transition to after-school life occurs for the individual. Acknowledging and assisting their children, being involved in discussions and exploration about career options, helping them to gather information prior to decision-making. Knowing and discussing with their child their areas of skills, talents and aptitudes, goals and accomplishments, reading with them the numerous handbooks that are available, can all assist them in making informed, appropriate decisions.
Finally for the school leaver: Never lose sight that you need to follow your own passions. Rely on your gut and the advice of those who know you best. Do not beat up on yourself. If at first you don’t succeed in the direction that you have chosen keep focused that you will eventually find where you are meant to be. Discovering your true self and career path may take many changes in the span of your working life. It is an on-going, life-long journey.
Where to now?