Monday, August 25, 2008

Tyranny of Choice – Dilemma Facing School Children

My daughter has come to dread this question asked her by many of our relatives and family friends – “So, what do you plan to do after school”.

Her exasperated reaction – “I do not know….I am so confused…..There are so many choices and I cannot make up my mind”

This is the dilemma that our school going children face today. On one hand you have expectations of parents or peer pressure to handle. On the other, if you wish to research and list all options available before taking a decision – you are drowned in an avalanche of information and choice.

The intriguing and frustrating part is when commercial art seems as interesting as bio-technology or hotel management seems as exciting as a career in space engineering.

Cannot do both can we???? We definitely cannot switch from one to another without considerable pain and loss of academic years. In many cases it is just impossible to switch.

Let us have a closer look at what sort of choice we have.

We have at least forty major branches available in engineering. Add at least two dozen branches in medical and para-medical avenues.

Relatively straight forward avenues like Commerce have at least a dozen and half different courses at the graduate and post-graduate levels. This is followed by a mind boggling array of career options. We have the same situation in arts(all types), hospitality, languages, pure sciences, home sciences and perhaps in many other fields which I am not familiar with.

Are children or their parents supposed to sift through this information overload and come to some rational decision or is it easier and less painful to just flip a coin and decide.

Many a time, children change their minds on what they like and very often they come to dislike a subject or course because it does not meet their expectations or they encounter difficulties in understanding the same.

It has taken us adults so many years to find our true calling and, this is probably, the lucky minority. I believe a vast majority of adults feel trapped in what they do with little chance of a change.

Is it not, therefore, very unfair that our education system forces the choice of a career stream when we have barely begun to understand our own aptitude, likes and dislikes.

This certainly merits deeper thought and a move towards making our education system more flexible such that it equips a child to eventually find his / her own true calling.


mitr_bayarea said...


a great post at perfect timing..I just blogged about peer pressure...

Absolutely with you on that the Indian education system needs to change significantly to allow children to have a strong foudnation on all different subjects, like the US, where a person majoring in Biology needs to take Philosophy 101, so that if at some point they decide that they want to go into political science, they don't need to feel that they don't have any fundamentals.

Krishnan said...

Mavin, very interesting post. As Mitr remarked, if children are exposed to varied disciplines like biology and philosophy, it will be easier for them to make their own choices sensibly rather than arbitrarily. Educational system in India is really mindbogglingly complicated and in shambles in most places. I really pity the children's plight today and it is we, as parents, who should guide them towards their goals clear-sightedly without succumbing to peer pressures and other extraneous pulls.

Anonymous said...

I dont know everything about teh Indian edu system. But parents should guide better than teh system. they know the inclinations of their children because they have been observed them since ever. hence they can give perfect advices and proper encouragement. i onlyhave the experience of being a daughter and my parents were very good in that, my career is placed on one clear route. Although the jobs i take are often diverse i can see a common ground in them and it mirrors the major i studied for. Parents can be really helpful in this. BEST WISHES!! (radha)

Priyank said...

Wow, this post communicates my story! I did Engineering, followed by MBA and now I might go for urban planning. You are right, can't we do all of this?

Gopinath's "Artickles" said...

Innovative idea to mix and match subjects across "disciplines". So would we see universities offering courses like Buffets and Brunches, pick and choose your fill!

Hope we could be so flexible in our careers too! Down the road, one hopes you had actually stirred it up a bit, doesnt one?

You wouldnt have to go to a Raymond shop to be "a complete man"!

swaps said...

Should let the child's heart decide. Parents can counsel but refrain from imposing anything. Also parental understanding and support is crucial to handle peer pressure.

All in all, a child must be encouraged to enjoy life.... not to take things too seriously.

Anrosh said...

our education systems corners us early on, what we should focus on.that is a shame.

"A field of study" is a body of knowledge where we hone our problem solving and analytical skills while studying the concepts.

swami vivekanada said - Education is the manifestation of the perfection we already have.

and Qualifications is only the body of concepts studied in the particular field.

a friend of mine who finished engineering and did his masters in Electrical E. is now studying for medicene ( he is 34 years old)

a friend who is a chem engineer is going to film school next year.

leonardo vinci is the perfect example - he was an engineer, a medicene man, an architect.

Our mind is as big or as limited as one want it to be.

another relative finished medical school to the pressure of his parents, now heads a retail store.

Another dermatologist ( a very famous one from bombay ) doesn't want to pracitise mediciene. he wants to get into some kind of public policy research.

another cousin dropped out of school ( not much to the likings of his parents ) and published a novel. now his parents believe in him !

Bottom Line - Study what you love to study. Do what you want to do.
Do it well. Excel in them. Be passionate about. You will love life and live it--
Good luck

Mavin said...

Welcom Anrosh.

I agree with you. However, not many parents / children have the courage to do so.

In India, education is seen as a passport to a better life, better job and good money at the end of the day.

I guess it will take a little time for people to learn to take risks.

The funny part is in most cases our current career / job / business has no connection to what we studied. But, at that time we never knew what our interests were.

Do keep visiting again and leave your comments.

Anrosh said...

it is not about india, it is about the economy. if the economy is doing well, everybody gets not one but many jobs. these days with american economy on the downhill, it is just behaving as an indian economy in the late 1980's, early 1990's. and all those mentioned above are all indians. a seldom few know which direction they want to take when they are 18. Most find out in the late 20's or early 30's. .