Choosing your pathways

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By Jonathan Cox, Secondary Years Deputy Principal at GEMS World Academy (Singapore)

Choosing the right pathway for your son or daughter’s move from High School to University and beyond can be a nerve-racking affair. But it needn’t be.

One of the great things about education nowadays is that there are so many different routes and very few dead ends.

The most common concern that parents have, is that (at the grand old age of 15!) their son or daughter doesn’t know what they want to do. Actually, this makes choices relatively straight forward.

Start with what they are good at, look at what they enjoy and pick those subjects. It has become a cliché that most of our children will be doing jobs that don’t even exist yet, but like all clichés, it is based on a large degree of truth. Flexibility, emotional intelligence, a sharp intellect and communication skills are some of the most employable skills and any good degree programme will develop these.

If your child does know what degree/career they want to pursue, you should still start with the same two questions:

  1. What are they good at?
  2. What do they enjoy?

Once you have answered these, then go to question 3:

  1. What do they need?

I have worked with countless students who have nursed a ‘lifelong ‘ambition to be an engineer or doctor – only to find that their science and math’s grades are terrible! There may still be a pathway to their career of choice, but it may not be a direct line. Or it might just be that the ‘lifelong’ ambition needs some readjustment. After all, we all want our doctors to be great scientists and our engineers to be outstanding at math’s for very obvious reasons!

I remember very clearly sitting opposite a family. Mum and Dad were both doctors. They told me with great confidence that their daughter also wanted to be a doctor. I noticed the daughter’s eyes drop slightly and asked her if that was true. She looked up and said, ’No, I want to study design.’ Mum looked aghast. ‘You never told me that.’ she said. The daughter looked at her and replied very simply, ‘You never asked.’

And this leads me to my final point. Above all else, LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD.