Making career decisions is a crucial milestone at the secondary level because it helps students build their identities
Adolescence is characterised by significant psychological, physical, and social changes. Traditionally, a coming-of-age period, it should be a celebration of life. However, it is alarming how stressed and in the mental health crisis today’s pupils are.
Common sources of stress include interpersonal interactions, learning difficulties, and exam failures. Examinations, in themselves, are a cause of stress as they lead to anxiety about opting for higher education or career. Choosing a higher education and future employment is challenging due to the complex options available. The choice of a career among the many possibilities available is one of the major reasons that might cause stress and worry in youth.
Additionally, empirical data has demonstrated that late teenagers with career choice issues frequently have significant psychological issues. Therefore, it is now more crucial than ever to pinpoint the causes of the stress and worry that young people are experiencing.
The pupils’ stress may be influenced by what their parents think about them and their prospects. Additionally, a youngster who is unable to express their thoughts, feelings, and plans to their parents may wind up keeping everything buried deep inside, which could be harmful to their health and wellbeing.
In fact, such questions have been raised in previous editions of ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’, wherein one student talked about the “huge competition in each field”, how at times “they were not selected in any exam due to high competition and pressure”. Questions from a societal perspective as to “what can we do for them so that great talent of our nation will not be just wasted and will be useful for the nation?” have been raised.
The Prime Minister’s response has, of course, been well-documented but he has also written, “Aspire not to BECOME something but TO DO something. Normally, the desire to become something is driven by the expectations of the family, fashionable professional trends, peer pressure or fantasies about fame, money and power. It distances you from your true potential and gradually snuffs out the innate passion you are blessed with.”
When parents don’t approve of their child’s choices, such as choosing to major in humanities rather than science, the child may experience shame, disappointment, resentment, and despair. Getting influenced by the choices made by their peers and constantly making comparisons with them could add on to their stress.
While it is good to have focus and many children may be able to decide what they want to become, it is important not to let these choices, whether to become a doctor or pilot or civil servant, define our dreams. Rather let the dreams lead you to paths determined by how you can make a difference to your family, to society and to the world at large.
Lacking clarity about one’s interest areas, aptitude, work preferences, etc. and having a negative self-image could substantially increase the magnitude of stress and anxiety experienced by the students.
Swami Vivekananda exhorted us, “…each soul is a manifestation of divinity. If you have faith in all the Gods…and still have no faith in yourselves, there is no salvation for you.” Thus, self-awareness is crucial, leading to identification of both strengths and weaknesses and resulting in increased confidence. This is why it is critical not simply to have a positive outlook, but rather to consciously weed out the negativity in our lives – negative thoughts, negative friends, negative information, etc. Negativity should not be removed by a false sense of superiority but by acknowledging that even our smallest strengths can help in different situations.
Life is a series of new experiences, environments, people, it is multi-faceted and a journey with many infinite destinations and possibilities. But everyone approaches it in a different way. While some are stifled by choices, others are overwhelmed by choices. At another end of the spectrum, some do not even know enough about the choices at hand. Lack of accurate understanding about numerous career options is another issue that stresses out students. This includes diverse work profiles, pay scales, potential for growth, future of certain industries, etc. One can make an informed choice only when they have all the required information. In such a case, not having access to information or consuming content from unreliable sources (eg. making a career decision based on a random conversation with a friend) could prove to be quite harmful in these circumstances.
In Exam Warriors, PM has written, “Create your own opportunities. Be the master of your destiny. Today, there are tremendous opportunities in fields which were unimaginable even a decade ago. When you make these choices, remember your passion makes for the best vocation.”
With these words as a foundation, practically, at the individual level, students can focus more of their time and energy in seeking information, having healthy conversations with friends, family, teachers, and resource persons. The cohort of adults in a child’s environment can assist the students by encouraging open communication. They can guide, without being judgmental or forcing their opinions on children, and help children make decisions and become independent while selecting their subjects, colleges and universities.
Having an adult to speak with or discuss their career concerns or to ask questions and have constructive discussions could be significantly important for teenagers deliberating about their future.
Parents and teachers can also help the children by removing the taboo of going to a counselor and seeking professional help, if the need be. Having proper meetings with the parents, teacher and the child present would also be beneficial in discussing the concerns each of them might have, even concerns about resources, and come up with feasible solutions accordingly.
Such discussions could foster an environment of support, and understanding for the student. It is of utmost importance for the students to know that they are not alone in this journey, and that they will be able to figure things out gradually.
Lacking important life skills like time management, goal setting, etc., could further deteriorate their academic situation, and the student might start feeling incompetent leading to a negative self-image.
During PPC, PM Modi counseled students, “Every individual is blessed with unique abilities. These abilities are best channelled through quality time management. So, time management is nothing but ability management.”
Life skills are built by taking constant care of yourself, mentally, physically and emotionally. The Prime Minister has said that “practising yoga with full awareness is the most effective way to achieve holistic development of the self…..one who plays, shines.” Physical exercise, whether in the form of individual games or team sports, not only keeps us physically fit but also helps us to learn life skills, value of team-work, the art of competing with oneself and achieving a better version of your own self. It instills a sense of discipline and also increases focus.
Making career-related decisions is a crucial milestone at the secondary level because it helps students build their individual identities in society and prepare for the workforce. The process of making these decisions can be both exciting and anxiety-provoking. This is, why, in this journey, Pariksha Pe Charcha has come to play an important role.
(Prachi Pandey is Joint Secretary, Ministry of Education; Tara Naorem is Principal Chief Consultant, SS, MoE)