Sunday 5 June 2022

Choosing a career at age nine

is apparently something else which needs to be "taught" in school. There is said to be a need to provide children of this age with "career guidance". 

The article I have just read has left me in little doubt that this is nothing to do with career guidance at all. It is much more about trying to ensure that we have people with the skills we need into the future. It is about "where the jobs are" and not about "I want to be". 

Now of course that is not in the least bit unreasonable. We need people who can program computers and build electric vehicles but we also need people who can teach us how to do those things. We need plumbers and dentists, architects and farmers, engineers and shop assistants. But - I wonder how much children really know about careers or the idea of adult "work". 

I am one of four children. Both of my parents were teachers and then school principals.  Three of us started our working lives as teachers. We all fell into teaching rather than actively chose it. There were a variety of reasons for this but much of it had to do with it being what was available. It was an alternative to university when we could not afford to go to university.  It was what our parents did and what we knew about.

But we did not last in teaching. I had always wanted to be a writer or "something to do with languages" even though I had never had the opportunity to study a modern language. I would have accepted being a librarian or an archaeologist but they required university degrees. Teaching was not something I was passionate about. It was simply something I could do.  I worked my way through teacher training college as a "junior housemistress" in a boarding school. My siblings got bonded state scholarships. Brother Cat ended up in administration - running statewide programs to bring computer technology into all levels of education at the end. He did his degree part time. Middle Cat was fortunate and went to university under a fee free scheme and became a physiotherapist. Teacher training helped her teach her patients and she did some tutoring but it wasn't her real interest. The Black Cat never had any idea what she wanted to do and has had about twenty different jobs over the years. All she ever knew was that she did not want to go teaching.

And, as I said, it was what our parents did. It is what we knew about. In the same way as so many of the boys in rural areas would "go back on to the farm" on leaving school. Their fathers were farmers so they went farming. I know other people whose parents were plumbers or electricians, nurses, librarians and more. They have gone into the same fields. This has not been out of any real interest or passionate desire but simply because they knew what the job was about and might even have had connections which got them the apprenticeship or into the nursing school or somewhere else. 

But do nine year old children really have any idea about these things? A very few might. I know of one paleontologist who knew what he wanted to do from a very early age. It has to be said though that he was supported and encouraged by his sensible and intelligent parents. They helped him make inquiries about how he could go about achieving his aim. 

Schools might be able to do that sort of thing - if they had the time and the resources. I think this is where they might continue to fail. The "end of year ten" is now considered to be too late. Children have to make decisions before that. They are "encouraged" to do certain things and "discouraged" from doing others. Maths and science take preference over the arts. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to my friend A...., a brilliant linguist. She interprets and translates at the highest level available. She has security clearances others could not even dream about but it hasn't been easy. She had an A level in Maths at thirteen but "it was just something I could do". Now I suspect she would have been "encouraged" to take up a career in that area instead of one that she has found challenging.

If we are going to give "careers guidance" to nine year old children then I think it has to be of the type which says "all these things are possible" and "don't limit yourself". Sadly I think it is more likely to be of the type  "we need X.... and you are good at this so this is what you should aim for". Surely we can wait at least until secondary school?


Holly said...

Age 9? Good grief, most children at that age have little to no sense of complete self identity, much less should be forced to chose what they want to do for the rest of their lives? It feels like a return to Victorian times!

And when you looks at many of today's adults, most are not in the same career as they chose when teens, much less prior to age 10. Unlike when I went through school, most individuals will not work for the same employer for 40 years.

Here in the US - the push is for university/college. Fields that should not require that kind of education level have been changed so as to require it. We don't have decent trade schools or hands-on apprenticeship tracks. And, no surprise, we have to import almost all of the skilled labor (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, tlle-layers, etc).

I see the formal training programs in Europe where students can go that direction at age 16... (but, in fact, the decision is probably made earlier when the division after grade 4 sends children to different schools.) So, if Australia is using the Europe model, they need to watch carefully as not all decisions are made correctly. Late bloomers are a fact, and not all decisions should be made at age 9-10 which will affect a person for the rest of their life...

Allison said...

At age 9 I wanted to be a teacher. (Every female in my family was a teacher with the exception of my mother who was a biology major and worked a couple jobs in that field.) It wasn't until I had had multiple many babysitting jobs that I realized I didn't care much for other people's children and for sure didn't want to be trapped in classrooms with 30 of them for the rest of my life. I eventually ended in the computer field (which didn't/hardly existed when I was nine).