Home > Commentary, Education Policy > Too young to decide?

Too young to decide?

“Sir, I’m not even allowed to buy a bottle of wine to have with my dinner. How am I supposed to choose what I want to do for the rest of my life?”

A year 13 pupil in my home team (tutor group) asked me that today while discussing her UCAS choices and it stopped me in my tracks. The realisation of just how stressful year 13 can be and just how young year 13 students are really hit me. How many of us really know how we want to spend the rest of our lives when we are that age? I was still dreaming of “making it” in the music business, although I did thing teaching was the most likely back up plan. When it came to choosing a course for University I picked maths, not because I knew I wanted to be a maths teacher – I was considering it, but if I had fully committed to the idea then I would have done the 4 year maths with QTS. I chose it because I loved it and was good at it. The option of teaching was still there but so were careers in finance, accounting and plenty of other things, even research mathematics and lecturing. I had ideas, but no solid plan – I was lucky that maths opens so many doors.

I’ve written recently about Vocational Education. How we, as a country, have been getting it wrong for far too long and how we need to address this. I put forward a vision of a world where vocational qualifications were as rigorous and as respected as academic qualifications. This is still something I feel strongly about, but this students words made we wonder if I’d missed something. At what age would we be requiring young people to make the choice? What if a 13 year old choses a path and the 17 year old version of the person wishes he’d made the other choice? What if, like the student I was talking to, someone has no idea what they want to do?

It made me think, perhaps a general education, that covers a bit of everything, would be best. Allowing people to keep their options open until as late as possible. That would certainly be a good option for those who don’t know what they want to do. Perhaps along side these qualifications we need some rigorous conversion courses. A way for an 18 year old who chose the vocational route to convert back to the academic, or a way for an 18 year old who chose academic to switch to the vocational.

What’s clear to me is that the whole system needs a rethink. We are putting far too much pressure on 16/17/18/19 year olds who are often not emotionally strong enough to deal with it. Then we add to the pressure with talk of student loans and lifelong debt. Surely a graduate tax would be a more favourable approach? Surely education should be free, and be a right?

For now, I’ll continue to guide as best as I can. To try to help these young people to make the right choice for them, in a system that seems stacked against them, and certainly has its limitations.

  1. October 14, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. A.Lo-Pon
    May 23, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    The American university system seems to trump our in this regard where the first years have a chance to try out a lot of different courses in their first year before settling on their “major”.
    Maybe that it something that could be considered.

  1. March 16, 2016 at 7:35 pm

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