When I Grow Up I Want To Be…

Our education system is messed up. Here’s why:

In this country we are asked to choose the subjects that we want to study at GCSE at the age of fourteen. No big deal right? It’s just GCSEs, nobody will care about those is a few years time. Wrong.

How do you choose what A levels you want to do? You base this on what you enjoyed and what you did well in at GCSE. Unless it is a new subject only available at A Level you can’t decide to do a subject at A Level that you skipped at GCSE. You can’t be all “Nah, I’ve not done Geography since I was 14 but at the age of 16 I’ve discovered a previously unknown love for volcanoes and colouring in so thought I’d give the A Level a bash”. Nope. You’ve skipped a step, that’s against the rules.

Then how do you choose what to study at uni? Based on the subjects that you enjoyed and did well in at A level of course. How do you go about applying for jobs after you graduate? Largely, you base your job search on those roles that are aligned to the experience and knowledge you gained during university.

Before you know it BAM. You’re 22 working at XX as a XX all because 8 years ago you thought you’d take XX for the crack. Lets face it, the most popular reasons for choosing one GCSE over another is likely to be one of the following:

  1. Your mate Barry is doing it
  2. The teacher is alright, I suppose
  3. It’s easier than the alternatives
  4. Ip, dip, do

Which if you’ve known that you want to be a doctor or an astronaut since you first learned to talk, is great. There’s a very clear path to your dream career but if that’s you, you’re in the minority I’m afraid.

XX% of 14 year olds have no idea what they want to be when they grow up. And why should they? They’re 14! Most of them are far too interested in the raging hormones racing through their veins, trying their first cigarette and getting to grips with the fact that pubic hair is a thing now. They’ve got enough going on without having to decide their entire life’s trajectory.

There is general acknowledgement in society of the drastic changes a person goes through between the ages of 14 and 21. In that time span they can cast their first vote, lose their virginity (legally), balls drop, boobs grow, they realise that boy band posters are not actually wall paper and the odds on marrying a supermodel or footballer aren’t actually that high. Your sense of self enhances beyond measure. You’re finding your place in this messed up world.

So why oh why do we think it’s reasonable to hold someone accountable to choices they made before they even know who they are meant to be

Well what’s the solution? I hear you ask. Well here’s my two cents seen as you asked so nicely.

In the short term we should be helping the students to better understand that their choices may inadvertently be deciding their future careers, particularly ones that are basing their decisions on the “reasons” above.  

If they have no idea what they want to do career wise, then teach them roulette. I don’t mean give them a dangerous gambling addiction; I mean teach them to play the odds and to spread their bets for the best chance of success, so that they can avoid (or at least delay) making a narrowing choice that they may regret later on.

Take a humanities subject, take a creative subject, take an analytical subject. Focus on breadth over depth. If you’re unsure what direction you want to go in. Don’t take further maths, statistics and economics. Don’t take Fine Art and Graphic Design. Spread your odds.

In the long term we need to revise the

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