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Students need more than pep talk to decide on career paths

Khaleej Times logo Khaleej Times 17/03/2019 Sarwat Nasir
Students need more than pep talk to decide on career paths © Provided by Khaleej Times Students need more than pep talk to decide on career paths

The UAE's education sector offers students plenty of resources and accessibility - all the way from 209 different private schools in Dubai, with a focus on STEM studies, Fourth Industrial Revolution topics embedded into the curriculum, and part-time job opportunities.

But with a long list of choices comes the heavy responsibility of making the right decision that leads to the successful path - especially when students have to decide on a career.

This is when career counselling within schools comes into play, as well as the part-time job opportunities that are now open to students aged 15 and above. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority's Rahhal project also gives pupils a chance to test potential career choices out.

Sara Radwan, the careers counsellor at GEMS Wellington International School (WSO), said it's important for students to know that it's natural to feel overwhelmed with choices at their age.

"The guidance process must be data-driven and not only a pep talk about where the student's interest lies. Students need to start narrowing down their options by drawing emphasis on their areas of strength," Radwan said.

"Across all curriculums, students will reach a point where they are taking both core (required subjects) and electives (a number of subjects across various areas of discipline such as arts, sports, business, social sciences). This is when they need to carefully choose electives in the areas they are likely to have a career in.

"Not to forget that university entry requirements can be 'subject and level-relevant' and that has to be factored in during the guidance process after Year 9."

Radwan shared the story of a student at WSO, Leonardo Maroccolo, who played football professionally in Verona, Italy, and dreamed of earning a sports scholarship in a US-based university.

However, Maroccolo was told to consider a 'back-up plan' as he also had a passion and aptitude towards business and economics.

"During his senior year, he grew more interested in business and economics, and while he was a stellar athlete and did receive various scholarship offers to play football for universities in the US, he turned those offers down and decided to join the European University (EU) Business School in Barcelona," Radwan said. "Leonardo is graduating from EU in summer 2019. During his three years in the university, Leonardo managed to study abroad for a term in Derby University Bachelor of Honors in Business Management, and completed international internships at Samsung, Cirrus Aircraft and We Can Consulting."

The vice-principal at GEMS New Millennium School, Christine de Noronha, said their step-by-step career guidance begins in Grade 8, where students do modules on financial literacy.

Grade 9 students are offered the Global Futures curriculum from Singularity University, as well as the Cisco training on the Internet of Things, which helps them prepare for the future.

"All Grade 11 students have access to the Unifrog website, an award-winning online careers platform. In addition, Knowledge Hour - which is run exclusively by students for the students - brings in distinguished speakers, university representatives and professionals from all walks of life to share their career journeys with parents and students," Noronha said.

"To provide an edge for university readiness, we constantly tap different organisations to offer internship programmes for students. This focused preparation acts as a pivotal springboard that allows our 'new millennials' to surge in the direction of their dreams."

Schools must give youth a balanced view of options: Expert

University and career fairs, hands-on training, internships and career counselling sessions are some effective ways to help pupils decide on their future path, educators have said.

Majority of the schools in the UAE do host fairs or take their students on field trips, where they can decide on their higher education institution and, potentially, on a future career.

Dubai has also opened part-time job opportunities to students aged 15 and above, in efforts

to help them gain the practical training they need.

Latha Narasimhan, a teacher at Sharjah Indian School, said: "Career counselling in schools assumes great importance as students are often found in quandary as to which career would suit their aptitudes and interests.

"Career guidance ought to be multi-faceted to serve the purpose. Apart from providing career aptitude tests and the various career options, a holistic approach should be adopted.

"Life skills training and development of essential soft skills should become part and parcel of career counselling. Interactive sessions with eminent people from different careers could be arranged for first-hand information. Short internship programmes, where students could have real-life experiences, could be organised to show them the correct direction and train them for their future careers."

However, Narasimhan believes that the career fairs carried out in schools should cater to the needs of all students, and not just the science-related fields as many do.

She said students need to be given a "balanced view" of career options to open their minds to different opportunities.

"Care should be taken to focus on unique career options available across the world to break the stereotypes regarding career choices," she said.

"Parents should also be enlightened and counselled to encourage the acceptance of different career choices.

"Keeping everyone updated with the latest developments is important to help students prepare for future job requirements effectively. Career guidance, if offered at the right stage, can alter and reshape the future of the students," said Narasimhan.

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