Friday, October 08, 2004

Life's Calling: Part II-A Response to Jdid

Right now one of my niece is preparing for her A'levels and I am not convinced she is doing the righ t subjects. She is doing the sciences Physics, Biology and Maths. She thinks her future lies in some sort of engineering. She is adamant it is but she is only 17 and has little clue about what the world has to offer. I think that she is a brilliant writer and that is what she should pursue but she aint listening at all. I hope I am wrong and she is one of those people who just knows.
But I have experienced life and university and our education system here. That is where the pigeon-holing starts. You show a little bit of promise academically and you are forced into the applied sciences. A wider scope, diverse possibilities are just not part of our systems. I guess we can't afford it.

I was so amazed that on my trip to Kenya a few yrs ago that I met two Swiss girls just out of high school travelling Kenya by themselves. And they were already confident globe trotters much more than I. I think that those girls will find something they really enjoy doing in life and wont settle for a field b/c it is expected and/or safe etc. They will also have the confidence to change mid stream if what they are doing does not hit the mark at first. They already know first-hand that there is so much going on in this world.


Jdid said...

Wow my one personalized response post, I'm honored :-)

I agree with you. I find by the time you are forced to make choices for A'Levels you really dont know what you are doing. My reason for choosing similar subjects to your neice at that point was that with the sciences most of the answers are absolute so you're either right or wrong as opposed to the languages where in my opinion so much of it is subject to who in marking the paper and what type of mood there are in. Ok I exaggerate but I remember distinct high school english teachers marking very similar style papers differently because of the style of writing and stories they preferred.

One of the issues with making those decisions so early is that there isnt much guidance for high school students in the caribbean. Another is that once you get going in a particular field in the Caribbean its nigh on impossible to change fields because as you said you are pigeon holed.

With other countries you do find high school students doing what thsoe swiss girls were doing. Take a year off from high school, travel a bit and see the world and 'find oneself' or at least get a better idea of what one likes and what the options are for fields of study and jobs. Maybe more caribbean persons should do that but we usually have issues with being able to afford that and even if we can we usually lack the encouragement from family and friends to pursue such a path as it may be seen as a waste of a year when you could be going to UWI and getting started on an education path towards what is termed a 'decent job'.

So you get to UWI get half way and then realize I hate this field , I can do it mind you but I dont get any satisfaction but how many persons can switch degree streams at UWI?

I just had an idea which doesnt solve everything but maybe making UWI a 4 year program instead of three with the first year giving students the option of being undeclared might help young caribbean students experience a wider range of subjects and get a better idea of what they would be happy doing. It doesnt solve everything but it may help.

ThandieLand said...

Yup your own special response :)

But even going to liberal arts college which I did does not always help if you have been brought up in our system of secondary and A level college. You are already bugged down but it did give me a glimpse of many things as possible. I do believe that a liberal arts first degree is the best gift parents can give their 18-19 yr old.

I like your suggestion for a four yrs at UWI...I mean if you are a mature student and just pausing in your career to get better qualifications you can do it in three by doubling up too.

Jdid said...

so your suggestion then would be to do away with doing 3 A levels and give the students a broader base at that stage from which they can build? But isnt that sort of waht CXC O'levels is supposed to do?

I'm also going to throw out somethinga bit out there in this discussion. Wont take credit for the thought and not sure I completely agree with it but I once went to a lecture by someone who rambles alot like me (except he had way more ego) and he said that in order for the things you really like to do to stay pure you shouldnt do them as a career. That is, if you are a writer, artist or musican you really should not be doing that for your main money making venture.WHy? because according to him doing so made you more likely to lose some of the purity of your art as you sold out or you tweaked your art to cater to a larger audience so you could make money. Now does that mean your main venture should be something you absolutely dislike I never got a chance to ask that but the statement has always made me think alot.

Also and this time I take complete credit for this crazy line of thought I think in some cases formal schooling can sometimes make you lose the pure pleasure of the stuff you like. Doing stuff under the constant strain of deadlines and grades can just make you dislike a subject.

cahapa said...

Well I don't think that your neice's choice is necessarily problematic - given the nature of today's work and the need for continuing education, she can always change if she wants. It certainly did not get in my way. All that is important is that at the time that you are doing whatever you should feel that you really want to do wahtever it is you are doing. I do think the kids could get a better deal in the high school education if they were more exposed to a variety of subjects and required to do more - like in the French system - much longer hours of school and the liberal arts ed. to which you referred to at university level should be started from high school. Also they need career counselling. I don;t know that much would be gained by lenghtneing the first degree at UWI into 4 years. It's not the time spent - especially for girls I am for the accelreated track. But also what would be the explicit benefits of extending it over 4 years? I can see donwsides of expense espeically pertinent for those of us not from campus territories. Moreover, given the ageism that operates nowadays...hmmm..Also, what's happening on the site? I don;t see anythign for December? What's the deal?

cahapa said...

Oh and yeah. I think the travelling is a great idea as well. That can be acheived thorugh the extra long 3 month holidays we have in the Caribbean in the "SUMMER" holidays. But I can well see it will be an uphill battle getting parents to ensure that the exposure is really useful and enlightening - imagine getting them to send their kids to Botswana rather than Boston! Hehehehe!