As early as the first class of senior secondary school, the potential career trajectories of young students in Nigeria can be remarkably altered.
The students are presented with the choices of the sciences, the arts, and the social sciences by their schools.
They are encouraged to consult their parents on what path to follow. This crossroads in a young boy/girl’s life can play a crucial role in how their career pans out.
The timing of the window differs from school to school. Some give the students the chance to choose at the start of their senior secondary school journey, while others wait a term or a session (which gives students the opportunity to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and prospects).
So what are the factors that can determine the directions of these students’ academic pursuits?
1. Peer Pressure
As expected with many endeavors that involves adolescents, peer pressure plays a sizable role in decision making. Adolescents go through a phase where personality is still in the formative stages.
Their opinions are often half-baked as a result of limited information or because their cognitive faculties aren’t developed to their maximum capacities.
According to the World Health Organization, adolescence is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood, from ages 10 to 19. It is a peculiar stage of human development and an important period for laying the foundations of good mental and physical health.
So it is no surprise that this age range teems with many vulnerable and impressionable students.
Students who feel the need to fit in may not be thorough about the process of making their decisions or they may not agree to the recommendations of their parents and guardians.
Instead, they jump on the most popular bandwagon. Such is the power of peer pressure.
2. Parents’/Guardians’ Wishes
One must also acknowledge that the recommendations of parents and guardians aren’t always ideal for their wards. Some parents may have fantasies about how they want their children’s future to pan out.
The need to see their children engaged in careers that are socially dignifying or financially rewarding can drive parents to make sure they have things their way.
This has led to many students embarking on academic journeys they struggle to finish at tertiary level because their strengths are not aligned with their course of study.
3. Socio-Economic Realities
The need to live a financially comfortable life is universal. A future where basic needs can be catered to while still having enough for a sprinkle of luxury is generally considered something to strive for.
Studying a financially rewarding course at tertiary level can give one a shot at that privilege. Since senior secondary school is a direct pipeline to universities and polytechnics, academic
fields like medicine and engineering are encouraged early (which can lead to students setting off on scientific paths simply based on the hopes of a financially lucrative career).
According to research carried out by digital Platform University of the People, the most in-demand academic courses are:
It should come as no surprise to see that the top five most financially lucrative careers fall under the academic umbrella of the hard sciences. Such is the popularity and power of science.
So What Should Determine Career Paths?
Well, there isn’t a particular answer to that question. Different strokes for different folks, as the saying go.
However, there seems to be a worrying lack of concern for what students’ abilities and inclinations are best tailored to.
The consequence of parents projecting their wishes on their children without due consideration for what would suit the children could be an exercise in setting them up for failure.
It is not alien to see many students at tertiary level struggle to meet up to academic requirements despite their best efforts.
Poor academic performances can lead to mockery or being tagged lazy and unambitious. If a lizard calls a fish lazy because the fish can’t crawl of climb a tree that is because it hasn’t seen the fish in water.
Could There Be a Solution?
Yes, there could! However, every facet of society has a role to play in making sure students can leverage their strengths for their own good and that of society, too.
Parents/guardians have to be more conscious of how their decisions affect their wards. A child is a child first, not an extension of his or her parents.
Even though it is reasonable for parents to make some decisions on behalf of their adolescents, there should be a conscious effort to make sure those decisions will not compromise the child’s chances of academic success in the future.
It is also important to consider the fact that the socio-economic situation of a country is inevitably tied to the decisions its citizens make. So the government has a role to play in making sure certain careers are more attractive.
Building infrastructure and implementing public sector salary reforms for the less attractive careers can spark up interest and fascination.
Imagine an automated artificially intelligent system that can recommend career paths for students based on their previous performances? Sounds fascinating, right?
This is not a far-fetched fantasy considering the level of advanced technology at our disposal in this day and age. This system would help to align a student’s areas of strengths with suitable career paths.
It would go a long way in eliminating uninformed decisions that can change an adolescent’s personal and academic life forever.
Based on evidence available to us from past to present, isn’t it obvious that a student’s fascination and interest in a course of study can play a massive role in the student’s chances of breaking new grounds and contributing to relevant advancement in their field?
From Albert Einstein to Alexander Fleming and many others, a burning desire for what they did professionally led to positive changes we continue to enjoy today. Who knows if the next Wole Soyinka is in a lab somewhere mixing chemicals?
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Writer: Ayomide Olumilua