It is such a difficult time for school-leavers that the past seems unnaturally alluring while the future looks pretty grim
This time of the year is always fraught with anxieties for school-leaving students. First, there is the looming board examination, the results of which determine their entry into colleges and universities. Next, there is the constant brooding over the choice of career paths. But 2020 has been especially tense for them on account of the untold disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, it is such a difficult time for school-leavers that the past seems unnaturally alluring while the future looks pretty grim.
As yet, nobody knows when on-campus classes will be resumed. Nor can anybody predict when, how and where the board examinations will be held. It is no wonder that the future after leaving school seems so terrifying for high schoolers. Even in normal years, students have a tough time selecting their branch of higher studies while keeping an eye on possible career paths. This year they are totally at sea, knowing that the world of work is undergoing turbulent changes. Further, they know that they will probably have to settle for virtual classes and will not experience college campus life, which they had been looking forward to for years.
At this time, we need to make a conscious effort to boost our students’ morale. Professional career counsellors are probably doing their job of keeping abreast of changes that are taking place and of trends that are already perceptible. However, career counsellors alone can’t be expected to allay the anxieties of students. Parents, mentors and teachers have an onerous responsibility too. They need to give students a sense of security and stability so that their education — irrespective of the timing and nature of the board and college entrance examinations — continues uninterrupted. Further, they must help them to face the world with a calm frame of mind and develop the adaptability to cope with the demands of new situations. Living examples may be cited, of enterprising people who have reinvented their lines of work successfully in these trying times. It would help them enormously, if teachers and mentors suggested concrete steps while their students go about trying to prepare for an unnervingly uncertain future.
Here are a few thoughts that we can share with our students while engaging with them. I feel that such dialogues make them less anxious about their future. The first point to drive home is that they are not the only ones facing this predicament — everybody was in the same boat. Although quite obvious, somehow, they find solace in this realisation which needs to be reinforced from time to time. They must also be made aware that humans have overcome many perilous situations in the past; therefore, we can believe with reason that the present condition is only temporary. Students must make most of the time they have at their disposal and learn not only from their prescribed coursework but from the myriad resources that are available on the Internet. It has become already clear that the future demands a broad outlook and an interdisciplinary approach — narrow specialisation has become passé.
Many students, along with their parents, worry because they are undecided about their career path. Instead of trying to coax them to make a decision immediately, it is perhaps wiser to reassure them that there is plenty of time to make a definite choice. In any case, people do not need to stick to any particular career line all through their working life. Examples may be given of the multifarious new occupations that have spawned in the recent past to demonstrate that there is no end to the opportunities that will be available to them. In the face of a possible job losses, resourceful young people have got hold of several digital assignments while working from home. Who knows, multiple careers can easily turn out to be the norm in future.
So far as their immediate anxiety of admission into reputed colleges is concerned, students must understand the need to be practical. Even a very good student may not get a seat in the college of his or her choice. This should not break the person. There are enough real-life examples to show that it is not necessary to attend a particular institution in order to make a success of life.
In the context of seeking “success”, it is imperative that young people must understand that success does not have a single definition — it comes in different forms. One way of defining success is the fulfilment of individual goals. Therefore, instead of chasing nebulous dreams, students should be encouraged to look inward and discover what they want out of life, where their interests lie and what their strengths are. To attain success, students must be resilient in the face of inevitable setbacks. In addition, they should possess certain skills and qualities which will always be in demand irrespective of place or circumstances. These include “people skills”, the ability to communicate effectively and being a reliable team player. Above all, it is important to be able to manage one’s own emotions competently and respond to other people’s emotions sensitively.
Parents and teachers must make a conscious effort not to pass on their own worries to the young. It is easier said than done, but we must cultivate a robust outlook ourselves while holding up for them an optimistic, yet not unrealistic, picture of the future.