BY CATLIN MCINTOSH
A lot of young people who graduate from high school come out with a diploma thinking they know what they want to be. Little are they prepared for the confusion that follows graduation. For them, the step out of the safe environment of high school and into the adult world is a frightening experience.
Rupinder Grewal, 22, shares something in common with many young people. She is taking time off from her education. And she is scared.
“In high school my future seemed to be laid out for me. Everything was so clear until graduation,” said Grewal. “I found that I wasn’t prepared for the real world.”
After taking co-op in high school, Grewal chose to study broadcasting. She assumed that she would be in college now taking the course that would lead her to a successful job. It wasn’t until she applied to college three years ago, that she was told that she hadn’t earned her high school diploma yet.
“They told me I was short one English credit,” said Grewal, who ended up having to take it in night school to graduate. “I felt like the education system had failed me. They never explained much to us. I guess they just assumed we’d figure it out on our own,” she said.
Grewal feels that many students are losing out because teachers no longer have time to explain things in depth to their, students, such as what courses they need to take and how to apply to post-secondary education. She also wishes there could have been more one-on-one time with her teachers.
“Kids need to have their options explained to them in more time than half an hour,” she said.
By the time she earned her English credit, college had already started. So instead of sitting around for a year, she found a part-time job at Future Shop. Part-time turned into full-time and one job led to the next. Now, after being out of school for three years, she has a fear of going to college.
Grewal no longer has financial support from her family and has other expenses to worry about. She says that she wants to go back to school but is worried about ending up with a big debt when she graduates. Instead she wants to try to save some of her own money rather then getting a student loan.
Though cost is a big factor in many people’s choices about returning to school, career choice seems to be the biggest. Many young people aren’t continuing on to college or university simply because they don’t have a clue what they want to be.
Fabby Minni, 20, is one of those young people who has no idea what career path to choose. Minni was born in London, England, where students graduate from high school at the age of 16. He moved to Toronto that same year.
He is currently working part-time in a restaurant as a line cool, and is trying to decide what courses to apply for in January. He says he wants to choose something that will make him happy because money alone isn’t a reason to choose a career. “I was never given any direction in school and now I feel like it’s too late,” he said.
“In England they don’t come to you to talk about the future. Either you get a job or find your own way into college.”
Co-op and career counselling were never options given to Minni, but he feels that if they had been available to him back then, he might know now what career to choose now. Like Grewal, he wishes that his teachers would have talked more about the available choices.
“I think co-op is a great chance for people who don’t know what to do with their lives,” said Minni. “It can give a person some insight into what they are good at.”
Minni says that he thinks Canada’s education system is more effective than England’s, despite the cutbacks. He says that in Canada students get more hands-on and practical work, whereas England’s school system is purely academic.
“How good you are on paper (in England) governs your life,” said Minni.
Without direction many young people lose interest in their education. They don’t want to waste money on just any course for the sake of choosing something, so they take time off to decide.
There are also some adults who share the views of these young people and Glenn Tarver is one of them. He also has thoughts of his own on how to find some solutions for the ones who get left behind.
Tarver, 58, is a recently retired high school principal and geography teacher who has worked in many Scarborough schools. He has also worked part-time administering aptitude tests to people of all ages.
“When I was young, things were so much easier. I just drifted into my career,” he said. “Today money plays big role in our lives. Many people can’t afford to go into post-secondary education.”
Tarver says that cost of college and university affects many people’s decisions to take time off, and that if tuition costs were as low as they were 30 years ago, many people who want to be in school and who have potential would have a better chance to attend.
He believes that because of the lack of funding for education, more people are on their own now and high school students aren’t getting enough career counselling.
“The world changes so fast that they just can’t keep up,” said Tarver. “Many new fields of work are opening up, but people are confused and don’t seem to know what they are good at. For example, a person may have the ability to become a doctor but they may not have the confidence to find out.”
Tarver says that one solution would be to make co-op compul-sory. If this were possible, students would be able to get a better grasp of what jobs suit them. But there isn’t enough money available to make it happen and there are so many students and not enough teachers.
He says that for 100 per cent of the student body to do co-op, there would have to be eight students to every teacher. Each teacher would have to be checking up on approximately eight separate co-op positions turns, as well as teaching their regular classes. With all the cutbacks, it simply isn’t possible. Tarver believes society is more at fault then the education system. He says that parents and teachers don’t have enough patience or time anymore to sit down and talk to students at length. This leaves young people feeling confused and alone, with no real sense of direction.
As a result, many people with potential are losing out on college or university opportunities because of government cutbacks in all the wrong places, he said.
Tarver doesn’t believe that someone who hasn’t enough money to pay for school should lose out on an education, which could lead them to a career where they could make something of themselves.
His advice to students who are trying to find a career that they want to pursue is that they should find out what their strengths are and what they are good at.
Get an aptitude test, then researches different careers and find out what courses are needed.
He also believes strongly that job shadowing and volunteering are great opportunities to find out if a certain career is right for a person, rather than wasting money on a course and finding out you don’t like it.
“Remember,you are planning the rest of your life and happiness must come first,” said Tarver. “Don’t restrict yourself to one area of study. Broaden your education to keep your options open. Taking time off is a good thing. Don’t jump into it.”