Career [mis]Guidance

On 28 Jan 2010 St. Euphrasia Girls High School, Bangalore, asked me to give career guidance to 140 girls of class 10 and to separately interact with their parents. The children were from lower middle and poor classes. Many parents did not have high school education. Most of them may want the children to start earning soon. Also, these children had not been doing well in studies. In the preparatory examination, less than  15% of them had passed all the subjects.

I met the students seated on rugs on the floor in a hall. On the wall were photographs of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Javaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, BR Ambedkar, mother Teresa, and Indira Gandhi.

I explained the concept of “role model” and then asked them to group by what they would like to be out of the people portrayed on the walls. About 70% of them fell in a group who wanted to emulate mother Teresa. The rest were mostly distributed between Indira Gandhi and Jesus Christ.

Considering that our education system did not grade these children to be bright and that their parents could not afford to spend much on their higher studies, I focused the discussions about career options after class 10, class 12 and on Science & Arts graduation. We had some fun with a few role plays and games.  I also explained the difference between profession, career and a job. We discussed the main qualities needed for success and satisfaction in each profession.

After spending about 3 hours, I asked how many would like to become a teacher. Not one. Same response came for several other careers that made meaning for me and were open soon after 10th or 12th grade. 60% of them wanted to become software engineers – not that they knew about its job content. 35% wanted to become doctors. Not one wanted to be a nun like mother Teresa, their role model. Not one thought of being a nurse or a teacher. They were so determined that meaningful discussion was not possible with the time left.

In the passing, I asked the children if they know who PV Narasimha Rao was. No. They knew Manmohan Singh. When asked who the PM was when Manmohan Singh was Finance Minister, some thought it was Deve Gowda – no one could guess who it really was, despite several suggestions. I asked if they knew Indira Nooyi, Nirupama Rao, etc. who were then in the news. Not one person knew about these achievers among 140 girls.

Then, most of the children had long lists of complaints about how their  parent treated them – the usual stuff about over-bearing and insensitive parents. Typical “I hate my parents” kind of anger.

When I met the parents of these children in the afternoon, it was a different story. They had anguish about the future of their children who did not take studies and life seriously; who fought, complained and sulked. The parents were willing to work hard to fund education of their daughters if only they would study.

Children wanted instant gratification and magic solutions, but someone else to work on it. They did not betray any trace of commitment, curiosity, or enthusiasm to achieve what they wanted.

Daring to dream and dreaming big is good for growth. But, if big dreams are not matched with commitment and self effort, result could be day dreams and castles in the air. Chasing glamor and vanity alone cannot take us far. Dissatisfaction about self, anger with no justifiable target, perceived failure for which excuses are outside – all lead to toxic emotions. Healthy as well as difficult emotions are contagious and cumulative. We have to continuously nurture the healthy and cure the difficult ones.

Luckily, the story is different with children in villages. A month ago when I spoke to children of Adarsha Vidya Samsthe in Addagal village, most of their ambitions matched with what they were committed to achieve. Same when I met school children at Kunigal and a village in Kasaragod District of Kerala.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
This entry was posted in Education, Schools. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Career [mis]Guidance

  1. Keshav says:

    Great insight….

    >>Children wanted instant gratification and magic solutions, but someone else to work on it. <<
    Is this because the of the media/TV/Movies creating false image in their minds?

    Why is there such a drastic difference in expectations between rural & urban areas? Is it because of the rush of the daily life "Vs" serenity in life in rural areas? Or is it because the income disparity is very obvious and palpable in the urban areas?


    • pgbhat says:

      Thanks, Keshav.

      My views, which applies to a section of the society:

      Urban social, parental, family and peer pressure on children is higher. The children sense the expectation to achieve (read, to chase wealth) but we do not teach them how. It is very common for parents of a section of the society to tell “I do not want my son/daughter to suffer like me in this job.” When the parents do not respect their profession, do not find meaning and joy in what they do, the culture erodes. The children see stark differences and yearn for what they do not have. Lamenting rather than action is what they learn from the parents. It is a typical tar pit discussed in “Mythical Man Month” by Frederick Brooks.

      People in villages do not have such vivid comparisons to make. The glamour is virtual on TVs. Parents do ask their children to participate in domestic chores or tasks related with parent’s profession. This is not common in cities with people unhappy about their own profession and position in life.

      You have inspired me to elaborate on these points and write a page, which I hope to be the next blog. I would be at Delhi from 4th 8th May, teaching a course on Software Design, Architecture and Processes. Hope to find time to put down the thoughts before I leave on that trip.

      Regards, PG


  2. kartik Hosanagar says:

    Nice post uncle.

    I suspect the media plays a big role in creating the wrong kinds of role models and aspirations in these young minds.


  3. Karthikeyan Subramanian says:

    The line ” I also explained the difference between profession, career and a job. ” caught my attention. A separate blog might be needed to educate the “grown-ups” who are currently working.


  4. Pingback: A Job, Career, and Profession | pgbhat

  5. Pingback: Dissonance | PG's Pensieve

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s