Over recent weeks I have had some interesting discussions with parents regarding their children’s education. One such discussion started when I was shown a child’s report of someone that I knew was very bright. The report bore this out, but the parent was concerned that the teacher’s comment from the previous year said, ‘exceeded expectations’ while this year’s teacher put ‘met expectations.’
I was able to point out that teacher comments were subjective and could therefore differ from year to year. I was also able to point out that there were many aspects of the child’s behavioural skills that were equally important to her academic achievements, and which were very much lauded in the report.
Further discussion showed that the parents in the person’s peer group are still trying to direct their children in the way that the parent thinks best, and which will give most bragging rights in the peer group. To be fair, the parent I was talking to was not one of the parents that were trying to be over directive.
Unfortunately, very few parents even understand the world that their offspring will enter at the end of formal education. For children entering education today, over fifty percent of the jobs available to their parents will have disappeared or been taken over by technology. Many new jobs will have taken their place and hence trying to direct a child towards jobs that don’t even exist yet is obviously pointless.
At the same time, while not wishing to denigrate university education, a degree is not always part of the road to limitless riches. As off last month, 1.2 million graduates in the UK are not earning enough to start paying back their student loan. This means they are not earning over 487GBP a week. This amount equates to 2.50 per hour over the minimum living wage. This assumes that your child can be one of the people that gets a place over the fee-paying foreign students and the desire for diversity of intake by the universities.
So why are parents so hell bent of directing their children down such a narrow path based on their own outdated beliefs and aspirations? Where is the child’s desire for their future in all of this? More importantly, by focusing purely on academic achievement, parents are ignoring the many real skills of their children and therefore are failing to develop them.
It is no good parents trying to blame the school. As I look at reports today, there is an increased focus on soft skill development and education covering a much broader spectrum. I never thought I would end up discussing the relative artwork of Van Gogh and Banksy with a six-year-old! But it is time that the parents started to wake up and recognise that they need to catch up if they are to serve their children better.
Rather than simply looking at academic results, parents should be trying to understand the real skills that their children have. Many parents will focus on half a dozen academic grades at most, while I encourage people to examine a list of 75 skills that the child may have or want to obtain.
Equally, who asks a child what their work life should be like in an ideal world? The same should be asked about what they want from their leisure time to ensure a work-life balance.
We all shudder at the sight of dads reliving their youth on the touchline of young boys’ football matches. But is that any different to parents trying to relive their traditional educational upbringing that is long past its sell-by date?
We need to recognise that the job of preparing for an uncertain world that is not like ours is harder but necessary. Failure to do so will certainly not ensure bragging rights.
In some ways, having written two books, ‘Preparing for Uniqueness’ and ‘Creating an Entrepreneurial Mindset’, over eight years ago, it is slightly depressing to still feel that the need for them still exists. However, the talk with that parent also convinced me that it is even more important to try and effect the change that these books seek. Therefore, I will redouble my efforts, not for the parents, but for the young people that deserve better help in mapping their own future.