Everybody seems to have an opinion on what stream your child should choose in Class XI. Dr Vasuki Mathivanan, counsellor and psychologist, offers some insights on making that crucial decision.
By Sindhu Sivalingam
“I want to take up the science stream after class X because my friend Roshan is choosing it!” exclaims Arjun.
“Don’t be silly. You must take the commerce stream to become a Chartered Accountant like your sister,” shoots back his mother.
This short conversation, in which the mother takes a unidirectional approach to guiding her son, only leads to more confusion and disagreements between them. As you can see, it is quite a challenge when your child has to choose a specialised stream from amongst the few options that are available to him in class XI and XII. Each of these streams is unique. However, each stream limits your child’s choices when it comes to future education and career prospects. It is therefore extremely crucial to make the choice that is best for your child. Such a choice should consider not only your child’s career prospects, but how well he is likely to enjoy it for the rest of his life. For parents, it is important to understand that the dividing line between guiding a child to choose a career and pushing him into one, is very thin. So, you need to find the right balance.
Dr Vasuki Mathivanan, Career Counsellor and Consultant-Psychologist, Chennai, has an important question for parents. She asks: "How does a child pick a stream? If it is after a lot of thought and research, then good. For some children however, it’s either because the parent says so, or the school’s compulsion, or because of peer-pressure, or if there is a ‘boom’ in a field. When your child ends up in a stream due to such reasons, she may end up disliking it afterwards. While some schools allow children to swap groups mid-term, most do not. A child may even end up in depression as she is forced to do something she is neither good at, nor is interested in. Sometimes, a child would complete school education without trouble despite not being interested. But, when she gets into college, pursuing the same subjects that she is not keen on, it becomes too much for her to take. This is why we have drop-outs. So, it is important to understand that the choice of stream is a decision that needs proper guidance.”
You read it right. Even before the first step, there is an extremely important step and that is step zero, just like ground zero. Before beginning to help your child, think about your role as a parent — what you should and should not do. Realise that your child is his own person. And, while you have his best interests in mind, he has his own dreams. Your job is to give him wings to fly.
Understand that we live in a fast-changing world. Today’s most lucrative field may not remain the same 10 years from now. It is equally possible that a stream you think doesn’t have good job prospects today may acquire that position a few years down the line. What will matter now and then will be your child’s emotional intelligence, perseverance, love for learning and adaptability, critical and analytical thinking, and interpersonal skills. It is therefore important to not impose your decision on your child merely based on your experience and understanding. While helping your child decide, obtain inputs from people who come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
Remember, your child will be happy only when he does what he enjoys the most. While you can help him identify his interest, it is unfair to ask him to take up something that doesn’t interest him.
Now that you are very clear about your role and the level of intervention, let’s understand what you can do and how you can help your child:
STEP 1: ANALYSING your child, her personality and interest to find the best fit for her.
STEP 2: EXPLORING options and the future they may hold for your child.
STEP 3: REFLECTING upon the choice and helping your child understand if his choice is right.
STEP 4: SUPPORTING your child in her decision.
1. CAREER PERSONALITY: The first criteria to consider is not passion or job prospects, but your child’s career personality. A satisfying work life not only depends on your child’s potential and interest in the chosen field but also, on whether your child has the personality traits needed to fit himself in. For instance, not every mathematical genius can become a good Maths professor. So, understanding your child’s emotional intelligence and personality trait is important. Some of the personality traits to consider include:
“We see youngsters complain about job stress. They may even perform well but feel miserable in life because they are struggling to put up a brave face for their work. An introvert may not enjoy his marketing job. Therefore, it’s important to lay a foundation for your child’s career by choosing the stream that suits his personality,” adds Dr Vasuki.
2. INTEREST: Help your child explore her interests by asking questions. You can also learn about your child’s interests by observing her. “Whatever your child runs to do in her free time is what she is most interested in doing”, says Dr Vasuki.
Some of the areas she can be interested in:
You can choose a stream based on her interest and goals. “Some children are very clear about their goals and ambitions. They know they want to be a journalist or a doctor. In such cases, analysing your child’s career personality will help you and your child understand if the chosen field is apt for her. And there are other children who build unrealistic ideas about a profession after seeing a movie or reading a book without fully understanding what it entails. For instance, your child is pumped by a sci-fiction movie and wants to be a researcher but hates spending long hours in the lab or does not like doing the same thing repeatedly,” says Dr Vasuki.
3. APTITUDE: How well your child understands a subject and how good he is in that is also based on his natural ability or aptitude. If his aptitude, interest and personality traits align, you cannot ask for anything more. However, if your child lacks the aptitude needed for a subject he is interested in, he can still learn the requisite skills with time. He can become proficient in any subject with practice provided he has the willingness and patience.
After completing the first step successfully, explore the combinations available for your child.
Understand the whole package:
“Talk to experts in the field or reach out to the school for guidance. You may even ask the school to help you approach professionals, career counsellors or experts. Your child has invested so many years in the school. Go back to your child’s school and ask for help,” says Dr Vasuki.
“Self-awareness about strengths and weaknesses are important for any child. She should also understand her emotional intelligence. I urge parents to invest in a psychometric test that will help your child understand this. Some of these tests straightaway tell you which stream is the best fit for your child,” suggests Dr Vasuki.
You can also help your child understand her interests and strengths by:
You may encourage your child to understand her perspective, interests and aptitude by asking her to write down answers to questions that help in self-reflection, including:
Listen to your child and support him in his decision. “Do not put pressure or impose your ideas. Do not make decisions based on your child’s marks without considering his interest. And do not discourage your child’s thoughts,” says Dr Vasuki.
There are numerous rewarding and unique career choices for your interested child. Give him a chance to explore. On your part, guide him to take the first right step.
This table is not exhaustive. Many schools offer a lot more choices of electives while some have limited options. Some schools even have exclusive groups for languages and fine arts. The options are thus unlimited. You can even look for a school offering such specialised groups for your child.
If the fee is too high in such schools or if they are located far away from your home, speak to your child and make him understand that he can take up higher studies in the discipline that interests him while he can choose from one of the common streams available for his class XI and XII.
Most colleges require completion of certain subjects in class XII (as in the table above) for admission to a particular course or major. But, certain colleges have their own eligibility requirements.
For instance, to pursue a degree in Psychology, some colleges give preference to students from the science stream and those who have taken Psychology as an elective. Therefore, it is best to contact the universities or colleges for more information.
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