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A Parent’s Role in Career Choices


The Pathways Program is an education services enterprise that provides career guidance and skill development programmes to high school and college students. More than 5000 students are enrolled in The Pathways Program across schools in Hyderabad, Chennai, Coimbatore and Bangalore. Pathways also contributes a regular bimonthly column – Road Map – to the Education Plus supplement of The Hindu.

Dr. Ramakrishnan believes that career guidance is not just about helping a student choose between science and commerce or the right college. It should actually help students understand what working involves, analyse their interests and strengths, and then choose a career that is right for them.

When high-schools students are deciding which area of study to pursue at the undergraduate level, who or what influences this decision – peers, parents, or teachers?

Parents continue to be the key influencers of this decision. If not parents, it could be other members of the larger family like uncles/aunts or in some cases, friends of parents. Peers are next. Teachers actually play a minimal role.

What role do parents play in influencing their children’s choice of career today?

Most parents have a plan in mind fortheir children. The roles played could be proactive, where the parent acts as a facilitator and helps the child understand the options available, or reactive where not much time and thought is given to the decision. Ideally, parents should discuss this in depth with their children, and the specifics of the situation should be addressed. Let me explain the two roles by talking about two situations and the types of interchange that can occur:

Example 1 – proactive/good conversation:
A parent who is running a flourishing business may not immediately warm up to the idea of his son doing medicine. However, instead of dissuading the son, the father seeks to ensure that he makes a fully informed decision based on the right facts. On probing, it is clear that the son’s sudden interest in medicine was influenced by a television serial (Grey’s Anatomy). But unfortunately what is shown in these serials is not the real picture of healthcare. The father wants his son’s decision to bebased on an informed view of a career in medicine and not by the glamour of what’s shown on television. Hence, he arranges a six-week programme for his son, where the latter shadows doctors and tries to understand the ‘real world’ of medicine. In this case, the parents are helping the child understand specifics of the career so he can make an informed decision.

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