From way back in my childhood, I have heard my parents and many others talking about the value of an education, the need to go to school and learn and the importance of getting a degree. I am sure that many of you reading heard the same as it seems that parents thought this was the way for their children to improve their standings in life.
Consequently, many obedient children went out and got their degrees, or tried to get their degrees. Medicine, law and accounting were the only professions back in the day, apparently, and every parent wanted the privilege of saying that his or her child was one of these three.
We all know of stories of people who went away to do law and came back ‘mad’, or persons who dropped out of university, much to the chagrin of parents. They lament the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have been invested and the shame they must now bear having to tell neighbours that so and so didn’t finish law school or that he or she has to see the doctor for ‘the nerves’.
Thankfully, I was not one of those coerced to do medicine but it truly was my choice supported by my friends and family. Indeed, when I thought during my years of study that I was standing on the bank of the ‘River Insanity’, it was these same friends and family who encouraged me to continue but reassured me they would support me in whatever decision I made.
There is a lesson in all of this. As parents, whilst we may want for our children the best, we are not the ones who should decide what job they do, and in which country they should live or what salary scale is best for them. Absolutely not! Our role as parents should be to invest our time and energy into creating men and women of value, strong moral fibre and the ability to think critically and make reasonable decisions.
After attending a meeting for parents of those children who would be moving on to secondary school, I was shocked to learn that the modern-day employer is no longer looking only for the ones with the degrees or the highest grades, but the individuals who have social skills; who are able to solve problems and who are innovative. So, whilst a child might have attained twelve grade one’s during secondary school exams, is he or she able to motivate a team or solve a problem upon which his company has stumbled? Is he or she teachable? Does he or she possess the ability to create?
I am not so sure that we are raising the right type of child. Many of our children are still coddled and afraid to try new things. I still believe that too many of our children and young adults are unable to represent themselves. It is amazing the number of young adults who are unable to complete a standard registration form.
Let me give you an example that clearly demonstrates that some of our young ones are slipping through the cracks.
A young man was entering University, and he was completing the section with personal data. As I watched him filling in the blank spaces, I noticed he had left one space blank. I assumed that he was rushing to complete the form and so I waited until he was finished to point out to him that he had left the line for Christian name blank. He replied to me that the reason he did not write anything in the space was that he was not a Christian.
Internally, I went through a torrent of emotions including near life-ending shock, disbelief, dismay, pity and righteous indignation. Truthfully, a part of me wanted to ask him if he was sick often and missed school regularly. However, I politely informed him that his forename, first name or given name were all the same as Christian name. It took some time to recover from that one.
That young man may not be a true representation of our pre-university scholars, but surely the way our children speak and their general inability to represent themselves clearly says to us as adults that there is much work for us to do. Instead of sending our children to five different classes to prepare for Common Entrance perhaps we could invest the time sitting with them and reading, discussing the events that happened during the day and the different ways in which they coped with those challenges.
In so doing, we are attuned to what is going on in their lives and we have the perfect opportunity to guide and direct them as we should. We need to spend time building their self-confidence so that the ills of negative peer pressure do not lead to a feature photo in the court pages of our daily newspapers. I do caution, however, that we do not allow their confidence to rise to such a level that they become overbearing and nauseating to those around them.
I do believe that getting a degree is important because there is a need for persons to be specialised in different areas so the country can reap the benefits of its investments into the lives of our citizens. However, it is becoming clearer that one needs to develop a skill in order to survive the challenging economic times. As such, one can be a banker but make soaps as well. We are living in an age where creativity and innovation (there is a difference between the two which is outside the scope of this article) have become paramount if we wish to remain economically viable and reduce our stress levels.
As I was listening to the different reports on the hurricane that devastated The Bahamas, I was fascinated to learn that it was a mere degree that saved our nation from the drenching showers from Dorian. What a difference a degree makes!
(Rénee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)