Parents in Kerala across socio-economic strata want the best for their kids…sometimes even to the extent of this being an obsession. So the logical conclusion is that they strongly believe engg/med is the best possible career option for their kids. So here is an attempt to demystify this… Starting with how this belief got so deep rooted into the Kerala mindset and more importantly why it is not so in other states….
Reason 1: Ignorance: Most students in Kerala cities, from a very young age itself are aware of the process of getting an admission into engg/med and the specializations on offer. By the time they reach high school, they would at least know about the companies that come for campus placements (if your interest is in engg) or the well renowned institutions that offer higher studies in various medical specialties. There are clearly defined action plans starting from which coaching classes to attend, what entrance books to read, infrastructure of various colleges and due dates of various exams.
However, when it comes to pure sciences or arts/commerce the usual modus operandi is to apply to several different courses in colleges close to your house and join whichever comes through. Before, during or after the 3 years of so called education no thought or effort is put in to frame a future game plan. By which time, you are branded as a failure which demotivates you even further.
We can change this situation if sufficient information is made available – not just in career guidance magazines which you lay your hands on when it is too late…but during school years itself, on specific career paths and steps needed to reach there. Come to think of it career options are much more wider if you are not an engg/doc !!!
Reason 2: Infrastructure : The second thing we need to get in place is good infrastructure – a good library and internet connectivity. We always seem to concentrate on good teachers and while I am not negating the positive results of good teachers, I never had any during my engineering years. We still managed fine because we had good alternate sources of knowledge. So, while improving the quality and dedication of teachers is a long term solution, more immediate answers could lie in alternate sources of self-study – about the subjects in your syllabus, guidelines on future course of actions and in general to expand your knowledge base. …which incidentally will also solve the age-old problem of ‘our intelligent students unable to clear competitive exams and interviews’
Reason 3: Feeling of Self Worth: We need to create a feeling of self-worth among students pursuing any stream of study. If you are keen on what you want to achieve in life, and have a clearly defined game plan for success, then you will not take to the streets to demonstrate your strength. And this is what we should provide in terms of getting achievers in various fields to speak in college forums, have discussion groups for various competitive exams and so on. If every college department has a fully functional career guidance and counseling centre then we can address this issue to a large extent. We need to give every student a vision of personal success.
Reason 4: Entry to Colleges: Most acclaimed institutes of study have a ‘statement of purpose’ essay as a key criterion for admission. We need to bring that into our undergrad system as well. This will help students get into courses for which they are passionate about and have an aptitude for. And, more importantly, writing down a statement of purpose will enable students themselves see clearly what they hope to gain by taking up that course. But for this to work, we first need teachers who are passionate about the subjects they teach and who have dedicated their lives for the growth of the subject. Otherwise even this process can get hijacked by people with vested interests.
Reason 5:Choices: The last thing I can think of is to increase the choices at every level - choice of subjects at the plus two level, choice of adequate research facilities, choice of different careers. This is a long term solution and will take at least ten years to implement, but let’s atleast know what we want.
P.S: Inputs to this article has been derived from my interactions with youngsters in Kerala and the comments for my previous post.