I can only write about this topic from my little office on the 6th floor of Oberoi International School. As one of two university counselors, I teach students starting in Grade 8 to identify their own strengths and interests in order to choose a university and eventually a career. Despite pressure to look outside the school walls, my students choose to work with the counselors employed by OIS. Surprisingly, this means a lot more work for the students. At the same time, they take control of their future- and this is how OIS is preparing students for the 21st Century.
My students could hire an external counselor. For a large fee, he or she would analyze the data provided by a battery of assessments and make a list of universities for the student to apply to. For another fee, many would write an actual draft of any required essay. My students could enroll in an expensive tutoring school to prepare for the SAT or ACT, wasting precious hours sitting in traffic and learning the same information that free on-line course could teach them.
Positive results are guaranteed. But my students are too smart for that.
My students understand the dangers of using computer programs to reduce people to a list of likes. They know that essays are more effective if they come from their own personal experiences and that standardized tests are only a small, controversial, and optional part of their application. They believe that making their own list of universities to apply to is an important – and exciting-part of the process.
Why? Because instead of handing them the answers, we show them the tools they need to navigate the application process. We teach them how to conduct their own research, evaluate sources, and decide for themselves which information to use to make their decision. These same tools will eventually come in handy in the “real” world. And in today’s world there is no better skill to have then how to think.
There is a lot of fear out there- fear of failure, poverty, violence, the “other”- and this fear has leaked into university applications. The result is that too many students believe that they can’t apply to university on their own. But this isn’t true.
By empowering students to choose their own path, we are replacing that fear of the future with possibility. Students are discovering not only who they are but what they want their future to look like. Maybe it is curing cancer or colonizing Mars or solving racism. The possibilities are endless.
So what is role of schools in preparing students for the future? Teach them to research, evaluate, and think for themselves. And then get out of the way…