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Too Much Pressure To Choose On Young People

May 16, 2012

Young people are forced to choose an educational path early in life. International trends in the educational sector have led to reduced opportunities to change direction later on, according to a new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

In his doctoral thesis, Goran Puaca is studying the educational and professional choices that upper-secondary and higher education students are forced to face, as well as how the choices have changed over time. His study shows that the pressure to make the right choice early in life has increased.

‘The whole thing has become unreasonable. Young teenagers are expected to know what they want to do when they are 25 or 30,’ says Goran Puaca.

The changes made in the last decade have made it more difficult to change from one upper-secondary programme to another. It has also become harder to top-up your education with new focus areas later in life. The political agenda has changed from a focus on reduced social differences and young people’s self-realisation to an emphasis on employability and on reducing the costs of having young people make the ‘wrong’ choices.

Pauca says that these changes in the Swedish school system reflect international trends that have put more responsibility on the individual, whose educational choices are expected to contribute to a better match between education and working life.

Puaca’s study is based on policy texts concerning how education shall contribute to an effective transition to working life, as well as interviews with teachers, study advisers, educational leaders and higher education and upper-secondary students regarding how education is matched with working life in practice. The expectations of the students regarding education and future jobs were also explored via a qualitative survey.

‘The study points to a lack of agreement between, on the one hand, political notions of how rational choices should be made based on effective matching of education and working life and, on the other hand, how young people form their paths into the future in real life,’ says Puaca. ‘Many students made their educational choices due to lack of better alternatives, and are often very unsure about where their choices will take them in life.’

‘My thesis shows that there is a need for concrete support in schools in order to turn students’ insecurity about the future into useful strategies and solid educational and professional paths. This type of support is an important democracy issue in a time when the opportunity to choose among different alternatives in upper-secondary school is diminishing and it is getting more difficult to correct educational mistakes later in life. Otherwise there is a clear risk for increased class differences’, says Puaca.

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