Degree Choice: Do we choose for Passion or Necessity?

Years ago, students used to choose degrees they were most passionate about.Degrees they like and enjoyed learning. And because they had chosen from the bottom of their hearts, they did put all their energy and focus towards achieving their set goals.
Back then, most employers didn’t worry much about the degrees taken. Their assumption was, so long as a matured-minded graduate joins their workforce, they will be molded to do the job.
But then, those were the days were graduates were fewer and jobs readily available. This was a win-win situation, with graduates getting the best of both worlds.
But alas, this seems a distant dream now! With often one job being chased by more than 70 candidates, employers’ expectations have soared.They are now not only looking for a degree relevant to the job advertised but also more skills to match. They are more picky in their choices of candidates. Skills like good communication, attention to detail, reliability and an ability to work in a team are at the forefront.
The world is moving. In order not to fall sideways, we need to move in par with it. Not willing to be left behind, most forward thinking students have now learned to mold their degree choices in a career-focused way while still at secondary schools. They are more realistic – they take time to look around the job market and ensure that they pick a useful degree which is marketable.

University Students

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There are some students who remain wedded to learning for its own sake. That is, taking degrees they passionately like. With no planned career in mind, they sometimes find themselves with degrees which don’t match with the advertised jobs. This often leads to a period of unemployment and a great frustration to many. With no luxury enjoyed in the past years for free university education, most students find it even harder to afford another degree after the unsuccessful first time round.
Understandably, Academics are worried about this shift towards career-inspired study. They argue that with non-monetary values displaced from universities, most courses will continue to wither and get lost in the abysses of space and time, instead of producing real creativity and encouraging open-ended curiosity.
But with university fees constantly on the rise, no one can blame these enlightened students for making a u-turn. They are becoming wiser by ensuring that they choose degrees which match with the jobs markets.

Universities which are struggling to recruit will have to thoroughly examine their courses and make cuts on those degree courses which don’t offer value in the job market. As students are now most likely to choose degrees which are likely to deliver high salaries, some argue that slowly the universities are being transformed from centres of academic teaching to new kind of employment agencies.

Finally students are coming to their senses as they realise the difference between choosing
‘What they are passionately about and what is needed to secure a better future ’

The choice of Secondary School: Does it go beyond what we think?

Choosing a secondary school for our children might seem a straight forward process, but its repercussion could stretch further than we expect.

Do we really choose a school for our children or does a school choose your child? Well, maybe a bit of both; because it’s up to you and your child to decide which school you will be applying for, and it’s up to the school to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the application.

Obviously, you and your child may have different reasons for picking a school but it’s important to discuss these reasons together and do some discussing.

Student in a labStudent in class

For some, choosing a school which is a walking distance from the house might be a deciding factor. While this decision might have been done in good faith, it might not necessarily be a wise choice. A friend once commented on how her son would invite a group of classmates from his local comprehensive immediately the school closed for the day. Once in the house, they would play music and video games for hours long without remembering the homework they ought to be doing. This created a lot of inconvenience and a source of frequent quarrels in the house. My friend confided that with hindsight, choosing a school with a good travelling distance from her house would have deterred her son from bringing in classmates as almost everyone would be rushing to reach home early after the school closes for the day.

Choosing Grammar schools (which often don’t apply catchment areas), might be a solution for some. It is quite normal for pupils there to get up to 3 pieces of homework per day, which makes it difficult for pupils to muck about after school hours. These schools apply a selection criteria, where pupils have to pass exams before being selected. Daunting as it might sound, through careful preparation beforehand, your child can stand a chance of being selected. There are lots of resources where you can get information on how to go about doing this e.g through the website on this link:

I hear someone asking, ‘what if my child doesn’t get selected even after a thorough preparation?’ The answer is simple; because your child will be used to working beyond the homework already given at school, it will be easier for them to keep the momentum of working above and beyond what is expected. This will enable them to shine and succeed even at a comprehensive school.

Choosing a good school which can be a grammar school, faith school or a good comprehensive school will give your child an opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded, focused pupils who often aspire higher in life. It can also act as a place for making useful contacts and links that will last than a lifetime.

It is also too common that most good schools get more funding from the government to cater for a bigger spectrum of subjects such as Latin and classics which won’t be found in normal schools.

Good schools often have tight discipline and behaviour policy which maximise children’s learning. This can be in a form of strict dress code, uniform checks and a list of different types of detentions. Though this might seem a bit regimental, surprisingly it reduces disruption and talking during lessons. With everyone focusing on lessons, such schools usually produce high grades.

Some would argue that in order to avoid what might seem as an ‘overbearing atmosphere’ with sombre-faced children, walking in line, head bowed, students should be allowed to get involved and have ownership in developing school’s behaviour policies. So, instead of imposing a set of rules, pupils are engaged  in drawing up policies which are manageable and motivating.

Parents who take time to choose a good school for their children are often rewarded by a learning environment whereby their children not only achieve good grades, but also where good behaviour becomes second nature. Pupils learn and build respectable relationships with each other and gain discipline, badly needed to succeed in life.


The wide usage of ‘Smart Drugs’

 The use of brain – enhancing smart drugs is widespread and on the rise. Drugs such as Ritalin normally prescribed for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders are being bought online and used by some students to improve concentration and make them pass the exams with good grades.

Some products which are regarded as safe, and labelled as ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’ have been marketed as mood-enhancers, but found to contain components of antidepressants.

Surprisingly, most students who use these drugs don’t come from the so called ‘druggy’ environment but from good, respectable background.

They often believe that their ordinary, healthy brains need a helping hand in order to get better exam results and achieve higher exam scores. The lure of popping a pill in their mouth and gain immediate focus, attentiveness and better memory retention is often too hard to resist. They want a pill that instantly gives them a razor sharp mind rather than follow conventional ways which I will discuss later on this article. Yes, they want a magic bullet!



But the question is, do these so called ‘smart drugs’ really work? Can we just pop them into our mouth and not suffer the consequences?

Some actors claim that their ability to remember their lines increase when they take these drugs. Little is known what will happen later, under prolonged usage. People who are dependant on these drugs often suffer from headaches, dizziness, insomnia, serious mood swings, mental disorders, liver damage and even death.

Some even find it difficult to wean themselves off them later.

The use of these drugs for enhancement rather than treatment is often seen as unjustified, since they offer very minor improvement but the damage they cause can last very long. Often the damage is even harder to detect  earlier and when detected later on, the effects are usually impossible to reverse.

Do we really want our brains to be affected by these drugs in our quest for ‘smarter brains?’ Maybe not.

Luckily, there are safer methods which students  can use to achieve focus, alertness, memory boost and hence attain the grades they desperately want to achieve.

Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to ‘exercise it’. The more you work out your brain, the better you will be able to process and remember information. To strengthen your brain cells, you need to keep learning, developing new skills and constantly keeping yourself engaged.

Physical exercise also helps the brain to stay sharp by increasing oxygen to your brain, therefore improving memory retention. It also reduces stress hormones by balancing the brain chemicals, hence control your mood and increase the ‘fell good factor’ Exercises which keep your blood pumping such as aerobics and jogging will stimulate your brain and set you for better learning and good memory retention.

Not forgetting the old adage ‘We are what we eat’,  a good balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole meal food is also crucial for your body.

With proper physical exercise and a good balanced diet, a good night sleep can easily be achieved, which is needed for rebooting our brain and enhance memory.

Honestly, what other safer methods to make us smart can there be, other than this?

Why do smart Students prefer sitting in the Front Row?

Do you avoid sitting in the front row for fear that the teacher might call on you more? Do you prefer sitting in the furthest proximity from the teacher because you feel secure and more comfortable there? You are making a big mistake. In fact you are literally missing out! Keep on reading my article and I will tell you why.

Picking a chair in the front row tells a teacher something about you, without you uttering a word. Yes, it tells them that you are interested in the lesson which is going to be taught. This simple body language in itself speaks volume. Sitting in the front row makes you more in tune with the Speaker. You will engage more and hear clearly what is being taught. This will help you take notes that are accurate, complete and meaningful – sometimes even an information which is likely to show up as questions on exams. A better study habit is also maintained during the process.

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Sitting on this position enables a good eye contact with the teacher, increases a greater personal responsibility to listen to, and be alert to what is being taught. Some also say that this ‘up close’ sitting in large lecture classes increases the likelihood that your teacher will know you. This could actually work to your advantage especially if your total exam points falls in-between two set grades. The likelihood that your teacher will remember you as ‘that motivated student who always sat in the front row’, and give you the benefit of the doubt is also higher. Furthermore, sitting in the front row increases the chances of  being spoken to by the teacher and the teacher remembering you especially when it comes to obtaining good letters of recommendation or references. For those who are shy by nature, sitting in the front row can also boost their confidence. This is makes them less nervous about asking questions or making a class contribution, as there will be no students sitting in front of them to turn around and stare. One can arguably say that the back row often plays host to a lot of distractions such as texting, chatting, online shopping, playing video games or even browsing on Facebook accounts. Understandably, sitting in the front row enables you to pay more attention because there is no one between you and the teacher to watch, instead of focusing on the teacher. As the competition for achieving higher grades is getting fiercer, where you sit in class can indeed make a difference in your grade point average. Having equipped ourselves with this little piece of wisdom, we now know how to increase our chances of getting higher grades. After all, as the saying goes, “every little helps.”

Does preparing Teens too much for Academic success unable them to cope in other areas?

This is the time when most teens would have finished their sixth form and are eagerly awaiting for their results in August. For those with conditional offers, this is the time for doing the final preparations before joining.
Understandably, those who will be going away from home are currently filled with excitement and anticipation. A lot of things must be going on in their heads; How will life be like away for so long from home? How will they cope with the idea of coming home from lectures and find no ready cooked meals? Who will do their washings? The list is long…, but all this is overshadowed by the excitement of freedom. Yes. Freedom to do what they want to do and when they feel like.
But alas, sooner or later it will dawn on them that with freedom comes responsibility. This is nature’s way of ensuring that this very freedom does not negatively affect us or others.
At this stage most parents must be feeling that their job of supporting their teens is now over .Yes, mission accomplished.
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But the main question is, are these teens fully prepared for life outside academia? Have they been exposed to enough challenges other than school work? Have they failed at anything hence learn from their experience? Do they know how to deal with bumps and bruises life occasionally throws?
While at the University some late starters might encounter for the first time(away from home) the effects bad decisions such as ill-chosen romantic or sexual encounters. Being far from parental support, this can emotionally knock them down. Not knowing where to seek support, this could lead to anxiety, depression and possibly dropping out of University. Some teens just about linger on, but instead resort to misuse of alcohol and drugs abuse as a temporary escapism.
It is crucial for teens affected to take advantage of pastoral care readily available in most Universities.
So before this happens to our teens, parents should always instill into their teens’ minds that sometimes things not always turn out the way they would expect. This is normal. As once said by the famous writer, Elizabeth Edwards, She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails. This is similar to changing our approach to solving a problem at hand. Maybe even changing your attitude to ensure that this problem is resolved in a positive way. This should be a long-run strategy.
We want our teens to be equipped with all the necessary survival skills which will be useful when they are out there in the world, on their own. We should share our knowledge about the hard experiences we’ve been through. Let them hear how we managed to pull through and learn from the experience.
As the saying goes, If you don’t teach your child the right ways, the world will do this for you
Quite often the world does this but in a very hard way, that few teens come out of their experiences unscathed.
Do we really want our teen to be one of the unlucky ones who gets drawn into a situation and never get a chance to come out successfully on the other side?
Maybe not.

The importance of Parent-Teen-Teacher relationship:

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We all know the saying that, ‘Three is a crowd in a marriage!’ Well, when it comes to our teens’ educational success, I’m afraid we have to allow in this dreaded third person, albeit disguised as a helping angel.

Yes. I’m talking about the parent-teen-teacher relationship.

 Quite often teachers are sometimes portrayed as adversaries based on what we’ve heard from media or from our own experience during school years. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to perceive them this way.
Teachers are there to teach and provide a good pastoral care to our teens. Using them with due care and wisdom can indeed work to our advantage. We should therefore learn to trust them. Of course this should be done in a mutual respectful manner.

Much as we fear that we might be accused of meddling into our teens’ schooling and end up ruining things, it is important to get involved in our teens’ education rather than sit back and hope that teachers will handle them and get it right.
Most parents have first contact with their teen’s teacher when an issue arises. This shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Parents should arrange a scheduled meeting with their teen’s form Tutor or subject teacher from the beginning of a school year rather than wait for parents’ evening or other appointments the school usually provide.
Fostering a good parent-teen-teacher relationship early in the school year will help iron out issues, should misunderstandings between teacher and parents arise in future.
Getting to know the teacher as a person who has your teen’s best interest at heart is important in breaking down future barriers.
Now, you must be asking yourself, ‘What do I talk about on this very first meeting? How do I start? What do I ask?
The good news is, it is not very hard to initiate or start a conversation. A good opening question could be like, asking the teacher of any nice recent success classroom story. This will surely kick start your conversation to a positive note.
Ask the teacher what are his/her expectations for your teen. What can you do at home, to reinforce the things which have been taught in class.
This will definitely impress the teacher, knowing that he/she is not carrying the burden alone. It will also encourage them to know that you are making an effort in getting involved in your teen’s schooling.
Parents should also share information about their teen’s needs with the teacher. Doing this will make the teacher aware of any educational need which once addressed later on, could improve your teen’s performance.
From the teen’s point of view (although they won’t admit it), they will be motivated once they realise that both their parents and teachers are working towards their academic success.
Above all, it is always good to remember that a three way relationship will only help your teen achieve higher potential if both sides positively work together.