How strong is the link between education and career? Throughout my career, I have met doctors who are taking a writing career; and scientists who are interested in a marketing career more than a research job. The one thing that all of them had in common is that they are not sure how their educational choices were made. As well as how those choices dictated a large portion of their career, in a country that relies on educational major only to decide on career preferences, with no regard to skills and personality type.
Education starts with nurseries which are the newest and trendiest money-making machines nowadays in metropolitan Cairo. The main target in the previous years was to find a nursery that is close to home, safe, clean and affordable. However, this concept has changed drastically in the past couple of years. We now have international nurseries, foreign teachers, Montessori framework, and a very structured approach towards the early learning years of a child. The competitiveness that has surfaced as a result of this trend has created nurseries that are “top notch”. You need a year ahead booking to be able to enroll your child! The question is: how were we all previously tutored before nurseries? Why is there so much emphasis put on the “brand” of the nursery to which a child is going, instead of paying attention to the child’s wellbeing and ability to have fun and enjoy childhood?
Moving from expensive nurseries to international schools is a whole new level. Call me old-fashioned, but I really don’t get international schools! There are decent private schooling options that are available in Egypt. They may not be as “classy”, but they are old and reputable educational institutions. Now it seems that if you try to enroll your child in a school that is not “international”, you will get frowned upon and judged for not wanting what is best for your kids. It is an equation: do you want the brand of the school, or the quality of the education? And if you want the quality of education, isn’t that a factor in the quality of life overall? How many parents are stretched financially to be able to enroll two children in an international school? They are pushed to save at least 10K monthly to afford the “schooling” fees only. This is not to mention other ongoing costs incurred during the year. The question is: if international education is so awesome, why do we have so many graduated from such education and unemployed? Why aren’t we teaching our children that they need to have ambition and not settle for having an elegant school name?
Going to university is another challenge for parents and children. If you paid so much in international schools, can you settle for a “public” university? No way! The child would have already gotten used to how neat things are, how refined most of the community is. He would find it very difficult to fit in a public university that enrolls all calibers and all socio-financial levels. The target now is to go to a top notch private university and pay as much as it would have cost in tuition in a real international university outside Egypt! In an expensive country like Egypt, where income has nothing to do with cost of living, why do parents continue doing this to themselves only to have a graduated son/daughter who is socially not allowed to move out and become financially independent?
Now if the decisions have been made as per the above all the way to university, career choices become very limited! You want an employer that appreciates your expensive education, has a career opportunity that fits your profile and is willing to pay you the amount of money that satisfies you. In an ideal world where education = career you would land the perfect job! But in this world, the odds may just be a bit against you. The search will continue longer. And chances are, it will be a while till a lucrative career is found.
The bottom line of my argument is: challenge your children’s educational choices. Make sure you are making these choices for the right reasons. I frankly do not understand why education is so overrated, when a decent majority of graduated women will choose to not work, or work in a less demanding career. There are many choices that we make on behalf of our children at a very early age. And they do not get to have a say in it, given their age and lack of experience. Make sure you do not push your children to become you, or become the dream you were not able to achieve. Let them decide on their own dream. Let them have room to evolve in a balanced environment that does not alienate them from the majority of the society in which they are living. Give your children space to have a full life.