Two Main Problems Facing Modern Education Systems
The purpose of this information brief is to highlight the two main problems that exist today in education systems around the world, namely, (1) a lack of proper career guidance and, (2) a lack of proper emotional support for students. In the past century, there were a lot less careers that students had to choose from. For example, if we go back about 100 years there were maybe 40 to 50 careers that students in secondary schools had to choose from: doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher, farmer, and careers of that nature. Very often a student would follow in the path of their family business or trade. If for example, the family had a farming business, then the children usually worked on the farm when they left school. In 2013, the US Department of Labor published their career database, and there are now over 1,100 distinct careers from which people can choose! It is therefore not surprising that students today, when they’re nearing the end of their secondary or high schools years, are very confused as to which of these 1,100 careers would best suit their personalities, and which of these careers could they enjoy and be passionate about.
Secondly, if we go back again 100 years, families were generally less dysfunctional in the sense that there were a lot less divorces in society and less incidences of abuse. Today over 60% of marriages end in divorce, and there are all sorts of abuses within families, be they sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional or mental abuse. Our high school and secondary school students are now facing two major crises in their lives: what career path should they choose and secondly, they come to school with a lot of emotional issues that often go unnoticed. That is why the suicide rates today among our youth are so high. What have education systems around the world done to address these two major problems? In my opinion not enough has been done to address these issues. Even though some secondary schools have dedicated Career Guidance Counselors, they mainly help students to select courses as they go from one Grade to another or one Form to another. The use of Psychometrics is something that should become mandatory as a tool for Guidance Counselors to help students choose the right career path. If a student comes to a Guidance Counselor seeking assistance on what courses to select, how does the Guidance Counselor know what career path that student is best suited for in the first place, and therefore what courses that student should select?
Psychometric assessments offer a more objective and scientific way of categorizing a person’s strengths, such as their career interests, their work styles, their values, and their intelligence types. This is actually a much more accurate way for Career Guidance Counselors to assist students in their tenure through high school or secondary school, so that by the time they complete their secondary school education, they should have a fairly specific idea of which career or small group of careers they are best suited for. For example, a student should know if they are suited to the Healthcare profession, be it a Doctor, a Nurse, a Pharmacist, etc. They may be more suited to the Engineering field, or to the Counseling field, such as a Psychologist or Social Worker. They may have a talent for one of the trades like a Plumber or an Electrician, or they may be suited to the Teaching field.
This is the type of service that schools should be offering their students. As soon as students enter high school, the Guidance Counselor should open a file for each particular student and start to track their career interests. By about the second or third year of high school or secondary school, the first career-related Psychometric assessment should be administered to each student. The progress should again be tracked as the student makes it through the higher years within the secondary school system. The career-related Psychometric assessment should again be administered twice more to those same students in the last three to five years of secondary school to see what has changed in terms of their career interests. In the British education system for example, this would mean administering that Psychometric assessment for each student in Form 3, then again in Form 5, and finally in Upper 6. In the North American system, it would mean administering that Psychometric assessment for each student in Grade 8, and again in Grade 10, and finally in Grade 12.
Secondly, I strongly believe that education systems should also hire dedicated Social Workers or Child Psychologists so that as students enter high school or secondary school a file is opened by the Psychologist for each student and a dialog begins with the Psychologist to discuss the family dynamics of that student. What issues and crises is the student facing at home? There should also be an interview with the parents to understand in more detail what issues the school needs to know about in that child’s tenure through secondary school.
By about the second or third year of secondary school a Psychometric assessment such as an emotional IQ (EIQ) assessment should be administered to each student. That Psychometric assessment will indicate where the student’s emotional strengths are, but also where their weaknesses or limitations are. Based on those results, the Psychologist or the Social Worker needs to now set a plan with each student, possibly in conjunction with their parents, to work on these issues throughout the student’s tenure in high school. For example, the student could be suffering from a problem of self-confidence, or a problem with self-control, or a problem with low self-esteem. Another problem could be a lack of goal setting, or maybe too much rumination, which is too much worrying about negative events that have happened in the past, which has a tendency to lead toward a cycle of negative thinking. All of these things are indications that there may be more serious underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed. Once these limitations are identified through the use of Psychometrics, then the Psychologist or the Social Worker sets a plan with the student to work on, for example, two of these limitations per year, and provide the student with suggestions on what they can do to improve upon these limitations. These suggestions are often contained in the “Advice” section of the Psychometric assessment on emotional IQ (EIQ).
There can sometimes be much more serious problems with particular students. If a student, for example, is suicidal then the parents should be notified and additional help sought possibly even outside the school system. There can be indications of depression or bipolar disorder, in which case the parents will need to take their child to see a more specialized professional, such as a Psychiatrist, who may need to administer appropriate medication on a short term basis or even on a long term basis. Again, a student’s emotional health should be tracked from the first year that they enter high school or secondary school all the way until they leave. The goal should be that by the time they leave high school, they should not have any serious emotional issues that are going to hamper them in terms of their progress as they go on to tertiary education, to university, to college, or maybe to a trade school. Psychologists in the 1990s discovered that emotional IQ is as important, if not more important, than regular intelligence IQ in terms of the measure of success within the workplace and within the family and society as a whole. It is incumbent upon education systems around the world to put a lot more emphasis on the emotional health of students than they are currently doing today.
Thus, the major problem today with education systems is that they are still focusing too much on academics in terms of ensuring that students get the highest grades possible. However, what is the point of students having very high grades or marks by the time they graduate from high school, but then they don’t even know what career path is suited for them, which is the case with many students today? To make matters worse, many students leave high school with a whole host of emotional issues. Such students can actually leave high school and have great difficulty dealing with the challenges of life. I believe that our education systems today are failing students in these two important areas, by not keeping up with the changes that have occurred in society. Society at large has experienced two huge paradigm shifts in the past 50 to 100 years. One paradigm shift, as I mentioned, is the proliferation of the distinct types of careers that exist today for students to choose from. The second major paradigm shift is the proliferation of emotional issues within the family, which negatively affect our students.
Education systems need to really rethink the hiring of their resources by not simply focusing on having highly qualified teachers, but also having highly qualified Career Guidance Counselors and Social Workers or Child Psychologists. In this way each student can be effectively assisted from their beginning year of high school or secondary school, all the way through until they complete their high school education. They would then be more emotionally healthy, as well as have a very good idea as to which career or groups of careers suit their personality strengths. In turn, they will have a better chance of becoming much happier, healthier and more fulfilled adults in our society. It has been shown through the Biopsychosocial model of health that stress can be a major cause of health problems in individuals which can lead to problems within the family, and even to marriage breakdowns. When families are in crisis then societies are in crisis. It is a known fact that unhealthy and dysfunctional families can lead to a lot more crime in society because it causes increased delinquency among our youth. Thus, these are especially important initiatives that our education systems need to address. They need to put action plans in place to hire the right professionals, and also make sure that they license the appropriate tools, such as Psychometric assessments, which are a lot more scientific and objective in terms of classifying the strengths and weaknesses of students.
It is also my goal that by the end of 2013, especially here in Trinidad and Tobago which is where my practice is based, to be able to produce a single page org chart of the services offered by the education system, as well as a list of professionals who work with youth. For example, the org chart would contain Social Workers, Child Psychologists, Neuropsychologists, Psychiatrists, Life and Career Coaches, Health and Wellness Coaches, and various such professionals who can direct parents to obtain the appropriate assistance for their children suffering from various emotional and mental issues in their life. This particular org chart will have, at the very top level, your child and your family. The next level down would have what services the education system is offering or planning to offer in the near future. You can then choose different paths through this org chart to find the correct help, phone numbers, and E-mail addresses of professionals who can help with your child’s issues. For example, your child may be showing signs of depression, not wanting to get up in the morning or having difficulty concentrating at school. They may be having difficulty finishing tasks or showing signs of ADD or ADHD, or they may have a learning disability like dyslexia. They may even be showing suicidal tendencies. All of these different issues should be addressable by looking at different flow arrows within the chart to see which professional or professionals you as a parent need to engage to assist your child much more effectively. These phone numbers and E-mail addresses should be at your fingertips. In such a way the collaborative effort among the various healthcare professionals who work with youth will assist parents in feeling a lot more at ease that the mental, emotional, physical even spiritual health of their children are being addressed, that people do care, and that they’re not alone in terms of the issues their child may be facing. Parents often feel alone today in terms of the plethora of problems that their youth are facing.
Let’s face the facts: society has changed radically in the past 50 to 100 years. With the advent of the information technology age, we have much more access to information, and in particular, youth have access to good as well as bad information. The advent of Google, YouTube, E-mail, mobile phones, text messaging, social media, and all these various means of accessing information quickly, are good tools in many ways, but also tools that have caused a lot of harm to our youth. These technology tools are here to stay so we have to work within these frameworks in order to see how they have positively and negatively impacted our youth. We need to put the right mechanisms and resources in place at the fingertips of our parents to be able to navigate through this very difficult time in which we are living.
In summary, if the two major pillars, namely, (i) the hiring of the appropriate professionals, and (ii) the use of Psychometric assessments, are introduced and/or strengthened in our education systems, then our students will be a lot healthier, happier and more productive, which in turn will translate into happier and healthier families, and a better society. These two areas are where education systems will now be able to make a much greater impact with our students today. I encourage you to think about the material in this information brief, and if you would like to dialog with me on this topic, you can contact me using the information below. I am certainly open to partnerships with other professionals and government agencies who feel as passionate as I do about helping our youth more effectively.