EDITORIAL - Let the children decide

May, as is customary, is recognised as Child Month. However, this year the start of May was also the occasion of the Common Entrance Exam. As students and parents across the country focused on the importance of academic advancement, it is hoped that they also considered the freedom of children to express themselves and follow their personal desires, especially with regard to education.

The recently concluded 11-Plus would have seen hundreds of students take another step towards their future goals. However, there is unfortunately a lot of pressure by parents for children to be admitted to particular schools, based on a belief that some are better than others. Further pressure comes when many adults try to live out their failed aspirations through their offspring, and advise youths away from their dreams because of a perception that certain lifestyle and career choices would be financially unsuccessful.

Admittedly, parents usually believe that they are making the best choices for their children, who very often do not settle on a future path in their early years, but rather explore all the options seemingly on a whim. Therefore, the practice of encouraging youths into the traditional professions of doctor and lawyer would have developed, as adults sought to ensure the future success of their young.

However, there is no need for this to continue. There are various types of jobs available that can bring success – in the areas of sports, culture, business and tourism, for instance. There are also untapped areas that entrepreneurs can explore, and jobs in trade skills. In fact, very often when one compares the financial success of someone working a trade and another who is an academic, the person doing the trade often earns more or has more potential to increase their earnings.

With regard to school selection, it is a myth that success depends on which learning institution one is admitted to. Once any student works hard, aims high and commits to their studies, they will be able to succeed to their highest potential at any school, no matter its standing in the eyes of society. Furthermore, if for whatever reason your options are limited at a particular institution, there is the possibility of furthering one’s studies doing private classes outside of school and taking examinations when outlined.

Therefore, a parent’s duty is not to superimpose his/her dreams or goals on their child, but rather to guide that child on the right path while giving them the opportunity to contribute to decisions relating to his/her future, and providing them with the necessary information to make informed decisions. For instance, informing children of what is required in specific subjects and helping them to choose as they progress through year levels.

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, Article 12 states that: “When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account.” Article 29 also states in part that: “Children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest.” Barbadians parents may not have not traditionally agreed with this perspective, but it is never too late to change.

Children are full of hopes and dreams. Unlike adults who often grow jaded over the years, young children see a bright future with endless possibilities. Parents should therefore give their little ones support and advice wherever possible, but should never seek to stifle their desires. Remember children, all that is needed is commitment and determination to make a change. Do not allow anyone to deter you from your dreams.

Barbados Advocate

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