Laurence Foure, Chief Revenue Officer, UniHaven
The question, as old as time itself, is usually asked on a child’s very first day of school: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Astronaut. Doctor. Lawyer. Teacher. Soccer player.” Although the answers haven’t evolved much over time, very few children around the age of six have the cognitive ability to articulate their career aspirations. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), “65% children currently in primary school will work in jobs that do not yet exist”. That number will continue to grow as advances in technology change the global economic environment and the workforce required to power it.
With such a constantly evolving landscape, how do you help your children prepare for – and stay relevant in an increasingly competitive labour market to ensure a stable and secure financial future? The answer is, and probably always will be, a solid education. However, there are two significant drawbacks and realties to take into consideration in creating the new age foundation for developing and developed economies.
Drawback #1: Lacking Diverse Interests Doesn’t Position Human Capital for Change
In the first chapter of David Epstein’s enlightening book, Range, he compares two of the greatest sportsmen of the modern age: Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.
The former was given a golf club at the age of six months, won his first golf tournament at age two, and was competing with experienced players on the course by the age of four. His father mapped out his entire future at a young age, and there was no room for deviation from the plan.
The latter was allowed to dabble in everything from skiing, skateboarding and wrestling, to squash, handball and soccer; Federer has often credited his hand-eye coordination and athleticism to his eclectic collection of pursuits. His parents were supportive, but did not force him to specialise in one specific direction, trusting that his path would be revealed when the “time is right”.
While both athletes have dominated their respective fields, Federer, with his broad base of experience and knowledge from outside his specialisation, is more equipped to deal with his life and career should things change.
What has this got to do with providing the optimal education for your children?
Due to the pressures and uncertainty of future job prospects brought on in part by the pandemic, it has become commonplace for parents to push their children into a specific direction from a very young age. The answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up” is often taken too literally from often perceivably “strict” and well meaning parents, and destinies are planned without any regard for the naturally evolving interests of growing child, or the essential broad base of knowledge and life skills human beings develop by experimenting with whatever holds their interest at a particular point in time.
This often has a knock-on effect, which links the first drawback inexplicably to the following drawback.
Drawback #2: Counter Productive Pressure and Burnout
According to research, the human brain only reaches maturation at the age of 25. It is only at this age that the part of the brain that is responsible for decision-making is fully developed. In South Africa, children are expected to make choices around the school subjects that will impact their future career aspirations at the end of Grade nine – the age of fifteen: a full ten years before they are physiologically capable of making such weighty decisions.
Many teenagers experience high amounts of pressure that they are not yet sufficiently equipped to deal with. Well-meaning parents can add additional pressure with high academic expectations, prematurely
A good education starts at school, however, constant, high expectations to achieve academically can have damaging results. With South African universities only able to accommodate around 18% of matriculants, pressure is already high to stand out from the crowd. Added to the mix is the well-documented decline of the standard of education in the South African schooling system. The result of these factors sees many children take on extra subjects or explore options such as Cambridge or A-levels, in the hope that they can secure a coveted place – whether at home or abroad.
Unfortunately for many, these options are not clearly understood and often do nothing but put additional pressure on teenagers already struggling with stress, anxiety, and challenges around social image. Instead of mapping their futures in an inflexible manner, children should be allowed to experiment without the fear that the choices they make could have a long-term impact on their future careers.
Shifting Perspective: A New Approach to the Evolving Future of Education
UniHaven was founded to provide an alternative path to high quality, international education while safeguarding children’s ability to experience their formative years as they should be: free to experience a range of endeavours and develop a broad base of knowledge and life skills.
UniHaven’s specially designed programme prepares students with degree aspirations for an undergraduate qualification at a university in Europe or the USA. The foundation yearconsists of academic modules plus subject-specific modules (based on the chosen field of study) that help prospective students attain the correct marks and skills required to pursue a degree at one of the university partners. The courses also help those who require additional English language support to navigate the complex world of academic English.
If your child finds themselves in one of the following scenarios, UniHaven’s foundation programme can be leveraged to gain entry to an undergraduate degree:
1. Incorrect Subject Choice and/or Sub-Optimal Matric Marks
Based on the discussion outlined above, asking a fifteen year-old to make subject choices that will impact their entire future is premature. Even guided by their parents, teenagers select subjects based on workload, ease-of-pass, current university entry requirements, or any other host of reasons. Even well-researched subject options could prove sub-optimal once they have matriculated.
In addition to this, a slew of “watered down” subjects have been added to the South African high school syllabus (e.g., maths literacy, cultural studies). For students with postgraduate aspirations, a matric certificate reflecting these subjects will not position matricluants well for an already competitive selection process for university entrance.
While the traditional ‘ideal’ subject choices still doesn’t guarantee university entrance. Many students applying to study for a degree have the correct school-leaving certificate (qualification), but their grades don’t meet the minimum scores required to gain entry.
A combination of these factors could have adverse effects on a student’s aspirations. For example, a student who wants to study medicine but has done their IB wouldn’t have the correct subjects; or has completed their A-levels but doesn’t have the right grade or enough science-related subjects.
2. Incomplete A-Levels
There are several reasons that South African students do not – or cannot – complete their A-levels. In these cases, the UniHaven foundation offers an alternative path to a university entrance. For those who have completed 1 year of A-levels, an IGCSE plus the foundation negates the requirement for the second year of A-levels to be completed.
3. Gap Year
Whether out of exhaustion and burnout, or simply the desire to explore the world around them before returning to the classroom, some learners opt for a gap year. For students who have a gap of 2-or-more years, a UniHaven foundation is an ideal option to reintroduce them to the academia, study and English skills needed to successfully tackle a degree.
Traditional and Evolved Education: Bridging the Gap
UniHaven’s foundation year bridges the gap for students who don’t have the right qualifications to go straight on to an undergraduate degree programme. It provides a broad introduction to subjects of their choice and helps them gain valuable academic, study and English language skills. Automatic progression to a partner university is guaranteed once the UniHaven foundation is successfully completed.
In addition to academic education, studying abroad provides valuable life experience. The often-forgotten soft skills required for a successful career – the ability to work outside your comfort zone, being able to relate to a wide range of personalities and cultures, along with essential critical thinking in the workplace without losing sight of the bigger picture – are developed outside of the lecture hall. UniHaven and our partner universities bridge the gap between academics and the real world.
In an increasingly complex, evolving, technology-driven global economy, UniHaven provides students and their parents the best of both worlds: experience less academic pressure in high school, without sacrificing the opportunity to attend an international university.
For more information on UniHaven and the foundation year course, visit our website.