— Written by Gagan Rai
The Indian education system has faced several challenges due to Covid-19. Despite not holding all the exams due to unforeseen circumstances, CBSE has released the class 12 result today. Students are facing disruption not just in terms of the choices they wish to make for higher education, but also their study abroad plans. Some courses and colleges have offered direct promotions to students, and although that sounds like an easy way forward to a few, it has led to more confusion among younger students who are on the brink of choosing their careers.
We now stand in the midst of some new questions that have especially risen due to COVID-19. A lot of students and their guardians will look at other ways to narrow down their career choices. We must make informed choices while having backups so that COVID-19 does not hamper one’s dreams.
For those who missed their exams
Exams are tough, we know it. But even tougher is not knowing how else to identify one’s aptitude. Students could be looking forward to exams as a way to justify their interest in a subject before deciding to pursue it. Or yet, a jack of all and master of none might be using this to identify their aptitude for a stream.
For students who fall in this category, it would be a good time to find different means to assess their aptitude. There are various assessments available online that allow an individual to start from scratch and identify what they like, what they are good at, and what suits their strengths and weaknesses. This time could be used to explore multiple online tests to find the intersection of a student’s passion with his/her aptitude.
For those who relied on foreign education
According to July 2019 statistics by the Foreign Ministry, India sends over a million students abroad every year. This number will take a huge hit as most students will want to defer their admission or worse, cancel them owing to the uncertainty due to the global pandemic.
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There will be another way out. Some students will stick to their original plan and look out for similar grade universities in India, if not better. We can safely assume that at least 35-40 per cent of students who did not apply for colleges in India, will now apply. Hence, one should be prepared for a fierce tussle for a seat in renowned Indian colleges.
For those aiming for highly competitive careers
Everyone will be applying for the colleges that best suit their aptitude and interests. As competition rises with the addition of a new cohort, struggling students will focus on their second-best choice. This trickling effect will mean a lot of unplanned applications that will have an impact on the chances of getting a seat.
This is where years of experience of education counsellors, teachers, and parents come in handy. Students need to identify their trusted source and take help in identifying colleges in three ranks – dream, target, and safety list.
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Dream colleges are aspirations; one might be underqualified as compared to an average student in these colleges but must still give it a shot. Target colleges are the ones where a student’s application mirrors that of an average student. The student will have a great shot of getting into a college from this list. Safety colleges are backups. These are the ones we should focus on amid these tough situations.
While choosing safety colleges it is important to do enough research and choose the best options in the safety net, due to cut-throat competition. These best options may not always be the local colleges, unlike popular belief, but the state universities and colleges that provide courses of a student’s choice. To put it simply out there, students should choose their safety colleges only after a thorough understanding of all available options of education at the state and district level.
For those deciding on their safety colleges and institutions
Real-life examples have proved to us time and again, how a highly reputed college is not the only way to succeed. At the same time, a great college opens up hundreds of opportunities and builds credibility for a strong career. Given the information overload that we all face, students find it tough looking for real parameters that will help them filter out the colleges.
Ranking systems are a popular way of judging. More parameters must be added to the sorting list. Alumni have always been honest judges of the college’s education and culture. Reaching to as many of them as possible will help. Social media has made it quite easy to spot them and connect with them.
Another way is to scrutinise the course curriculum and the faculty. A student should find out if the universities teach courses that are of interest and would help secure their dream job.
For those who have one dream
It is great to have a set goal in mind. But we are living in difficult times where families and jobs are getting impacted. As students continue to chase that dream, they must also chalk out a Plan B. This will protect them in the worst-case scenario. There are ample options to gain the values and knowledge for a student with determination and zest.
Mapping out the courses that are of interest and checking if the huge online universe provides for a cheaper, at-home alternative can help students. Unfortunately, if money remains a constraint, one can switch to a different method of learning. On-the-job experience is a very valuable source of gaining industry experience. As industries are looking to cut down on expenses, internships and entry-level jobs will be in demand.
The most common option is to try and defer foreign education plans, but as every other student in the world also thinks the same, one might not be able to opt out. In such a case, weighing in other choices is the best option. Students should compare the change in fee structure with the significance of on-campus learning and their affinity to e-learning, to choose whether online classes would be the best backup plan for them.
Students should also keep in mind that earlier the rate of change was moving at a normal pace and now it is changing at a higher speed. Hence, some courses that seem lucrative currently might not be useful in the next five years. It is also therefore the responsibility of the parents to use their experience and consult with experts before finalising a path for their child.
Stressful as it sounds, students and parents must remember that college education is just one of the milestones needed for a successful life. It would be crucial to make sure the biggest influencers in their lives support them and help them in making an informed decision. Pressure in difficult times will only paint a bleak future for the students. Parents must take the first step and start an honest conversation with their child so that we move past the dangers of COVID-19 into a bright and successful future.
— The author is MD and CEO, NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Ltd.
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