Deciding Our Futures
Written by Sadie Inglis and Sophie Mustonen
From the early years of childhood to the meaningful years as a young adult, school is essentially life. Schooling provides a place to learn, create memories and gain new experiences, but yet the school system is still flawed. There are many issues that arise when it comes to the education system, but a deeper issue is the entire timeline of the system itself. At the age of 17, students are expected to have their entire lives planned out: what post-secondary school they will be attending, what degree they will receive and what job they will work for the rest of their lives. All of this to be planned and decided before they even become legal adults. There are many aspects that contribute to this concern. There is a broad spectrum of opportunities with large amounts of information that follow: an overwhelming and confusing amount of information for students. As well, many students can’t get a job until around the age of 16 years old, giving them a year and half to make enough money to pay for the incredibly expensive tuition fees, causing masses of student debt. At this age, students have just touched the surface of the real world and have no idea what they're facing; they are too young to decide their fate.
One of the biggest issues about figuring out university plans in high school is the lack of information offered. Around 70% of freshmen admit to thinking about their future plans, however, presentations and information surrounding university and career options usually doesn’t begin until Grade 11. These presentations are mainly focused around explaining the general university application process, not the details of choosing a program and looking at career options. For these topics, and even many that they cover, research is largely self-directed. This can be overwhelming for a lot of people, creating additional anxiety surrounding an already stressful process. While there is a civics and careers course offered in Grade 10, it has turned from something that is meant to help students figure out their plans to a bit of a joke. Not many people take it seriously, and the teachers seem to approach it in a relatively lackluster way. All of these factors contribute to the overall lack of proper information about the postsecondary world.
Over the years the cost of post-secondary education has only increased. In the 2019/2020 school year, the average tuition fee for an undergraduate degree in Canada was almost $30,000. Many students have to contribute to or pay their entire post-secondary costs. Part-time jobs at a location such as a grocery store or a coffee shop look for employees who are around 16 years old or older. That means that a majority of students who have to save for post-secondary education only have a short period of time to save up for their education, but many can’t accumulate enough money in time for post-secondary. This leads to the issue of student debt. In Canada, 64% of 2015 graduates still had to pay off their debt by 2018, and over 45% of those students still had over $24,000 to pay off. On top of trying to figure out how to live as an adult in the ‘real world’, young adults face the stresses of their financial situation. The funds to live can be underestimated as expenses continue to accumulate; this can create a detour in the entire plan that’s been laid out. This situation is why a lot of students overwork themselves and gain anxiety from attending post-secondary. Even with all of these statistics, the education system continues to increase in fees and make it harder for students to stay motivated and continue with the cycle of post-secondary education.
Galarneau, D., & Gibson, L. (2020, August 25). Trends in student debt of postsecondary graduates in Canada. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2020001/article/00005-eng.htm
Government of Canada, S. (2019, September 04). Tuition fees for degree programs, 2019/2020. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190904/dq190904b-eng.htm
When it comes down to it, most people just don’t know what they want to spend their lives doing at the age of 16. It takes time and experience to determine what career types you are interested in, and being pressured into a decision early on can force students to limit their options. While university applications don’t go out until Grade 12, electives begin to branch off into different pathways around Grade 10. This means that during the freshman year of high school, students already have to think about what courses they need to take for a career they might not even know that they want yet. Many students start down one “path” for their first few years of high school, and when they decide they want to do something else it becomes increasingly difficult and more stressful to switch to other needed courses. In addition to the early course selection process, a lot of students have not had the opportunity to experience different job types and see which ones suit them; most people only know that they like an activity if they’ve had a chance to try it. While Co-op programs are a good option for gaining this sort of experience, not all students have the availability to do that . Student jobs are quite limited, and while there are a lucky few who may get internships or higher positions, most high school students end up working a minimum wage job in fields like retail or fast food. These jobs are good for getting practical experience and making money along the way, but they generally do not help very much in terms of creating a better sense of future career interest.
School is a big part of life, and can determine the success that a person receives in their life. The maturity and wealth of an individual should not determine the path of their education. Instead, the structure and influence of the education system should be reformed and changed to accustom to society and the progressive changes that arise. The opportunity to change career and education paths should be broadened and accessible to anyone who is willing to put the effort in to try something new. There is so much to explore and learn in this world, and everyone should get the chance to experience that.