Young children love to answer the question of what they want to be when they grow up: a firefighter, a musician, a cowboy, a superhero or a princess. They look up to people such as hockey players, pop stars and video game characters, not necessarily knowing why, but wanting to be just like them when they grow up.
A new Ontario education policy is aiming to help guide students to plan for their careers — starting in kindergarten. Students will begin working on a portfolio called “All About Me,” to start actively thinking about their career choices from a much earlier age. (See: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/policy/cps/CreatingPathwaysSuccess.pdf)
This career planning is focused on four questions: Who am I? What are my opportunities? Who do I want to become? What is my plan for achieving my goals?
But is kindergarten too young of an age to start thinking about a career? These four- and five-year old children are just learning to write words, tie their shoelaces and open juice boxes without spilling the contents onto their laps. They dream of eating ice cream for breakfast, watching Spongebob Squarepants after school and staying up until 8 p.m. on weekends. They look forward to playing outside at recess or having dessert after dinner, rarely looking ahead to even the next day’s events. How could anything they do at this point in their lives, directly help them in beginning to choose a career path?
Most of the conversations surrounding choosing a career path begins in high school, when students are given choices on learning more about apprenticeships and college and university programs that are of interest to them. As teenagers, they have acquired a certain amount of education, have lived in the ‘real world’ long enough to understand the economy and work choices, and are at an age where they tend to look towards the future. Though they may not know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, they do know what their interests are.
Perhaps by Gr. 8, students may be aware of their capabilities and their high school geared towards the possible professions. With help from engaged parents, school teachers and counsellors, high school students are in the best position to make a decision on which way their career path will take. Students should be encouraged to follow their interests, knowing that if they’re willing to work hard for what they really want, they can choose it at any time. And this isn’t to say that their career path won’t change in five or ten years. There are people in their 30s and 40s who are still making career changes. People who still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. And why not? Interests change. The economy changes. Employment statistics change. Finding a career is definitely a figuring-out process but that formalized process shouldn’t start in kindergarten.
Kindergartners are just joining the social world as they begin their education. They need time to grow, to learn, to socialize with others. They need to learn creativity by making crafts and playing music and games. Career planning should not take the place of these early opportunities of growing up. Time will be wasted on this career planning in kindergarten — at home and at school. Time that should be spent experiencing the fun and joy of being a child and creating new memories every day. Kids should still be able to dream of being a superhero or a princess . . . at least until they reach high school.