Dubai: Should parents decide what subjects their children will take in college? Or should they let their children chart their own academic course?
These were the main questions posted during a discussion on how parents and schools can help students choose the right degree option, on Day 2 of Gulf News EduFair at Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai today.
In answering the questions, Majd C. Hussain, founding principal of the American School of Creative Science-Bukhatir Education Advancement and Management (BEAM), said the key is “involving the students”. She quoted a famous saying by former United States president Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
She noted that involving students in decision-making will give them the “self-confidence and esteem to build their career”. “You have to let them go. As a parent you don’t need to pamper your children. Trust and give them the responsibility,” added Hussain, who has more than 28 years of experience in educational administration, leadership and management from various British and American curriculum schools in the US, Saudi Arabia and UAE.
Hussain said going into higher education can be extremely daunting for students who have just finished high school and parents have a critical role in helping their children cope emotionally and academically. “This means preparing the students at a young age,” said Hussain, adding: “Involving them in decision-making will make them become more responsible and accountable for their choices.”
She added that schools also have a critical role to play. Citing her own school, Hussain said they had incorporated several extra-curricular activities for their students that would help students become more aware of what they wanted in life. “We involve our students in community service and one student told me she wanted to serve others. The student has no final decision yet what to take in college — it could be nursing, medicine or any course — but the point is that community service has given the student an idea what to take in the future,” explained Hussain. She added they also asked their students make a reaction paper for their community service “to help them process their interests”.
Hussain said helping students choose their academic and career path is a balancing act. If the parents become too demanding, the students will lose their heart and if the parents become too lax, children might fall by the wayside. “Kids, even when they finish high school, are still kids and the burden to decide alone is huge,” she cautioned. Hussain said one important factor in helping students is to know and cultivate their passion. “If they choose their career based on their passion, they will not get distracted, she added.
Finding the right fit
In another session, Varun Jain, founder and managing director of Brighter Prep, said finding the right university for their children is also a big challenge for parents. Should you send your children to study abroad or make them stay in the UAE for college? Is it better for expat students to return to their home country for higher education or will it be more beneficial for them to study in the UAE after high school? These were some of the questions that Jain addressed.
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Jain said the UAE now has more universities at par with international standards. He added that the UAE is a great place to study and students who have been raised here will not have to be uprooted when they go to college. “They can finish their bachelor’s degree in the UAE, work for few years here and then apply for masters or post-graduation here or abroad,” he added.