The European Parents’ Association held its annual conference under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union on career guidance and suitable individual learning pathways for today’s children, with special focus on counterbalancing the bias towards university education by the media, education policy and consequently very often by parents, too. The representatives of parents’ associations and students, VET providers, career guidance services and school heads participating at the conference looked at ways of home-school cooperation in career guidance, transversal skills for well-being, future life success and lifelong learning with special focus on entrepreneurship, and the role of parents and parents’ associations to improve the image of vocational secondary education and non-university tertiary education to help people understand that for most people it has always been and will always be a first and best choice.
One of the most delicate parental tasks is to guide your child or children towards further education and possible successful career pathways, avoiding traps such as trying to fulfil your own un-accomplished dreams in your child or following fashionable trends instead of looking for the right pathways. This is an area where parents, their association, teachers, other professionals and other players, especially the media, have a major responsibility to collaborate and thus try to minimise risks and possible harm.
The EU has realised the importance of building a knowledge-based society back in 2000, and in 2010 set the headline target that 40% of the younger generations should have a tertiary degree by 2020. On the way – while the legal basis has not changed, but the university lobby has become very influential – the European Commission started to interpret tertiary education as higher education, but we must keep the original intention and regulations in mind: parents should aim at supporting all children to finish secondary education and as many of them as possible to obtain a tertiary degree, be it a vocational, post-secondary or higher education one, that can ensure easy access to the labour market.
Meanwhile we should not forget that even if Europe manages to achieve the above goal, still nearly 2/3 of young people will have to successfully start their lives having the right secondary education, cognitive and transversal skills as well as the spirit of initiative. Parents and professional educators have a crucial role – individually and together – in supporting young people in finding their own pathways, be in a secondary vocational education or a PhD, help them to lose the least possible time with useless studies and find their way to a happy life.