A call for primary school children as young as eight to receive career education has been met with broad national support, with claims it could alleviate pressure on teenagers during the stressful final years of high school.
As part of a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into career advice activities, the Career Education Association of Victoria (CEAV) proposed that career learning should be brought forward to Grade 3 classrooms.
While many children seem to dream of astronauts and movie stars and little else, research has shown some do start thinking more practically about their future careers as early as Grade 3.
This has raised questions around Australia’s current focus on career development during the final years of secondary school – which the CEAV suggested was “too late”.
‘Will alleviate pressure on teens’
Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA)’s Rebecca Fraser said career development should be embedded into curriculum much earlier.
Career education at primary schools would not necessarily involve one-on-one discussions with a careers counsellor, as seen in high schools, but instead open a child’s mind to the breadth of job options and to link those to their own skills and interests, she said.
“Fairytales talk about stories of ‘careers’ and we read these to children from an early age – and what eight-year-old boy has not considered his career as a policeman or racing car driver?” Ms Fraser told The New Daily.
“This identifies that there is an opportunity to start having a conversation around the future world of work and broadening that to look beyond, considering the opportunity to even own the racing car team or being a mechanic to align to realistic vocational interests.”
Ms Fraser said she has met eight-year-olds who have already chosen what they want to achieve in life – and has seen them follow through. But she has also met children this age whose next great adventure is climbing the tree next door.
“Both of these are fine,” she told The New Daily.
“At the age of eight we want the kids to be kids but by embedding career development into primary school education, we are building a stronger foundation for them to make the right decision at a time that is right for them.
“Improved career development embedded into the curriculum has been evidenced to alleviate a lot of the pressure teenagers have in deciding their career path due to what is expected of them.”
‘School dropouts need this’
Suzanne Rice, a University of Melbourne associate professor in education policy, said the argument for career education at primary schools was not about rushing kids.
“Those in the highest risk of dropping out are usually disengaged in school by Year 7 and sometimes that’s because they can’t connect what they’re learning to the real world,” she told The New Daily.
“We need a stronger focus in primary schools to broaden their knowledge about career possibilities.
“There are more jobs in the health industry than simply a doctor, nurse or cleaner at a hospital – there’s also physios, medical imaging people and many others.
“It’s also about helping children build greater awareness of themselves and what they enjoy.”
Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino commissioned the review into careers education late last year to examine how this curriculum could be embedded earlier on during a child’s schooling.
“There is a great variance in the quality of careers education in our schools, from excellent engagement with students to careers advice that is no different to when I was a student in the 1980s – we can do better,” he said.
“It is expected to be finalised in coming months.”