Tsukuba Frontier #028
How many people have been able to clearly answer upon being asked what they want to be when they grow up? How many people have been able to actually make that happen? Since kids live in a world that’s small, their interests and lives do not necessarily connect directly to their futures. It is important to broaden their horizons, and, through the process of growth, equip them with the skills to discover what they are capable of and what they do best. In doing so, they will learn how to navigate a society that is constantly changing. This is the very essence of career education.
■ The prospect of considering one’s career
The notion of considering one’s career tends to be thought of as the act of deciding one’s future occupation. But the fact of the matter is that in today’s volatile society, there is the very strong likelihood that occupations that exist at present will not exist in ten years. And as we see the disappearance of stable lifelong employment, it is not unusual to be left with no option other than to change jobs or otherwise shift one’s course in mid-career.
This being the case, there is little value in thinking about work in terms of job titles and positions. It is instead more important to gain a good understanding of one’s own personality and strengths, and, adapting when necessary, find opportunities for making the most of those qualities. One can learn about themselves through not only their interests but also from exposure to society as a whole by recording the various experiences they accumulate and then reflecting on and internalizing the resultant lessons. Employing this type of activity from elementary school through university and even continuously through life thereafter generates nourishment. This is the nourishment for leading a more fulfilling life—the very objective that career education aspires to.
A child’s sphere of activity is narrow, and they therefore end up thinking about the future merely based on what they know and like. Even if at this stage a child can visualize a desired future, it is important to be able to turn their attention to other possibilities. This will build the foundation for them to flexibly choose a career that really suits them.
■ Get started from elementary school
The newest version of the national school curriculum guidelines to be implemented next school year include career education from elementary school. By no means is that too early. The objective is to establish a foundation for considering what one’s career might be. That said, career education per se is not an official subject, and so its concepts will be incorporated into various existing activities and subjects.
Activities at school do in fact provide a host of opportunities connected to career education. There are the more obvious examples in existing subjects, such as having students read biographies or go on field trips, but there are also hands-on opportunities in experiences that are not necessarily desired by the student at first. Let’s say a student is put in charge of a classroom job or has to be part of organizing a school cultural festival. This in itself is a new experience that can prompt the individual to become aware of his or her own strengths or qualities, such as tenacity or an innate desire to be kind to others. These qualities don’t necessarily have to be outstanding, but it is important for the student to deepen a self-awareness of them, no matter how small they may be. Support from those around the student, such as teachers and family members, is of critical importance in making this happen. Awareness is brought about through actions such as praising, encouraging or even a brief comment. This is why teachers need to be not only masters of the subjects they teach, but also specialists who provide support for all aspects of a child’s personal development.
■ The roots of career education
Career education was started in Japan in 1999. As more and more young people became permanent part-timers, it was deemed paramount to develop desirable work values to maintain occupational expertise. The Central Council for Education of the Ministry of Education issued a report that addressed this matter. Though there was no major difference between full-time employees and permanent part-timers, especially in terms of their initial annual salary, there were major discrepancies in areas such as the learning of occupational skills and social security over the long term. Career education was championed as a way of encouraging the youth to join the full-time workforce, thereby creating the platform for a more stable society.
The roots of career education can be traced back to the practice of vocational guidance at school. At present, the practice is more oriented toward deciding on where to further one’s education, but in fact it was introduced to the educational system soon after the war and based on the philosophy of equipping students with the ability to cope with life following their academic career and employment. In the era of high economic growth, as students needed to be efficiently integrated into the workforce, the optimal solution for stabilizing the workforce was that boys would go into industry and girls would hold down the home and raise the kids. Vocational and career guidance at school would consequently become a mere formality.
In this current day and age, career education needs to equip students with the essential tools for participating in society. Students need to be able to balance their life and work, discover their role within a family, and understand ethnic and cultural diversity, etc. This is why it is meaningful to start the process of career education during primary education.
■ How to cope with the new standard of living to the age of 100
The need to consider one’s career is no longer a task for only the young. Even those who have entered the twilight of their current career are faced with the daunting challenge of how to remain integral members of society. Whereas the focus used to be on transitioning to a quiet retirement, seniors are now expected to more proactively continue to engage with larger communities.
Pursuing a career means more than just earning an income. It is important for those considering a second career to draw on the diversity of knowledge, skills, and know-how they accumulated in their first career in order to continue to contribute to society. One possible example is to teach children these skills via school education and after-school activities, actions that have the makings for becoming a large market. The key is to figure out how to best make use of one’s own unique style amid a changing environment. Even if an individual was to think about these options without prior consideration, if they have a portfolio on which they can look back on, it will provide them with an abundance of options.
■ A tool for growth
The task of making a record of one’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings can seem like a hassle at the time, but later always pays off as a useful resource. Part of the career education work at the elementary school level will be teaching kids to make a habit of this.
A system for this is in place at the University of Tsukuba. It is a system called CARIO, and students note down their various experiences onto worksheets from the time they matriculate. Use of it is optional and it is not shown to others. If the student accumulates this portfolio over four years, by its own nature it automatically provides insights into how to decide on a major or what sort of activities to pursue to find a job. CARIO is a powerful tool for enabling the student to get a tangible sense of his or her growth and how to take the next step forward.
If there is success in implementing career education seamlessly throughout the educational process that spans from elementary school to university and graduate school, every student will be able to have a portfolio that serves as a record of their growth. The bittersweet experiences of their puberty, comments made by their teachers and parents – these are all things that form part of the individual. If at some point the individual can find within that portfolio the connections that give them metacognition of who they are, they should be empowered to overcome dilemmas faced as an adult as well.
The Tsukuba Career Portfolio CARIO
A portfolio for keeping a record of daily learning and experiences, it is provided by the University of Tsukuba as a tool to help students consider what kind of careers to pursue. Each student can use CARIO as a portfolio to accumulate records and put it to use in setting and resetting goals by reflecting on entries as necessary. It is made up of about 50 kinds of worksheets that are specific to certain situations, such as classes, reading, events, extracurricular activities, relationships people who have entered their lives, and any other of a host of experiences, thoughts, and feelings encountered in the course of life as a student. The user is free to select from and use these worksheets as seen fit.
Article by Science Communicator at the Office of Public Relations
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