Role of Parents in Guiding their Children towards the Most Suitable Personal Careers
The European Parents’ Association held its annual conference on 24/25 November 2017 in the Tallinn School of Service under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union and as part of the second European Vocational Skills Week 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. Bellow you will find a detailed report of the conference with download links for presentations and related documents.
The conference was officially opened by the Estonian Minister of Education, Mailis Reps who emphasised the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment for learning, invited parents to take responsibility for it and to make our children responsible. She highlighted the states’ role in providing extra support to those in need to create equitable circumstances, to focus more than before on STEM (science, mathematics, engineering and mathematics), arts and digital skills, and the importance of citizenship education.
Janar Holm, Deputy Chancellor greeted the conference on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. He called parents to participate at defining necessary skills for the future. According to him the role of parents is to help their children build windmills, not walls when the wind comes. EPA also received a video message highlighting the importance of parents for VET policy makers from the European Commission.
The first inspirational talk of the conference was delivered by Anthony Gribben (European Training Foundation) on entrepreneurship, and what each individual parent and parents associations can do for having an influence on policy and for the next entrepreneurial generation. He recalled that most people think entrepreneurship is in the genes, but the flare is there in everybody. At the same time building it up is a cultural issue, first of all by supporting our children to build self-confidence. As entrepreneurship does not have one policy home in the EU and member states, it is the responsibility of civil society, especially parents’ associations, to take the lead and create the necessary links. He emphasised that it is very unlikely that the required reforms will be initiated by education policy, being the least entrepreneurial. He also called the audience’s attention to the importance of involving children and young people into the discussions about education reform. EPA bears his promise to offer a webinar sometime at the beginning of 2018 to follow the topic up and find ways to bring parents on board. The basis of discussions would be two EU documents, the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework and the European Digital Competence Framework.
We had the opportunity to listen to various members of the Mengels family from Estonia who showed us how career guidance can be a family aim. They emphasised the importance of happiness and joy of learning, a notion that was revoked several times during the subsequent workshops. They also stressed the importance of failure, to teach children to learn from it and further themselves as a result of it. Their approach is based on letting children explore what they are really for, to choose your path based on answering the question why, not what.
Petri Lampinen, representative of the European vocational education network EUproVET gave an overview of European VET policies and the state of play. He advised everybody to have a positive mindset, recalling an example where robotization resulted in the creation of more jobs, not less. He gave a comparison of academic and vocational pathways, highlighting the importance of career guidance also by data showing that those choosing academic paths more often have no career guidance before the decision is made. However, it must be ensured that vocational pathways are no dead ends in any member state. Statistics are positive there, over 50% of people say it is very easy to continue in higher education after VET. In his home country, Finland 1/3 of higher education students come from VET pathways. He extensively relied on the CEDEFOP VET Opinion Survey in his presentation.
Epp Vodja (JA Europe, Estonia) briefly presented different ways for children to have entrepreneurship education through practice, and referred to parental engagement in it as mentors as parents are usually more experienced in this field than teachers. Her presentation was offered in more detail at the Entrepreneurship workshop.
Ton Duif represented the European School Heads Association and presented their Open Schools for Open Societies project calling participants to provide insiring practice on parents’ engagement and open policies around it. He emphasised the importance of having a whole school approach and the whole community to take responsibility for education together.
The keynote session was followed by two rounds of workshops on entrepreneurship, career guidance and vocational education, so that everybody had the opportunity to participate at two workshops of their preliminary choice. The outcomes of the world café sessions are being made available online, but they were also presented to the plenary of the conference in a well received fishbowl session.