Some struggle to comprehend the changes that have taken place since their own student years. For other families, the child may be the first to have the opportunity to study.
Parents with a clear vision
Atelisha Harilal, Head of Student Recruitment and Marketing at JSE-listed higher education provider, STADIO, says that her advice to parents differs from family to family. “There are two types of parents I generally encounter,” she explains.
“The first has a vision for their child’s life, which may or may not be one that the child shares. My advice here is always to allow the child to use their passion, and to recognise that the world has changed. I don't mean this in a doom and gloom way. There are jobs now available that didn’t exist when parents were contemplating their futures as young people.”
She highlights developments including digital jobs, hybrid working, and new industries. “It's important for parents to know that for students who are for instance passionate about art, to pursue their passion and turn it into a career by becoming either an influencer or an animator. If a student’s passion is fashion, they could become a fashion journalist. These are all valid career paths.”
Harilal says that as the world continues to develop rapidly, the most important role of higher education is to promote critical thinking, rather than technical skills only, because the reality is that technical training can quickly become obsolete.
“Higher education is valuable because it equips students to learn new skills, not just to accumulate knowledge. It goes beyond what is learned in the classroom to learning how to think differently.”
Concerns about whether a child will cope
“The second sort of parent I see is less concerned with what their child should study and more with whether their child will succeed at studying,” she says.
“For these parents, it’s key to know that there's a level of custodianship when a student registers to study where the institution also shoulders some of the responsibility in creating a nurturing environment that can help the student to become all they can be. It sounds like a cliche, but our job is to create a safety net and the kind of environment where they can thrive and find success.”
She adds it’s also important that parents recognise every child is different and will follow a different path. “There are many routes to success,” she says.
Many skills, such as negotiation or conflict resolution, are not explicitly taught, but are part of the learning process in higher education. To recognise these, STADIO has launched a new digital badging initiative, STADIO Stripes.
This carefully crafted set of micro-credentials goes the extra mile in better preparing students for the world of work by also recognising their skills-based achievements in addition to the traditional qualification transcript.
Working to bridge gaps
To lessen the chances of a child dropping out during their first year of tertiary studies, Harilal suggests parents should understand the gap between school and university upfront. This massive gap across various aspects, from finances to the accountability required of students, requires parents to draw near and support their children through the process.
“For example, STADIO has a variety of services available to parents to help them get a holistic overview of what studies will cost – not just the course registration, but transport, textbooks, project costs and so on.
It’s also important for parents to show their children that they are invested in their success – to touch base regularly to see how they are managing with their studies. This in turn helps students to invest in their own success.”
She encourages parents to engage with tertiary institutions and to tap into the many support and education resources available for parents and students alike to assist in navigating the higher education environment.