February 10, 2010

Choosing a course of study

This morning, a mother of an ex-student of mine sent me an email, asking me for advice in choosing a course of study for her daughter. I think this maybe useful for those who intend to pursue a degree or further study, so I decided to share my view with you. Herewtih a slightly modified version of my reply to the mother:

Whether it is worth pursuing a course or not depends on the personal value she holds and the social value that surrounds her. It is too early to judge or even say Early Childhood Education is good or bad for her at this stage. Firstly, good or bad is very subjective and it really depends on her value systems--her priority in life. As a parent, you could assist her in establishing a set of positive values towards her life and guide her in determining the priority of those values. Secondly, I think it is unfair to evaluate a course based merely on its financial return in the future. To me what important is that after she completed her study, she could become a matured, independent and confident individual, in which she can further pursue her career in the field of study to become a professional. 

My limited life experience informs me that one doesn’t have to study a lot to earn a lot of money; while those who study a lot might not earn a lot in return. I personally don’t value money as much as the wisdom of life, and such wisdom is the use of knowledge and skills in all facets of daily living. I always remember you said to me in 2004 that a man should become established by the age of 30. I am 30 this year and I define “established” as having the foundation of career path firmly set, and this would be the completion of my doctorate degree.

It’s a pity that Malaysian generally judges the success of an education person, especially those who earned a higher degree based on the car they drive and the house they live. Back home in Malaysia, I am still driving my cute little Kancil—although I am driving a cute little A-Class here in the UK; maybe I just like cute little car, so it could be a preference rather than capability. I don’t own any business, property or investment like most of my peers do, but I never feel being poor. I am rich in terms of confidence, dedication, passion, aspiration and energy to pursue my research and my career; I am rich because I have access to far more than enough books, journals and other resources that enable me to continue the pursue of knowledge; I am rich because I have numerous supports from those who love and care about me—my family, my peers, my friends, my colleagues, my students, etc.

Some relatives and colleagues back home cannot understand why I choose to pursue a career in education rather than engineering, multimedia or ICT which they think could earn me a bigger, tastier or perhaps more luxurious bread. A lot of people see joining education or becoming academics as the last resort or career choice. Indeed there is some truth in it: experts in other professions can join education with ease, but not vice versa. I do realise that private sectors generally pay higher salary and more bonus and benefits; I do realise that if I pursue certain so-called promising career, I should be able to get rich financially. But it is a matter of preference. I believe in my value systems and I am being true to myself. Yes, myself, not anybody else.

I hope I am being helpful and not confusing. Good luck to Y.


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