‘Stuck in studies you don’t like? Be grateful’

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PETALING JAYA: When Steven (not his real name) was in school in the 1990s, he liked to read newspaper and magazine articles about the environment and the causes and effects of pollution.

When it was time to further his studies beyond SPM, he knew just what he wanted to do.

“I wanted to study environmental science so that I could save the environment, but my father had different ideas,” he said. “I ended up studying mechanical engineering. It was demotivating at first because I wasn’t sure what I would end up doing with my life.”

Steven is now in his mid-30s. His story is apparently familiar to many Malaysian students. A news report earlier quoted Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon as saying parents shouldn’t force their children to pursue courses they had no interest in because the consequences could be “devastating”.

Steven said Chong had a point. He agreed that parents should expose their children to many different fields of endeavour so they could find something they would be passionately interested in.

In his case, he said, he grew to like mechanical engineering and had done well for himself. Still, he could sympathise with those stuck in fields of study forced upon them.

“I’m sure there are many students now studying something they didn’t want to,” he said. “My message to them is this: be grateful for any opportunity to study and make the best of it.”

Choo (not her real name) was another student who had disagreements with her parents when it was time to choose a field for tertiary study.

She said she wanted to study design.

“I liked to draw, but my parents felt that there was no future in art and that I wouldn’t be able to earn enough to survive. They wanted me to study accountancy. They said every company needed accountants.”

In the end, they came to a compromise and she studied journalism. She is now in her 20s and writing for a local magazine. She said her parents were right about designers not earning much money.

Nevertheless, she added, she believed parents shouldn’t force their children to choose careers they wouldn’t be happy in.