Registration for the next school year opens today. For the parents of pupils who are at the end of their cycle, this is certainly a very important, sometimes crucial, moment. The choice becomes increasingly difficult and weighted as the age of the boys grows. In particular, for those who are preparing to enter the secondary school course (the “superiors”, in a clearer and less bureaucratic language), the moment is delicate. For several reasons.
First of all, because high school is a rather long journey (five years, in most cases): realizing that you have gone to the wrong school, perhaps after a couple of years of attendance, even risks leading a student to consider dropping out. The most recent data communicated by the Ministry in fact describe a phenomenon that is decreasing but still worrying: the high school dropout rate was 4.4% in the 2013/2014 school year and still 3.3% in the school year 2018/2019, with a rather uniform distribution on the territory but which particularly affects professional paths compared to high schools and technical institutes.
The second reason is that it is difficult to imagine the world of work five or ten years from now. It is an important question, of course, but perhaps not fundamental. The world of work is in fact in continuous evolution, an evolution which, moreover, increases in speed over the years. Simply being focused on a profession or a methodology can lead to the paradoxical, unlikely but certainly not impossible result of starting a path that is currently cutting-edge but which becomes obsolete within five years.
It is an illusion to think that one can stop studying at the end of high school. It was perhaps true in the last century but it hasn’t been true for a couple of decades now. Fortunately, new generations are often more aware of this than past generations. The tragedy is that, sometimes, not even teachers, managers and even some ministers realize it. The last reason, but certainly not in order of importance, is given by the relationship with the children: is it right for the parents, or only the parents, to choose? The answer is obvious for primary school and lower secondary school, but it is not certain when it comes to high school.
On the one hand, it is right for a parent to put their experience and opinion at the service of their children. On the other hand, it is also correct to indulge the tendencies, the inclinations, the interests of the boys. Young people are not all the same, and not even our children are all the same: someone matures earlier and already has very clear ideas, someone else needs guidance, help or even just a little support and trust. The effort to be a good parent, a profession in which we all strive daily not to do excessive damage, also passes through the ability to recognize the point of development of one’s children.
In an age, moreover, where trying to talk and reason with them assumes characteristics of pure relational heroism. But if these years are a nightmare for parents, they are perhaps one of the most beautiful ages for kids. Who, over the next five years, will learn in depth the meaning of several words. Friendship, for example, because some of the new classmates will remain lifelong friends (or even, in the luckiest cases, spouses); or passion, because thanks to that teacher, to that phrase unearthed in a reluctantly started book, to that poem to be studied by heart, to the mystery of a quadratic equation that finally reveals its roots, the kids can ignite that switch that will make them fall in love with one or more subjects.
Today, but also tomorrow, the country needs people passionate about knowledge more than mere containers of notions (“funnels”, to quote one of the most inappropriate definitions used by a minister of the Republic), because only the former are willing to learn (and they know how to do it critically) any new information.
What can the State do to help families in these moments? A lot, beyond the obvious and basic interventions, but which are still worth remembering: adequate structures, starting with the buildings, and use and access to technology in all schools. But this is not enough. We also need the ability to self-evaluate the results obtained, to valorise the best teachers and the most innovative and courageous schools, to develop school curricula also by supporting the needs of the territories.
Again: the State must not be afraid to develop excellent or experimental training plans, such as the four-year courses, still not widespread today, which allow young Italians to immediately compete with European conscripts.
Above all, the State must not fall into the temptation to divide the schools into those of series A, which prepare for university, and those of series B, which are more professional. Because university is a waste of time if you have no idea how the world of work works; and, as already reiterated, starting to work hoping not to have to learn anymore is a serious mistake. Families also need certainties, if not even a little stability: in September, every institution must have a principal, all teachers, and full administrative and health personnel.
All pupils have the right to start lessons from the first day and not, as too often happens, in late autumn. Dear parents and dear children, therefore prepare yourself for one of the most important choices of your life: do it carefully and with foresight but also with full confidence in your ability to overcome difficult moments. And, why not, even with a minimum of lightness.
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Beyond school / The future of young people is about to begin