Should all roads lead to money?

By Duy Minh, The writer is a blogger and journalist who lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. The opinions expressed are his own.

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High school graduates sit for a university entrance exam in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach
Until 10 years ago young people enrolling in university were harried by their parents to become businesspeople, doctors, or construction engineers. Many complained about the sufferings of children who were forced to live their parents’ dreams.
But the standards response would be: “How will you earn a living after studying music or painting?”
These days there is a different kind of a trend: Many university graduates are not confident enough to go into the job market and say they have to get a master’s degree.
One said: “A master graduate can earn much money. B.A. graduates have low salaries.”
Many people are willing to spend an extra two years to get a master certificate just to make an additional VND5 million (US$237). They do not care if the degree has nothing to do with their work.
So what is the ultimate goal of these parents and students? It is money.
There was a time when people struggled to make ends meets and many suffered from crippling poverty. At that time a doctor or engineer did fine while a farmer toiled on the field for more than 10 hours a day but could not put food on the table.
The situation kept people’s dreams simple: having enough money to overcome the poverty.
Though that kind of poverty was overcome 20 years ago money is still the only thing they can think about.
People tell their children about their friends who are rich doctors and company bosses, and want their children to tell their children in turn that they should only dream about making a lot of money.
How many postgraduate students know that their education is a preparation for becoming a researcher and not for higher salaries?
How many medical students think they are studying to save lives and how many engineers build good houses before they think about the big money these occupations can fetch?
Poor parents living in a poor society and suffering from a life of poverty have limited the dreams of their children.
Some people say proudly their child is rich despite raising cows. Why is no one proud to say their children raise cows because they love farming and want to improve the technologies in their job?
It is because they only want to reveal their narrow dream of their children becoming rich coming true. They do not care if their children love their job.
Lonely children
During their 12 years of basic education many students become aware that their dreams may be weird, too simple, or unrealistic to their parents.
One wants to be a film editor; another wants to open a shop to modify motorbikes; others want to become mushroom or orchid farmers.
They think of thousands of different things they want to do in future.
But after basic education, they choose medicine or business administration even if they are not very good at them just because they are told that these courses are good to get jobs or earn a lot of money.
Their dreams are thus jettisoned after their teachers and parents are done with their stories and advice: a teacher, for instance, tells them about a former student who has become rich working as an architect; the parents speak about a neighbor who built a five-story house thanks to working as a doctor.
Such stories, when repeated often, cause the children to abandon their dream, thinking it is unrealistic or unsuitable for their situation. Many then choose to study business without thinking about what they will do in future.
Four years later many of these graduates are again confused about what to do because of the state of the global economy.
Thousands of university students complain about this on online forums. One said: “I registered [in a university] because my friend and teacher told me. I did not know that the occupation was not suitable for me.”
Some say they do not have the courage or patience to start all over again and study for the job of their dream especially when it means the time and money they spent for a four-year degree were totally wasted.
It is time to find a correct way to counsel children.
It should not be limited to free online tests, dubious advice from friends and teachers, and the salaries they can hope to earn.
Parents should not force their children to enroll in a university because they want it or shift the responsibility on the school.
Parents should discover and nurture their children’s dreams and what they want to become in future.
What should they do if a child tells them they want to work with machines and motorbikes?
They should take the child to a motorbike shop to see what a worker there does.
The child can decide then if they really want to do the job or think about something else.
Not every one can become very rich. But everyone can find a way to lead an easy and happy life.
To be happy, one should be happy with their job; otherwise, it will be a nightmare all their life.
Most parents are no longer suffering from poverty like in the past when they struggled to even get food. How can they let their children suffer by studying and doing things that they do not dream of?
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