Advice on courses should not be seen as 'a luxury'
CAREER guidance has always had a scent of luxury about it, sort of a desirable accessory for the middle classes.
But the education system cannot treat the need for teenagers to be given all the information and advice they require as an optional extra.
It should be provided as early as necessary to help them make decisions that will determine their life chances.
A college course that has been misguidedly selected can end up as a cul de sac out of which a 19-year-old has to retrace steps to find the right career route. Dropping out of college is difficult for the student and a waste of money for the taxpayer.
And where is the justice for students in disadvantaged areas being told to be "realistic" and to apply for a Post Leaving Cert course, rather than aspire to higher level?
They are at a double disadvantage against the middle class students -- whose parents pay for private tuition and, perhaps, private career guidance.
More and more school-leavers will need a qualification beyond Leaving Cert if they are to get and hold a job.
Parents are a major influence in their children's career choice, but ESRI research has shown that they don't have the information they need.
The 55,000 Leaving Cert student getting their results on Wednesday had a bewildering total of 1,285 CAO courses from which to select.
And students can often keep their options open on specialisation until, say, second year of a degree programme.
Admirable, but another choice they need to know about. Which college? Which course?
The CAO system doesn't include Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses or others in the further education sector that prepare school-leavers for work, or act as a stepping stone to higher education.
Increasingly, school-leavers are opting for such a qualification as a back-door entry to higher education.
The explosion in choice gives the impression that there is something for everyone, and indeed, there probably is -- once the student knows which is the right one for them.
If, for instance, excellence in maths is a requirement, then he/she needs to understand that requirement long before they leave school. They need to know it before they take a casual decision to stick with ordinary level Junior Cert maths.