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Why riot? Community, choices, aspirations
Why riot? Community, choices, aspirations

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1.2 How free are you to choose?

By the age of 15 or 16 you, like many young people, may be starting to make important decisions or choices about your future (sometimes with advice or guidance from parents or guardians) such as, ‘What do I want to do in life’ or ‘Should I stay in education (at school or college)?’ Imagine this is the decision you are about to make now. Do you know what factors might influence your decision?

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Figure 4: How free are you to choose?

Activity 2: Should I stay in education ?

Timing: 15 minutes

Take a look at these two young people Alex and Jo (characters) and the choices they face.

Character A: This is Alex. Alex is 15 and thinking about whether to stay on and study after the age of 16. Some of Alex’s teachers think Alex has academic potential [to go on to college or university] but no one in the family has stayed on in education. Most of Alex’s friends are also not interested in staying on in school. Some are already getting jobs or apprenticeships. Earning money right now would be really helpful to the family as times are tough, but Alex also really likes school and subjects like reading, maths, and drawing, and dreams of being an engineer or designing things. Alex sometimes has self-doubts too about having what it takes to study.

Character B: This is Jo. Jo is 15 and thinking about whether to stay on and study after the age of 16. Jo’s brother is going to university. Jo’s mother is a doctor and everyone in their family expects Jo to become a doctor too. Many of Jo’s friends are planning to stay on in school and go to University, though some are also talking about getting jobs. Jo’s not sure about a career in medicine and often dreams of a more practical job like being a plumber and where you can be your own boss.

For both Alex and Jo, choose one option below to summarise how you see their choice.

  • a.To leave school and find a job that will support them and their family.
  • b.To follow their dreams and stay on in school.
  • c.To take another path. Can you give an example?

What made you choose a, b or c for Alex or Jo? Is there something in your own background or experience that led you to that option?

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When making an important decision there are often a range of issues that inform your choices. Some of these you may be able to see very clearly. Others you may not even be aware of until they are in front of you – but can influence the choices you make. For example, you may be concerned about how others see you or you may not know how to achieve your dreams if no one you know has chosen this path to show you the way. Maybe it just feels like you have no choice at all, or that other people have already made decisions about you and for you, based on your background or the community you live in.