Any parent out there who hopes their children will find something they love to do but does not get paid much for it? I didn’t think so.

As Asian parents, we worry about our children’s future and plan their education paths strategically because we love them and desire for them to flourish and “do well” in life. You might debate that this type of Asian parenting mindset is passe. Maybe, but the notion where education is an imperative part of their foundation remains strong in our community. The question is, in a rapidly changing modern society, how sustainable is this strategy of placing our bets solely on education? And how much education and what kind of education will support the new careers that might surface in their future?

We had the chance to test out this theory at the recent Skills Future Festival. Under the guise of a workshop, Skills Future Advice, we were invited into an alternate universe known as SingaLand. In this world, the participants begin by creating their own personality – we get to pick 48 SMARTS. Everyone begins on an equal footing – we had to take and pass our PSLE exam. Thereafter, we have the option to continue our education or head out into the workforce. If we choose the education route, we had to take a series of tests and pass them to move up to the next level. The education route from PSLE consists of ‘O’ Level, ‘A’ Level, University, Masters, and finally Ph.D.

Skills Future Game Test

For participants who choose the workforce, they have a choice to apply for a job at an established company (i.e Multi-National Company), with a start-up (eg. coding company) to learn a new skill or audition for the performing arts. They could also try their luck at being entrepreneurs.

Whichever path they choose, participants who work could return to school and vice versa. For the discerning participants, they could even learn new skills and upgrade themselves.

Participants are encouraged to immerse themselves in this experiential game/workshop. We were only told that the one with the most money will be the winner. There were several 10-minute breaks interspersed in the three hours, where the game-master facilitated observations of our career progress.

The Paths To Success…

Some broke away from conventions and went straight into the workforce after PSLE. Others doggedly pursued degrees. Some attempted entrepreneurship, failed a few times before succeeding. There were also participants who followed the education route, went to work for the stable MNC and suffered setbacks. Others succeeded by combining career paths like performing arts with stable work.

Skills Future Game Work

The game even implemented life’s unpredictability with unexpected curveballs and opportunities. Facilitators at the various stations are empowered to reward participants with extra “opportunities” or convey extra SMARTs for demonstrating resilience, diligence or creativity. Below, my son choosing a chance bonus card…

Skills Future Game Chance

Observations and Takeaways

All the participants walked away with their personal takeaways. This workshop is a game-changer and offers a great opportunity for you to have an honest conversation with your kids about academic pursuits, thus shifting mindsets for both parents and children.

At the end of the game, we were challenged to examine our perceptions of education and priorities as parents. In our family, my daughter was the surprise winner who came out tops for achieving expertise in a skilled position, while my son, who held a Ph.D. was retrenched from his stable job and ran out of time to attempt entrepreneurship. For someone who is usually ambiguous when we talk “future”, he surprised me with his determination to pursue a higher education (and made me think if I am stressing too much on getting a degree?)

The workshop confirmed our beliefs that success in life can be achieved when we work in industries that resonate with our aptitudes (SMARTs), interests and talents. While we still hold education as a priority, we felt that it is better to encourage our children on paths of their choosing. Offering them guidance, coaching and advice may be better ways to support them. Also, an education route may not necessarily be about getting degrees. My kids’ take-away from this experience is that being an overachiever does not necessarily yield a win, and having smaller slow and steady wins can eventually lead to a much bigger success.

Tip: If you are playing this game with your kids, resist urges to prompt or direct your kids. Give them the freedom to choose their paths in this experiential game. You might be surprised by their realizations at the end of the game.

If you are interested to try this game, give me a shoutout in the comment below. I will share more information on when and where the organizers will hold the next workshop. Do connect with Us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more updates.

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