Improving decision making competence of adolescents

The first decision many young people make is “what do I do after school?” For the most part, different options are presented at best. Often, young people then choose one of the obvious alternatives or alternatives suggested by others without thinking more deeply about what they personally actually want and what their objectives are. For example, you often hear young people say, “My mother is a doctor, so I’m studying medicine,” or “My father is an entrepreneur. I’m studying business,” or even “My parents didn’t study. I should definitely not make the same mistake.” In principle, these decisions may seem “reasonable” from an objective point of view; in individual cases, however, it is urgently necessary to consider each individual’s interests, wishes, and prerequisites.

Before choosing a field of study, everyone should ask themselves the central question of whether training or studying is a better fit for a young person’s objectives and desires. Today, however, this is often left entirely out of the equation. As a result, and due to poor preliminary considerations when making career decisions, 28 percent of all bachelor’s students dropped out of their studies in 2015, and 25 percent of training contracts were terminated prematurely. In addition to economic consequences such as increased training costs or a shortage of skilled workers, there are also sometimes significant individual consequences, as dropping out of a training program is often seen as a severe failure.

In a large research project in northern Bavaria, we are investigating how young people can best be trained in decision-making skills so that they are well equipped to make better and more proactive decisions that will have a significant impact on their lives. (www.KLUGentscheiden.de). In addition, I am working closely with the Alliance for Decision Education to promote decision education worldwide.

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