The guiding light

Skilled career guidance counsellors are essential to give students clarity on the numerous higher education options that are available for them, says Prachi Rege

Skilled career guidance counsellors are essential to give students clarity on the numerous higher education options that are available for them, says Prachi Rege

Making a wise academic choice is indeed the need-of-the-hour. Those passing out of class X and XII are at a turning point of their academic life and require good guidance. While there is a lot of information available on the internet it is impossible to fathom all of it at one go. This is where an education counsellor comes in to collate the necessary information on the gamut of courses and institutions that are available in the country and across the globe.

A survey designed and conducted in 100+ schools across 15 cities by Univariety, an online couselling forum, revealed that over 92 per cent students and parents have expressed a need for college counselling services in schools. But the hurdle is that the schools are unable to provide organised and professional counselling to their students. The report further states that 75 per cent schools in India lack skilled student counsellors.

The issue regarding career counselling was discussed at a recent UGC (University Guidance Counsellors) meet organised by South Asia International Baccalaureate School Association (SAIBSA) in association with Univariety at Podar International School in Mumbai. "Scattered information on universities and courses is available online. This makes things complex when it comes to making a concrete decision," said Jaideep Gupta, CEO and founder, Univariety.

Putting sense into asymmetric information and making it complete is the primary role of a counsellor. Moreover, experts suggest that A-Grade students mostly don`t seek or need counselling, since getting admissions to top colleges is for them a cakewalk. It is the non A-graders who are more in need of and keen on counselling.

In a panel discussion set up to mull over this topic, Gupta asked —Why do schools affiliated to different boards not invest in university guidance counsellors? Kaiser Dopaishi, president, SAIBSA, said, "It is time that schools realised that counsellors are a necessity rather than a liability. They are the ones who will help students to get in the best of colleges."

Comparing his own student days to present time, C Rajkumar, vice chancellor, OP Jindal University, reflected, "Our student years were simply about gathering knowledge and enjoying summer breaks. Today student life is complicated. There is a pressure to pursue rigororus academic activities in break time too. Add to this the competition to make it to best university." Rajkumar opined that clarity from counsellors will help unburden students to a certain extent.

Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid, University of Rochester, presented a western perspective. In the west university guidance counselling is a popular phenomenon practised on school campuses. "Coaching and mentoring by a guidance counsellor is essential to encourage students to head up to a good college which will be stamped on their graduation marksheets," he said.

However, he warned that too much counselling can be harmful and can have devastating results. So it must be done at the right time and for an appropriate duration. Experts caution that counsellors too have their own shortcomings. "It is not humanly possible for one to know everything about global courses and colleges," said Gupta.

Talking on the absence of concrete parameters to assess the validity of these counsellors, experts suggested that there should be none. Like in the west, India should set up counsellor boards to train and certify counsellors to equip them with valid information on courses and universitites.
"The world is flat when it comes to education institutes and courses. Thanks to the online courses phenomenon, it is even flatter. Hence, guidance/ counselling must involve a continous dialogue with students and parents who need to be updated with the lastest in the field," explained Burdick.

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