Making the right choice

Shakuntala Jaisinghani

thumbs-up Kanika was a brilliant student, with a bright future ahead of her. She passed her secondary exam, topping the merit list of the State Board. When she enrolled in the 11th standard she had to make a choice between the sciences, commerce and the arts. Her parents thought there was only one option for their extraordinary daughter – Science – for wasn’t that the first choice of all intelligent students? Kanika did not interfere with her parents’ decision as she wanted them to be proud of her. Throughout her 11th standard, however, she struggled to match her 10th standard results. Although she found the going tough she thought she could do it. But a very rude shock awaited Kanika and her parents. She didn’t make it through in her annual exams!

A devastated Kanika attempted to take her life. It was her teacher who talked to her and helped her rethink the choice she had made, of opting for subjects for which she had no aptitude. The teacher reminded her of the brilliant work she had done in her other subjects. This helped Kanika regain her confidence. Kanika now opted for the Arts and sure enough came out with flying colours in her senior secondary board exam; 2nd in the merit list!

This true story has a happy ending, but unfortunately there are many that end tragically. The pressure to choose starts early: students are asked to indicate their academic and career interests. It is presumed that they know what they want to study and what career they wish to pursue. Added to that is parental pressure to learn subjects which they assume will allow their children to get into lucrative careers. Who cares about the interest and aptitude of the children?

I was the teacher in this real life story and this incident helped me realise the importance of assisting my students with career counselling and impelled me to pursue a course in guidance and counselling.

Ever since, I have been advising students that before they make a career choice they should consider factors that are likely to influence their decisions or could affect their goals. Answers to their questions will hopefully give them an idea of what career choices they can make. Setting personal goals and learning skills help in making positive career choices.

Today, there are educational counsellors who advise students on educational issues, career planning and personal development and co-ordinate the provision of counselling services to students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff. They are employed by school boards, universities and colleges, technical institutes, correctional facilities and government agencies. Most secondary schools have a counsellor on site, either on a full or part time basis. Primary schools generally have a counsellor/psychologist who visits periodically and whose main role is that of testing and assessment. In primary schools it is teachers who deliver ‘pastoral’ care and children are referred on for counselling, usually in consultation with the child’s parents.

diary1 Career counselling helps in areas of study and possible career changes. If individuals experience a personal issue about their future and want to discuss or discover opportunities about their career plans, they can do so with a counsellor. The counsellors are experienced, qualified professionals who understand the difficulties of career choices and can offer appropriate advice to each individual. They will ensure that students set realistic targets for themselves and choose a career to suit their expectations and not others’. Pressure to enter into a career that doesn’t appeal to the child will not motivate her enough to do the job. Counsellors will also make sure the student has as much information as possible about the path she is considering and ensures that it suits her personality.

Career counselling can help to:

  • Generate personal plans of action
  • Recognise interests, skills and abilities
  • Make educated decisions about future direction
  • Create a portfolio of abilities
  • Explore graduate employment and availability
  • Investigate university requirements.

I have always felt that a teacher is a guide or helper in the processes of learning, but his or her role is not limited to academic subjects alone; it includes supporting and mentoring pupils in community roles, life skills and future building. As such, counselling should be an integral part of teacher training. Although there are professional counsellors to advice the students, it’s the teacher who understands his or her students best.

The writer is an educational consultant with Sparsh, a division of SEED Infotech at Pune. She can be reached at [email protected].

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