Guiding students to make the right choice

As the education sector is growing rapidly, it is important for students to have career counselling in schools

A recent study by a leading job portal found that three out of five employees are unhappy with their jobs. Another survey conducted by United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network found that India has dropped from 118 to 122 among 155 countries in the 2017 World Happiness Index. Apart from poor life expectancy and social support, one of the main causes identified was job dissatisfaction.

Let us first understand the root cause of job dissatisfaction in India. The problem can possibly be attributed to incorrect career decisions and course selection as school students. A recent study found that at least 50% of people’s unhappiness was rooted in their career situation. Upon further investigation, it was found that unhappiness traced back to the advice that many of them received in the early years of schooling.

Looking at the root cause

The logical question that comes to mind is — what is the process of students making a career choice and how they go about selecting a course? Most students choose subjects according to the scores they obtain and what their family and friends or peers think is right for them, and not according to their interests.

The decisions based on historical information often lead to young students growing up to be employees who don’t necessarily relate to their jobs. This stems from the choices they made in high school and it also signals that sound career and college counselling were not available or offered to these pupils and they ended up selecting a subject that was not the right fit for them.

Students these days carry the burden of scoring higher marks due to parental and peer pressure. An unfortunate fallout of this tremendous pressure is the suicide rate among Indian students, which is one of the highest in the world. A major cause for concern is pressure from parents and society to excel in Class 10 and 12 board examinations as the marks obtained often determine college admissions and career opportunities.

In rural schools, there is another major concern of school dropouts. The main reasons for that include poor school infrastructure and social stigma. Youngsters who drop out at the secondary and higher secondary levels do not even have a minimum level of understanding about career planning and skill acquisition and end up as labourers.

Career counselling

To counter this phenomenon, it is time to build a career guidance movement to conduct counselling in all high schools for students and parents. Career counselling in India is more valuable than ever before. As per recent Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) guidelines, every school should have a career counselling cell to guide the students not just in career-related issues but behavioural, emotional and psychological concerns as well. Career counsellors play a crucial role in shaping the careers of students and sharing the latest information with them.

Career guidance and planning exercises in schools would encourage students to understand their interests and aptitude and choose the appropriate career opportunity linked to proper skill training. Setting up dedicated career counselling cells in schools is the first step one should take. The career counsellors should be equipped with up-to-date knowledge, tools and comprehensive guidelines on best practices. Schools need to arrange frequent workshops and seminars by experts and encourage counselling sessions for students. 

Since rigidity breeds repetitiveness and flexibility increase one’s creativity, we need to let students discover their true calling and help them select the right career path for themselves. Parents need to accept, acknowledge and allow their child to experiment. This is perhaps the only way we are going to build a generation of happy individuals. Parents need to first take their children to a career counsellor to understand the child’s interest. Simultaneously, it is important that they remain open to the plethora of new courses that are available today. For instance, if a student likes to explore humanities or music as a career, it should be encouraged.

Career counselling never ends. You need it for job satisfaction, to adapt to the numerous changes in the workplace, to match your skills with the demands of the job market, and most importantly, to achieve your personal career goals and aspirations.

(The author is president and chief mentor, KIC UnivAssist, Mumbai)

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Guiding students to make the right choice

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