Role and Importance of School Counsellors

- Article by Ms. Jagdeep Maitreya: Secondary Teacher (retired) at Dr. S. Radhakrishnan International School (Malad)

School counselling began as a vocational guidance movement at the beginning of the 20th century. School counselling and guidance grew from the 1920’s to the 30’s because of the rise of progressive education in schools which emphasized personal, social and moral development. Initially, many schools reacted to school counselling as anti-educational saying that schools should teach only the fundamentals of education.
My interaction with school counsellors began since I joined Dr. Radhakrishnan Vidyalaya 10 years ago. There are many students in our school who need guidance. Our school counsellors are the best to provide it, be it emotional, academic or moral guidance. If a student’s behaviour interferes with his or her achievement, the counsellor observes the student with the help of teachers and other personnel, and thereby develops a plan to address the behavioural problems/issues and work in collaboration with teachers/parents to implement the plan and also help by providing consultation services for family members.

School counsellors meet the needs of students in three basic domains– academic development, career development and personal and social developmental issues. They relate to student needs or even address issues among students such as divorce or a death in the family, which a student finds difficult to cope with. Children with an emotional disturbance may fail academically, be socially rejected, or have a poor self image; they may face difficulties in relating to peers or adults, have little or no respect for self or for the laws of their society. Academic failure and self rejection often have lasting consequences because the failure to learn in school, limits a person to succeed in the future. Such children are more likely to drift from mainstream society and become targets for unemployment and homelessness or become social outcastes.

School counselling should be a philosophy rather than an activity centred around one person. This responsibility should not lie with the teachers alone. Parents should be roped in to strengthen the child’s coping abilities to handle environmental stress and disadvantages with which they are growing up. It is important to discuss emotions and feelings.

In spite of the increasing number of suicides among students below 16 years reported, Dr. Harish Shetty feels Mumbai schools are far from hearing the warning bells. Most schools are yet to realize the significance of counselling. The challenge is how to keep a normal child normal. Principals should act as support groups for counsellors to enhance student achievement through a guidance curriculum. The workshops conducted for students, parents, teachers, head masters/head mistresses have had a great impact. The importance of counselling and being counselled is catching on.

Earlier, the children who were referred to the resource or rather counselled were looked down upon by their peers; they tried to hide the fact that they visited the resource room. The scene today has changed. Teachers, parents and students are receptive of the idea. The students who visit the resource room are no more looked down upon by their peers. Our counsellors have proved to be a major help in improving the condition of many of our students. Many have left school totally confident and ready to face the world as successful individuals outshining many, victorious in the various fields they have chosen. It gives me great pride and satisfaction to see some of my students who were shy and scared to utter a word, become such smart and confident human beings today.

The other day a school friend visited me (we met after 25 years or so), and she told me she has specialized in ‘Resource - counselling’. She and her team worked with various schools all over the country. It was with great pride that I told her about ‘Our Resource Team’ and the wonderful work they are carrying out. Kudos, BCG!