In any school or college, the role of the student counselor is very pivotal as it determines the performance of not only that school but the future of students as well. In Pakistan however, given the current situation of the economy and its dire effects on education, it’s considered not more than a luxury for the majority of schools and colleges to afford a designated student counselor specifically hired to help the students in navigating their career and professional choices. Regardless of the situation at hand, one can argue that no education system can survive without hiring and training efficient student counselors who are well-versed in the human psyche and have hands-on experience on how to deal with children hailing from all economic and social backgrounds. The ever-changing landscape of education with the advent of AI and all the gadgets that students are using these days, makes the role of the school counselor even more important. Here are some areas which require the help of the counselor in fostering a safe environment for students at schools.
Provision of Psychological and Emotional Support:
One of the central responsibilities of the school counselor is to provide psychological and emotional support to students. With the increasing pressure of academic performance, peer relationships, and familial expectations, many students in Pakistani schools and colleges face stress, anxiety, and mental health challenges. The counselor offers a safe and confidential space for students to discuss their concerns, fears, and anxieties. Through individual or group counseling sessions, students are equipped with coping strategies, emotional regulation techniques, and problem-solving skills, empowering them to navigate the complex emotional landscape and achieve a positive mental state. Sadly, in Pakistan, we see that the psychological health of students is often neglected as the only focus of teachers is to train students to be better only at memorization. Hence, it is pertinent for schools to have a counselor who can not only help students to mentally string but also can guide teachers and instructors to help students in encountering emotional and psychological issues.
Navigating through the Academic Life: Choosing the Right Career
The school counselor also plays a crucial role in guiding students in their academic pursuits and career choices. In a diverse and rapidly changing job market, students often grapple with selecting the right academic path that aligns with their interests, aptitudes, and future goals. The counselor assists students in understanding their strengths and weaknesses, exploring various academic and career options, and making informed decisions about their educational journey. Additionally, they may organize career fairs, workshops, and seminars to expose students to a wide range of career opportunities and enhance their career readiness. Again in Pakistan, due to a lack of such guidance, students face difficulties in navigating their professional lives and end up choosing the wrong careers in which they do not find any fulfillment. And that further translates into a plethora of problems that the country is facing, with people ending up in jobs they do not feel passionate about and hence damaging the whole sector.
The school counselor contributes significantly to students’ personal and social development by promoting interpersonal skills, effective communication, and conflict-resolution abilities. Through workshops and interactive sessions, students are educated about topics such as empathy, respect, diversity, and cultural sensitivity. The counselor serves as a mediator in resolving conflicts among peers, thereby fostering a harmonious and inclusive school environment. Furthermore, the counselor may collaborate with teachers and parents to address behavioral issues, thereby creating a comprehensive support network for students. This is one of the key qualities to have while starting any career as a professional. Most students learn this the hard way after joining any firm or company and sometimes this can impact their career way. So, it is pertinent for students to learn these hacks to socially develop themselves during early education with the help of a student counselor.
Collaboration with Stakeholders:
Effective collaboration with various stakeholders, including teachers, parents, school administrators, and external agencies, is essential for the school counselor to fulfill their role optimally. They work in tandem with teachers to provide tailored support to students who may be struggling academically or emotionally. They engage with parents to provide insights into their child’s well-being and academic progress, fostering a strong home-school partnership. Furthermore, the counselor collaborates with school management to develop and implement policies that promote students’ overall development and well-being. As the saying goes “It takes a whole village to raise a child”, in the same way, the involvement of all the parties is very crucial in ensuring a safe environment for the upbringing of students. Oftentimes, as the research shows, the academic performance of children is highly dependent on the environment he faces at home. Hence it is crucial that students are not facing any kind of abuse in their homes and it is the job of a student counselor to ensure that existing safe space between students and parents.
The role of the school counselor in Pakistani schools and colleges is undeniably significant, encompassing a diverse range of responsibilities that contribute to student’s holistic development and well-being. As the educational landscape continues to evolve, the counselor’s role will likely expand to address emerging challenges and opportunities. By providing psychological support, academic guidance, personal and social development, and inclusive education, the school counselor acts as a pillar of support, fostering an environment where students can flourish academically, emotionally, and socially. The education system must continue to realize and invest in the role of the school counselor to ensure the overall success and well-being of not only the students but the whole country. It is the only way to fight the challenges that the education sector is facing and it will go a long way in harvesting future professionals, who will no longer get stuck in jobs that do not give them fulfillment and will pave a path forward towards sustainability and progress.
The writer, Muhammad Saad, is an M.Phil scholar of Political Science at GCU Lahore.