Guidance and counselling programmes in schools are becoming more approachable for students, parents and teachers, according to officials from career education and counselling division (CECD) of the education ministry.

Since the deployment of full-time counsellors in schools in 2011, teachers and parents today have started to refer their children to counselling and guidance services voluntarily.

“Students are also forthcoming and they seek counselling services at schools. They have understood the benefits of seeking such services if they are in need,” said Kezang Dukpa, a senior counsellor with CECD.

With the introduction of the “beyond the school gate” concept, Kezang Dukpa said that counsellors today are catering to the needs of not just the students, but also that of the parents and out-of-school children. “It is a concept framed by the counsellors themselves to take their services out of the school into the community.”

However, challenges remain in making the programmes accessible to all.

The fourth annual school guidance counsellor’s conference that concluded in Trashigang yesterday focussed on bringing together the dzongkhag officials to help extend the reach of the counsellors.

The Trashigang cluster included a total 35 participants including dzongkhag education officers (DEO), assistant DEOs, and counsellors from five dzongkhags.

The annual conference is divided into five clusters – Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Trashigang. This was done to enhance the productivity of the conference by working in small groups.

Until last year, the annual conference included just the counsellors and was conducted to build the foundation and help develop the capacities of the counsellors.

“Understanding the important role played by different stakeholders in enhancing the quality of guidance and counselling programmes, we have included the DEOs this time,” said Kezang Dukpa.

He said the DEOs would help counsellors reach out to schools where there is no guidance and counselling programmes. “They will be the bridge between the counsellors and the dzongkhag,” he said. “All these efforts are geared towards creating a safe and conducive environment for children in schools.”

One of the biggest challenges faced by school guidance counsellors is not having a proper counselling room. Kezang Dukpa said that many old school infrastructures today do not have a provision for a counselling room that is open, spacious and with a friendly ambiance.

The counsellor and student ratios in the schools are high resulting in overloading the counsellors, said Kezang Dukpa. “It is not that we cannot provide counsellors in every school but we are deploying counsellors based on the needs of the schools,” he said. “The number of counsellors would increase, but we want to do this gradually.”

There are a total of 82 certified counsellors in the country today. All the central schools, including a few middle and higher secondary schools, have a full-time counsellor.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang