Counseling trends in India: Guiding the world’s largest youth population

November 02, 2021 5:42 PM

Career counseling has emerged as a critical need for students and parents to get relevant information and make guided choices when selecting the right career option.

career counsellingIt can be quite difficult for students to find the right career fit and explore new avenues on their own. (Representative image)

By Ganesh Kohli

Approximately 67 per cent of India’s population is between the ages of 15 and 64. The bulk of this group is between the ages of 15 and 30. This means that a lot of people need help deciding on a career choice and getting started in their job. This number will only rise as the world’s population grows. With the rise of multiple technologies and industries, there has been a rapid expansion of new job industries and job categories that did not exist previously.

Students have an ever-expanding base of career options to choose from. However, with the rise in career options, their confusion of country, college, course, and career has also been increasing. It can be quite difficult for students to find the right career fit and explore new avenues on their own. Career counseling has emerged as a critical need for students and parents to get relevant information and make guided choices when selecting the right career option, and consequently the best country, college, and course to pick.

Through our recent 2021 IC3 Institute Student Quest Survey, we found that over 71 percent of students think critically about future employment. Career prospects, courses, colleges, and the country are the most critical components in the pursuit of a future career. Passion for career, future salary and pay, glamour and excitement of the job, peer pressure, the popularity of a career, and parents’ recommendations are the main contributing factors when students make this decision.

Country Preference

Our survey reveals that the U.S. continues to lure the largest number of students, followed by the U.K., Canada, Australia, Singapore, Germany, France, and South Korea. Reputed colleges in the country itself also attract a very large number of students.

High-quality teaching, affordability, overseas job opportunities, command over language, availability of specialized courses, presence of multiple top-ranked universities and colleges, counselor’s advice, popularity among international students, and presence of friends and relatives determine the choice of the study destination for students. When it comes to choosing a college and a course, further placement prospects, rank and reputation of the institution, program structure, faculty, location, infrastructure, and advice from friends, family, and counselors help students make the right choice.

Why is Counseling Important?

Career counseling, provided at the correct time, can have a huge impact on how students perceive the plethora of information and choices at their disposal. School-based career counselors, with their deep understanding and long-term association with students, are able to help students determine future career paths, based on their academic and co-curricular interests and their personal and family circumstances, helping them align their personal goals with long-term professional goals. They also become the filters of the world of information, helping familiarize students with a wide range of available courses and career options. To give the best and most timely support to young students, counseling needs to start at the school level to empower students with information and choices at an early stage of decision-making. As parents’ recommendations and preferences also contribute enormously to the decision-making process, school-based counselors hold a unique position of trust in advising parents and families about the country, course, and career options.

New Trends

We discovered in our NACAC–IC3 Joint Survey Report that students believe that in schools where there is no counselor, a teacher is the best person to not only educate students and parents about careers with their knowledge of a students’ academic strengths, but also to guide them through the admission process and other formalities. Students also trust their teachers with educating them on standardized testing, helping in application and admission processes, conducting tours of colleges/universities, and guiding on fee structure. For a long time, India has been afflicted by the phenomenon of “accidental” professionals, with a majority of students taking up STEM subjects in school, followed by medicine or engineering in college, and later an MBA. These choices were guided by a lack of information, rather than active interest. But, thankfully, this trend is now reversing. Over 70 per cent of students who took part in the survey actively opted for counseling, and our hope is that in the future, every student in every school gets access to this crucial guidance. If every teacher becomes a 10% career counselor, students will be able to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and the various careers that knowledge can support.

The Way Forward

Given the current situation, it is clear that career counseling is especially and highly essential for high school students for proper planning of one’s career path. And effective career counseling can only happen when teachers too have access to comprehensive training and resources to best guide their students.

Counseling is not just limited to in-person conversations. Now, it needs to be future-ready and equipped with advanced tools and technologies to assist teachers, students, parents better. Studies and anecdotal evidence both support the view that there is a shortage of trained career counselors in India. Organizations like the IC3 Institute are making efforts to bridge the gap through innovations and technological interventions.

Presently, over 93 per cent of Indian schools do not have dedicated career counselors and the field is ripe and waiting for more professionals to get trained. The future success and happiness of students, families, schools and the community hangs in the balance.

(The author is Founder, IC3 Movement and Chair, Board of Trustees, IC3 Institute. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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