TALKING EDUCATION COUNSELLING

With the number of Indian students seeking higher education increasing rapidly, student feel a greater need for guidance when it comes to choosing the right path for them. As a result, the education counselling market is booming. Independent education counselor’s have become ubiquitous in metropolitan cities and as an increasing number of students seek an education abroad, the profession is unlikely to go away anytime soon. So what exactly is it that an education counselor does? The answer of course varies from individual to individual. While some may only help a student figure out the logistics of admissions to a university, others may offer full blown personal and career advice.Since education counselors have become a crucial part of a student’s experience, we at TiGEs decided to sit down with a famous counselor in New Delhi to discuss what the field is all about. Our correspondent Sapan Taneja spoke to Mr Jitin Chawla, a renowned career counselor from New Delhi.Mr. Chawla runs the Centre for Career Development and has conducted more than 16,500 workshops and 250 career fairs in schools and colleges over a period of fourteen years. Their
conversation involved discussions about the role of a counselor, the Indian education system, attitudes towards career paths among other topics.

Why did you personally decide to enter this field?

Growing up I went through a very conventional career path. I took up science because that opens up your career options. Did medicine because engineering didn’t interest me and did Physics honours. Did not enjoy that so did an MBA because I was advised to do so and landed up with an unsatisfying corporate job. I was dissatisfied and unhappy with my own journey and realised that was the case for a number of people I know. At the same time I knew I wanted to do something in education because I was conducting in management schools and enjoying those. Eventually, I met a psychologist who introduced me to things like aptitude testing, workshops and education counselling. So that combined with my dissatisfaction with my own education journey led me to what I do today.

What is your main role as a career counsellor?

So I happen to work with a lot of young people and have a misconception about which stream or field is good for them but honestly they haven’t really thought about it. They are usually going by the wishes of their parents. So they need someone who understands
them, understands career options and who can help them figure out what is ideal for them. That is my main responsibility. Helping them understand what they want to do
and how they can go about it.
So when a student comes to you what is your first advice to them?

When a student comes to us we do our best to understand what they want to pursue. A lot of people may be in a certain field but are interested in something else. I have engineers who are now doing social work, science students who are now doing management and so
on. So they key is to understand what the child wants and then advising them to pursue that.

What is the biggest challenge a student faces when trying to make decisions about their education path?

The biggest challenge is definitely the conventional ideas of parents. A majority of people have a conventional upbringing in India.There are a number of students who have ideas about doing something different and interesting but these are usually shot down by parents
who do not have an understanding of these career paths. Even teachers push the conventional agenda. Students taking humanities in schools are questioned. In fact there are a number of schools in India which do not even have an option of studying Humanities after 10th.The second challenge is the lack of understanding regarding institutions. In India we have a culture of relying on other people. Sharma ji speaks to Gupta ji who speaks
to someone else and so on. Indian parents also have a lot of misconceptions surrounding the nature of certain careers. They believe the more you study the more successful you will be. However, there are certain paths such as event management, sports management, hotel management etc., which involve a very different form of learning and are good careers.

Have you ever had disagreements with parents?

Sometimes, based on a student’s aptitude, we may suggest them to take up Humanities or Arts but parents don’t necessarily like that. Once I counselled the daughter of a school principal and suggested that she take Humanities.Her parents strongly objected. Her
dad wanted her to do law because he himself is a lawyer. The girl eventually went to Mumbai and then to Germany and now she is a freelance event coordinator and is doing really well for herself. The parents have also turned around on their views and are happy with
what she is doing.

Why do you think it is that Indian parents have such a bias towards science and engineering fields and look down upon arts and humanities?

I feel Indian parents are very insecure. In the Western world, parents do not have such a strong sense of ownership of their children. In India, parents want to guide everything from the way you talk to the career you choose. Of course this arises from a sense of love for the child and they are willing to make huge sacrifices for their children. They feel that they
give so much so the child should reciprocate that and be willing to listen to them. School counsellors and teachers also push the traditional narrative and do not know how to push children towards unconventional careers. A lot of children get dissuaded from certain careers because their environment doesn’t support them.

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