Delhi government schools: one counsellor for 9,000 students

June 17th, 2009 - 10:59 am ICT by IANS  

By Nihar Thadani
New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) Be it coping with exam stress, getting career advice or just a pat on the back, students in schools run by the Delhi government have to do it all on their own in the absence of counsellors.

A number of counsellors IANS spoke to expressed concern that the prevailing 1 to 9,000 counsellor-student ratio in the Delhi government-run schools needed immediate attention because of increasing behavioural problems in students.

According to Neela Laksh, a retired government school counsellor, the Central Bureau of Educational and Vocational Guidance (CBEVG) has displayed a callous attitude and the matter is not a priority. The CBEVG is the state government’s department responsible for training and selecting counsellors.

“Although the number of enrolments in schools has increased, the number of counsellors has not increased from 140 posts. In fact, more posts have been vacated owing to retirement. They are not even hiring more counsellors”, Laksh, who was a government school counsellor for 37 years, told IANS.

“The CBEVG is virtually non-existent and nobody in the education department is showing interest,” he added.

According to the Delhi government’s directorate of education, in the year 2008-2009, there were only 107 counsellors in the 926 government schools run by it. An estimated 950,000 students are enrolled in these.

Each counsellor is supposed to visit one or two schools around three to six times a week. While experienced counsellors are paid up to Rs.40,000 to 50,000 per month, the newer lot can earn around Rs.30,000 a month.

As per 2006-2007 figures, there were just 139 counsellors at that time, so it is evident that little has been done to fill the gap since then. Instead the number of counsellors has gone down.

The CBEVG is responsible for training counsellors who are supposed to give educational, vocational and personal guidance to the children.

The counsellors themselves have taken cognisance of the poor student to guidance personnel ratio.

“We are doing our jobs properly, but we need more counsellors. There should be at least three counsellors for one school,” said Surendra Sharma, another counsellor under the Delhi government.

“There are too many cases of stress, juvenile crimes being committed…depression is more prevalent and more problems among students are being seen, but not enough counsellors are there to help combat these,” said another counsellor who declined to be named.

Senior students also admit that having good counsellors would help reduce dropout rates.

“Most of my friends dropped out before reaching Class 11 or 12 as they didn’t know what they wanted to pursue or because they were not interested in studying any more - if someone had told them the benefits of studying further, it would have helped,” said 17-year-old Pankaj Sharma, who studies in a Government Secondary School in south Delhi.

Sharma said his parents and tutor convinced him to pursue further studies after his Class 10 board results showed he scored 82 percent.

However, several students don’t get that kind of support. Many said they were not even aware of the concept of counsellors. “Many of my friends have no idea that the school even has a counsellor,” Sharma said.

A masters degree in psychology, a post- graduate diploma in educational and vocational guidance is the minimum requirement for a counsellor to be inducted into the Education and Vocational Guidance Council (EVGC) programme by the CBEVG. After that, he or she is interviewed and finally selected by the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB).

Director of Education Chandra Bhushan told IANS that his department “is working on the matter”.

“The retired counselors have not been replaced because the recruitment process takes time. Most of the time schools don’t give attention to the role of counsellors whose services are not utilised,” Bhushan told IANS claiming that the EVGC programme was going to be upgraded to accommodate “changes”.

Interestingly, according to Manju Kumar, former head of the EVGC who recently retired, “There have been no fresh recruitments for counsellors since as far back as 1997.”

Raka Prasad, one of the Delhi government’s 107 counsellors, stressed, “The need for counselling increases day by day, the government needs to be more responsive.”

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