For Pakistani students, only two roads lead to success: one to a medical college and second to an engineering university. It is so because they have been shown just two roads sinFor Pakistani students, only two roads lead to success: one to a medical college and second to an engineering university. It is so because they have been shown just two roads since ever by their folks. What Pakistan seriously lacks is a career counselling mechanism at schools that helps students look beyond the obvious. Khadijha Tariq explains.ce ever by their folks. What Pakistan seriously lacks is a career counselling mechanism at schools that helps students look beyond the obvious. Khadijha Tariq explains.

Career counselling is a process of guiding youngsters understand the underlying dynamics of the professional world and helping them make informed educational decisions that allow them to balance their personal ambitions with favourable economic outcomes. Career counselling is extremely important as it can help students choose the right career path depending on individual skillsets and talents. According to career counselling experts, the best time to seek career counselling is between the ages of 13 and 17 (grade 8 to 12). This period is a critical one in a youngster’s life, as it is here that a young excited mind begins understanding what the future really entails and tune his or her plans accordingly.

Why Schools Must Hurry

Apart from some elite private schools, a major chunk of schools do not offer career counselling services to their students. In fact, most Pakistani students come to know of the term once, and if they happen to, step inside a university. Decoding personality traits and psychological underpinnings of a student is vital to help him/her choose the right career path. Researches indicate that students who are exposed to career counselling services during their schooling are more career-oriented and score higher academically as well. Moreover, students who studied at schools offering career counselling services have been known to perform well in tests. Absence of career counselling prospects at Pakistani schools leave children at the hands of their parents, family members, and relatives who bombard them with their personal life experiences. They draw analogies of how things worked for them and how vital it is to follow their suite in order to earn a decent living. Generally, the best advice, or order, urges Pakistani students to go for medical and engineering degrees, for they are the most ‘respected’ and high-paying careers

Apart from some elite private schools, a major chunk of schools do not offer career counselling services to their students. In fact, most Pakistani students come to know of the term once, and if they happen to, step inside a university

Rabia Siddique, principal at Misber School, believes that career counselling is still a new concept for private and government schools in Pakistan. “Apart from a few institutions that have proper career counselling centres, the idea is still in infancy. Career counselling needs utmost attention on part of school administrations and heads. Unfortunately in Pakistan, parents are the ones who decide the future of their children. Little they know about the effects of their decisions on a child’s overall mental and emotional wellbeing,” she adds. Talking about the pertinence of career counselling at school level, Rabia says it can provide students “an insight into the multifarious career options available and the right way to go out for them”.  “Support and assistance from an experienced mentor or counsellor gives them the much-needed confidence, motivating them to pursue their subject or area of interest, regardless of the frustration and stress they face while convincing their families and peers to allow them to challenge the odds,” she explains. Lack of counselling at school level makes it difficult for students to choose the right area of study at a university. In such a cases, students often spend time switching majors, are dubbed inconsisten and invoke cries of “what will you do in life” from concerned parents. As a matter of fact, most students themselves do not have a clear idea of what they will do in life, as they are always unsure if they should follow their heart’s calling or go down paths that get them decent jobs. 

Where Can School Counselling Can Take Students?

Career counselling can help students in picking the right career choice by letting them know of their aptitude, skillset and interests. It can connect youngsters with a knowledgeable expert who through professional experience and expertise can guide them about the plethora of academic options available and the economic and social scope of emerging fields and disciplines in the present and coming times. They can be convinced that there exists a world beyond being a doctor or an engineer. Career counselling boosts the confidence levels of the counselee, breaks rigid thinking and behavioural patterns and removes career and education-related ambiguity and frustration among youngsters, channelizing their negative emotions and energies into positive labour.  Youngsters are often in hunt of someone who can understand what they wish to accomplish and can inspire them to go after their dreams. A career counsellor could be that guiding light. Counselling can make youngsters understand how they can choose careers that help them make turn their personal passion into a lucrative profession.

What Should Be The Approach?

Pakistan needs to follow the suite of neighbouring India, where the state has made special provisions to ensure that schools conduct career counselling and orientation sessions for students after passing they pass Grade 10. We need a rigorous data-centric school counselling mechanism rather than mere pep talk. We need a multi-faceted approach that should test students’ and abilities and guides them in the right direction. Parents should also be engaged in the counselling process so they too become receptive to their child’s career choices.  According to Ausama Bin Waseem, career counsellor and motivational speaker, counselling should be essential rudiment of school education because a majority of students studying in schools, and even colleges and universities lack know-how of the options that are available in the job market and hence follow their parents, family and friends blindly. “We need to give them liberty so that they can find out their true passion and can carry it forward as their profession. Because if you love what you do, you don’t have to work anymore, as you enjoy every second of it and it becomes your strength.”

Lack of counselling at school level makes it difficult for students to choose the right area of study at a university. In such a cases, students often spend time switching majors, are dubbed inconsistent and invoke cries of “what will you do in life” from concerned parents

The Parent Problem

In countries like Pakistan, discussion on mental health concerns is still taboo. Unfortunately, parents on this side of the world overlook mental issues of a child and concentrate solely on their academic achievements. Our culture endorses suppression of emotions and social issues, an atmosphere where parents engage in healthy discussions with children and inquire after their interests is totally absent. Parents in Pakistan are less open and do not allow their children to choose a subject that they think is worthy.  Ausama says peer and family pressures deteriorate a child’s mental and physical health. “Parents need to understand that each child is different, and so are their perspectives, skillset, interests and mental capabilities. Expecting your children to study sciences and forcing them to study a discipline they have little or no interest in is equivalent of putting their mental and physical wellbeing at stake.” 

Don’t Get Artsy

Children who wish to pursue a career in arts or creative industries face ridicule and are belittled by the average Pakistani parent. Such has become our culture that any discipline other than engineering and medical sciences is just not acceptable. A majority of parents want their children to study sciences and are reluctant to allow them study arts. “They believe studying arts can limit the academic and career-related prospects available for their children. They pressurise children into studying sciences because for them, sciences are an epitome of intelligence and character,” Rabia Siddique of Misber School opines.  She believes comparing a child with his/her peers and cousins can lead to frustration and disappointment. “Remember, no individual can predict the future of a particular discipline and its efficacy in the coming times. We can guide children and can help in jotting down the best of the disciplines and career choices, but we can never guarantee success.”

For Pakistani students, only two roads lead to success: one to a medical college and second to an engineering university. It is so because they have been shown just two roads sinFor Pakistani students, only two roads lead to success: one to a medical college and second to an engineering university. It is so because they have been shown just two roads since ever by their folks. What Pakistan seriously lacks is a career counselling mechanism at schools that helps students look beyond the obvious. Khadijha Tariq explains.ce ever by their folks. What Pakistan seriously lacks is a career counselling mechanism at schools that helps students look beyond the obvious. Khadijha Tariq explains.