Counsellors help students make their mark in life

Ms Irene Chin provides ECG counselling at Ngee Ann Polytechnic's business and accountancy school. Trained in career facilitation and counselling skills, counsellors like her seek to help students explore their strengths and interests.
Ms Irene Chin provides ECG counselling at Ngee Ann Polytechnic's business and accountancy school. Trained in career facilitation and counselling skills, counsellors like her seek to help students explore their strengths and interests.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Employed by MOE, they provide guidance in exploring options in education and careers

Ms Irene Chin is one of a growing number of education and career guidance (ECG) counsellors, employed by the Ministry of Education (MOE), who are helping students make sense of the rapidly changing job and education scene.

"There are just too many diverse pathways compared with the past; these pathways may provide more opportunities but it can also be very overwhelming as students and parents are just spoilt for choice," said Ms Chin, 52, who provides ECG counselling at Ngee Ann Polytechnic's business and accountancy school.

The number of ECG counsellors employed by the MOE is set to grow to about 100 by the end of this year.

Currently, 85 counsellors have been recruited or deployed to secondary schools and post-secondary education institutions, the MOE told The Straits Times.

Trained in career facilitation and counselling skills, these counsellors seek to help students explore their strengths and interests.

  • Parents can tap on advice in booklet

  • Parents can turn to an Education and Career Guidance booklet for more information.

    Journeying With Our Children, Achieving Their Aspirations was distributed to parents of Primary 6, Secondary 4 and 5 and pre-university year 2 and 3 students last November.

    The 40-page guide provides suggestions that help parents better support their children's education and career journey.

    The suggestions are classified under seven categories:

    •Showing love and concern to children

    •Observing the strengths and interests of children

    •Listening to children

    •Providing a window to the working world

    •Supporting the career interests and aspirations of children

    •Instilling the importance of developing transferable skills

    •Acting as role models for lifelong learning

    Various recommendations and bonding activities are detailed within each category.

    For instance, parents are urged to teach children how to create daily plans or to-do lists and guide them to organise and prioritise their tasks as a means of developing transferable time-management skills.

    During her Committee of Supply debate speech for the Education Ministry last Tuesday, Parliamentary Secretary for MOE and the Ministry of Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling said of the guide: "Parents should read it not once, but many times, as it allows them to make informed decisions.

    "These parenting skills can also improve their parent-child relationship and mutual understanding, and through it, set a solid foundation for life."

    Parents can find an online copy of the guide at https://www.moe.gov.sg/microsites/ecg-parent-guide/#p=1.

    Tay Hong Yi

They also advise parents and students of education and career options that best allow the students to realise their aspirations.

Ms Chin was previously an allied educator in a secondary school's ECG committee, where she would organise career fairs and conduct classroom-based ECG activities.

She found guiding people towards finding their ideal pathway meaningful and signed up to be an ECG counsellor.

Cases she has handled include those linked to students entering a polytechnic from an institute of technical education (ITE).

"Some of them feel that the competition in the polytechnic environment is more intense and they need to adjust to it," she said.

"A good number of these students lack confidence that they can compete with students who enter from secondary schools. I always tell them to think about their strengths, work on them and it should be able to take them far."

A new group of millennials wishing to be entrepreneurs has also come into prominence, a trend she wishes to help students explore.

"We cannot just look for jobs in the future; we probably have to create our own jobs and solve problems for the future economy."

However, she advocates that would-be entrepreneurs begin with getting domain expertise, industry connections and capital through a job - at least for a few years - before moving to a start-up.

Ms Chin also noted that personal ambition and parental expectation diverge on occasion, a situation she handles by getting students to share reasons for their aspirations.

"I always tell them: If you can convince me, try convincing your parents," she said.

Despite recognising the course's utility, business studies final-year student Leo Rui Yan, 20, did not enjoy what she had learnt enough to continue with it in university.

She went for a session with Ms Chin in which she did exercises to rank her preferred jobs, personal strengths and preferences.

"These activities have helped me to understand myself better and also enabled me to narrow down the many degree choices offered by the universities," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'Counsellors help students make their mark in life'. Print Edition | Subscribe