School counsellors need more support

I share Madam Shirley Woon Li Lin's concern about how counselling is conducted in our educational institutions (Review counselling system in all institutions, June 19).

I know of the challenges faced by school counsellors in doing their jobs - interference from heads of department, principals and vice-principals, school staff not supporting the counsellor's intervention strategies with challenged students, and, as cited by Madam Woon, lack of adherence to confidentiality, among others.

As a counsellor that has spoken with a number of school counsellors, I also know of concerns about school counsellors' workloads.

Does the Ministry of Education (MOE) have a workable policy defining the ratio of counsellors to students, and is it being met in all of our educational institutions?

It appears the role of school counsellors to help troubled students - namely the principles and ethics that govern the profession, and a workload that ensures troubled students receive enough help - is not clearly understood or supported.

Are counsellors in our educational institutions effective? Are we using them well? Are we supporting them well?

Given that the Institute of Mental Health's Child Guidance Clinics saw an average of about 2,400 new cases every year from 2012 to 2017 (School stress: More teens seek IMH help, April 12), are we fully utilising our school counsellors as a first line of defence?

MOE needs to look into the matter, to see how well school counsellors are integrated into the process of schooling, whether they are supported sufficiently to help troubled students, and whether the profession as a whole is respected.

Kuharajahsingam Karalasingam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2019, with the headline 'School counsellors need more support'. Print Edition | Subscribe