By Muhammad Jalaluddin Shamil (Booni)
Many of us may be aware of the concept of “counseling” from all its angles, others may know the word to the extent of giving educated look to their colloquial debates, still few may not be not be aware of the concept and the word at all. This essay and possibly other upcoming scattered thoughts will intend to refresh the already acquired knowledge of many; give understanding to others and finally to give somehow workable understanding to the few.
Before going further, let me set a premise,by teaching and learning process I am not only referring to imparting and (or) acquiring the specified content knowledge in our textbooks, syllabus or reference corpuses. Rather, the process here is taken as a complex whole, encompassing aspects such as imparting and acquiring the sensibility to help students live more fruitfully, prudently and effectively. Such sensibility shall encompass the spheres of Personal, Intellectual, Social, Moral and Spiritual development of the seekers. In this perspective, imparting content knowledge to seekers/students and preparing them for their examinations and choosing career is only one aspect of teaching and learning process.
Teaching and learning process is as old as human civilization. Since humanity assumed homo-erectus physique, the process has been there with its context specific procedures and settings. Approaching things in theological perspective, it was perhaps the first divine reaction to humanity’s need for teaching and learning process that the son of Adam was taught to bury the body of a deceased. With the progress of human civilization, teaching and learning process continued either through divine intervention or by humanly endeavors; at times by individuals like the wandering sophists or by institutions like the Academy and the Lyceum. In contemporary world, the process is undertaken in institutionalized setting like Schools, colleges and universities. Now, in such dynamics, if teaching and learning process is confined to imparting content knowledge only, it would not only be an injustice to the seekers/students but is a glaring defeat of the underlying philosophy of the process. Thus, herein lies the importance of the existence of counseling to students in any educational setup.
Experts in the field define counseling as a “skilled way of helping students with personal and developmental issues.” Modern day students not only face the need to be imparted content knowledge; they are also in need of help in the spheres of choosing area of studies and career, placement in educational institutions, Behavior and Emotions Management, developing critical and moral consciousness in them and infusing in them the needed life skills to flourish in the ever evolving complex dynamics of the century.So, to incorporate all but not limited to the above areas of holistic development in teaching and learning process, the presence of student counseling must be the hallmark of every educational institution.
Presence of suicidal tendencies in today’s youth, inability to choose a career compatible to their interest, values, aptitude and mental inclination, presence of aggressive behavior in educated youth and involvement in indecent acts and activities, to name a few are just the outcome of two dilemma in our education system; firstly, the absence of the facility of counseling to students and secondly the presence of the strict traditional, disciplinarian and authoritarian mode of tackling things in educational settings.
I do not support the view of giving unbridled liberty to students, nor in any way against the maintenance of discipline by using disciplinarian actions and appropriate reinforcement in form of appropriate punishment whenever the situation demands. What I want to say is that, discipline maintained through counseling, appeal to reason and acquainting students to the consequences of the actions/behavior is more lasting than using the centuries old methods of punishment. To give just one instance here to explain my point, I would say, in response to any aggressive behavior of student, it is more fruitful to counsel them again and again and teach them behavior management and Emotions management skill rather than suppressing that aggression through force and punishment. Through the latter method, we may be successful in inhibiting that behavior for the time being, but it will remain dormant in the personality of that student only waiting to give vent to its expression in any sooner or later time. Modern psychological understanding also support the view that emotions must not be suppressed through force, rather they must be channelized towards some worthy ends. Among many other materials, a specific chapter in Napolean Hill’s celebrated book entitled, “think and grow rich”beautifully summarize as how to channelize emotions towards worthy goals, which must be studied by teachers and students alike to develop a prudent approach towards successful life.
Modern Sociological perspective on “social control” also reveal that the traditional ways of social control like use of force, punishment, name calling, labelling, libel or slander etc are fading away from existence and new methods of social control through establishing societies/clubs, appeal to reason, giving leadership opportunities and responsibilities to students are becoming more potent ways of social control. Therefore, it’s a cry of the day that educational leaders, teachers and other stakeholders of educational settings should modify the traditional ways of control and may resort to new research based ways of control. In this regard, capacity building of stakeholders in educational institutions must be undertaken by the respective institutions as well as personal initiatives of capacity building on part of the stakeholders is important.
Only developing a good lesson plan and effective content delivery through class participation is not sufficient for a good teacher; they must enhance their understanding by knowing about areas like Behavior and Emotions management. They must develop the acumen to respond to an adolescent’s (or any youth for that matter) age specific emotional, developmental and behavioral issues. Whenever, emotions of students are suppressed through force and counseling not offered on the basis of the real underlying issue, than suicide-which is in vogue nowadays-may be the result.
Teachers and education leaders must make themselves well-versed in modern theories in education and be aware of researches and case studies in the realm of behavior and Emotions management. Acquaintance with such theories and researches will help teachers to effectively serve those studentswho are going through crises and negative mental schemas. Teachers must understand and discuss issues like stress, anxiety, negative thinking etc with their students, which are considered to be potent factors in youth withdrawal, isolation, drop-out, anti-social acts and most importantly in suicide.
Few months ago, a university graduate from a periphery of Chitral Town committed suicide. Reports came that he had developed a negative perception about “himself”, “the environment around” and his “future prospects”. Such negative perception as discussed in Beck’s “Negative Cognitive triad” developed gradually in the student pulled him towards the act of suicide. One of my colleague in the institution where I work reported that he met with the victim three times before the act of suicide and thrice he heardthe victim, referring to a certain incident,giving the statements like, “I have met with injustice”-thinking negatively about the environment, “I was unable to do anything”-thinking negatively about oneself. The repeated utterance of these sentences by the victim signify that he was suffering from what Beck called as “Negative Cognitive Triad” and prima facie resulted into stress/depression and consequently compelled him to end his life. Such cases may come to teachers many times during their careers, if they happen to be well-versed in modern updated knowledge, they can easily counsel and help out such students even to the extent of inhibiting suicidal tendencies in youths.
With all the afore-discussed dimensions, it seems crucially important for educational institutions to build capacity of teachers and make counseling facility available for their students and must replace the traditional ways of handling things with researched based approaches. Capacity building of teachers is of crucial importance if an institution wants to give their students things beyond content knowledge.
The writer is a Student Counselor, majored in Computer Science and a PGD in Applied Psychology having interest in Philosophy, Comparative Religion, Mysticism and Spirituality. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org