Sixth Edition December 2002 - Azar 1381 
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Women’s Best Friend

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School Counselors: Clichéd and Useless?

 

 

 

School Counselors: Cliched and Useless?

School kids speak out

Farahnaz Amirkhani

Undoubtedly, student counseling is an appropriate and practical method of dealing with the emotional and educational problems of young pupils. Unfortunately, in Iran’s schools, counseling is not conducted in an effective manner.

Considering the many problems Iranian youngsters face, including the difficulties in overcoming the tensions and conflicts between traditionalism and modernism, counseling is very necessary.

Since there are no firm laws supporting youngsters who are harassed by their parents (intentionally or unintentionally), having a helpful, skilled counselor is vital. It's been some time since the Ministry of Education recognized the importance of school counseling, but today, it seems officials have yet to consider it as a matter of any importance.

As a trained counselor can be costly for a school, the staff that is ultimately hired for the job is often untrained. When schools don’t take counseling seriously, they naturally choose their counselors from among the teachers, assistant tutors, mo’alem-e tarbiati (moral supervisors) or even the headmasters, rather than trained professionals. In such cases, there are problematic results.

If we listen to pupils from an all-girls’ school, the shortcomings become more obvious. The girls state that:

1) Counselors cannot do anything beyond listening. One student said that even though her counselor was moved to tears after listening to her, she wasn’t able to take any action whatsoever.

2) Counselors look at matters strictly from a personal point of view, and continuously repeat their own ideas, and are thus unable to fully grasp the situation of someone who seeks their help.

3) After counseling, they report the matter to the parents - even if the pupils protest - saying it is “in their best interest”.

4) Counselors do not dare say anything that runs contrary to the headmaster or the parents, a restriction which actually renders them “utterly useless”.

5) They have no psychological training, and cannot offer psychological assistance.

6) Counselors' constant preoccupation is whether the pupils have friends of the opposite sex, and constantly ask questions, even when the pupil’s problems aren’t in the slightest bit related to the matter, as if it was the only issue students had.

When asked why the employees acting as counselors have proven so incompetent, pupils argue that the mo’alem-e tarbiati is responsible for implementing values and religion, while the headmaster has to run the school, “so they cannot act as counselors, for if they find out your strengths and weaknesses, it’s possible that they will use them against you”.

“The only thing they can do is offer the same advice and religious guidance that you hear all the time from your parents, or in the mass media.” This, the girls say, is why they need professional counselors.

One example was that of a girl who asked her counselor questions on having a boyfriend, and the counselor sent her to a doctor. Another girl had a counselor who was just as touchy, and when asked for advice on boyfriends, she put the pupil under the headmaster’s supervision, treating her as if she was ill.

When asked what the characteristics of a good counselor were, they answered:

Dependability

Thinking beyond stereotypes

Not imposing one’s own ideas, but offering several solutions, and allowing the students to make choices themselves

Ability to offer solutions beyond religious advice

Friendliness

Being well-read in counseling

Some pupils believe a counselor should be young, well-dressed, and up to date. This would help the pupils sense that their counselors were closer to them, in their attitudes and interests, and it would facilitate trust between them.

One positive trait that a counselor must have, and on which nearly all the pupils agreed, was the ability to mediate between students and school authorities. This way, even if the school were trying to settle some question regarding a student behind closed doors, she at least wouldn’t be exposed to pressure from the staff, and could accept the counselor’s advice.

Of course the difficulties of counseling aren’t limited to the above cases, but this study may at least served as an introduction to the problem. Suffice to say that there’s a long path ahead before we get to a form of counseling that is practical and systematic.

transl.: Atoosa Sameie

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