Career guidance and counselling are the most important factors in the education and employment system in any country. Therefore, governments pave the way to enhance career guidance policies and strategies in general education systems as well as post general education in many countries.
According to human capital theory in economics, propounded by Mincer (1958) and Backer(1964) of the Chicago School of Economics, education, vocational training, skills development, health, sports and career guidance, etc., have been considered as human capital, which creates lifetime income and individual indirect benefits. The basic theory states that human capital is similar to physical means of production.
One can invest in human capital via education, training, medical treatment, etc., and one’s outputs depend partly on the rate of return (ROR) on the human capital one owns. Thus human capital is a means of production into which the input of additional investment yields additional output.
This article focuses on career guidance and counselling as a factor of investment in human capital within the school and the TVET system. The career guidance and counselling in general education as well as in the technical, vocational education and training (TVET) sector is considered an important component for coping with the contemporary economic challenges in the country.
Examining the existing situation in Sri Lanka and also the lessons learnt from the other success stories in the world will be important to align the (CGC) process to better the outcome. We can observe that those countries that have better education systems along with developed CGC systems lead to economic advancement. First we will discuss key areas of CGC in the school and TVET sector and then compare it with the CGC system in other developed countries to savour the international experience.
What impact can be expected from CGC
According to Hooley and Dodd (2015), they divide the effects of career guidance into four categories.
I. Individual outcomes
II. Primary economic outcomes (increased labour market participation, decreased unemployment, enhanced skills and knowledge base, flexible and mobile labour market)
III. Secondary economic outcomes (improved health, decreased crime, increased tax revenue, and decreased cost of benefits)
IV. Macro-economic benefits (deficit reduction, improved productivity, raised living standards, and economic growth).
On this basis, they assert that the effects of career guidance will generally be disseminated in this sequence.
Present status of career guidance in Sri Lanka
Career guidance activities are conducted by organisations under the three major ministries: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training, and Ministry of Labour.
Furthermore, organisations such as the National Education Commission, British Council, and National Human Resource Development Council work towards developing polices and conducting supportive activities in this context. Meanwhile some private sector organisations such as Career Me are also involved in this field.
During the last two or three decades, institutions in the TVET sector have taken a robust approach to expand their cadre structures in this regard. As a result of this, they have around 400 CGC officers (including the Manpower Department) recruited to assign CG duties. But only a small number of officers are competent as professional career counsellors. Most of them have targets to recruit adequate students to vocational training courses conducted by the TVET organisations of NAITA, VTA, DTET and NYSC; hence they act as marketing officers instead of counsellors.
The Education Ministry had taken action to expand the cadre by appointing officers to the teachers centres in each zonal education office. At present they are recruiting around 1,000 CGC teachers to conduct career guidance as well as counselling in 6,000 secondary schools across the island.
Issues with CG services in the country
Staffing and human resource development: Staff arrangements and human resource development is important in better CGC systems. Schools in the UK have career counsellors and career leaders to organise career guidance activities in the schools.
The career counsellor is an experienced teacher who is trained for the CGC subject and is free to contact any student who seeks CGC services. They connect with private sector CGC-providing organisations to provide wider services.
In Sri Lanka, there are no persons to play the role of career leaders in the schools or the TVET centres, nor is there any method to outsource to service providers such as Career Connect in Liverpool, UK. Furthermore, there are no CGC officers adequately allocated to the schools and TVET centres. Even the few officers they have are not adequately trained for the subject and do not play the counsellor role at a desired level. Most of the schools have nominated an officer who does CGC and school subjects, too. It is a major issue in the system in our country.
|This display on the wall of a classroom at the Liverpool School, UK, lists the available career options for the Art stream
Career guidance activities in schools and TVET: School career guidance activities and CGC activities in TVETs as well as higher education institutions are important to strengthen the career guidance in a country. (E.g. individual counselling, career tests, psychometrics test, career motivational programs, display career opportunities and paths, carry-on CGC units, labour market information system, using the CGC apps and using technology). Within the Sri Lanka context, some of these activities are provided in some schools but much lower when compared with other, developed countries.
Many of them conduct only training course awareness programs in both private and public sectors. Most students are misled or have no confidence in the counsellor or counselling because there is no proper CGC system.
In the UK, each student has a career path cleared by CGC officers in the school or teachers who are knowledgeable on the subject. Each student is well-aware of their career direction and the decisions made through the CGC system.
Even though there isn’t a CGC unit in each school, they have a better implementation system. Each secondary school student has a chance to interview a successful professional who is related to their career path to collect information individually and prepare a report to understand the job role, the necessary qualifications, career path as well as benefits and earning capacity, etc.
Some schools get the CGC service of an outside/private organisation to strengthen the capacity. They also display motivational pictures and also career paths related to the subjects in the classroom or related areas. In Sri Lanka, there are no arrangements in order to provide a better service within the school system.
Institutional framework and implementation process: According to the UK school system, the careers leader is the principal or vice principal who plays a big role to implement CGC activities in the schools while most school principals in our country are ignorant of CGC activities. They consider it not their duty or responsibility. Most of them do not take CGC as their role and only few school principals pay attention to strengthen career guidance activities. If we consider the administration and management status of the Ministry of Education, it has a separate division functioning under a director. This unit is the national-level implementation and monitoring body of the CGC activities in the schools. Furthermore, each zonal educational division has appointed a CGC teacher/school inspector for ground-level coordination. On the other hand, organisations in the TVET sector have separate divisions and staff to conduct CGC duties within their institutions. Furthermore, the Ministry of Skills Development has a division to operate a national career guidance centre.
The National Career Guidance Steering Committee was appointed by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) last year and it represents all organisations undertaking CGC actives on different levels.
The functions of this committee will be a good step towards improving CGC as an integrated system and reduce overlaps. At the same time it may be necessary to establish a presidential taskforce and a national career guidance coordination unit.
Under the Presidential Secretary, around 450 career guidance officers are working at different institutes under the Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training. But only 250 officers out of the total are directly involved in the CGC duties; around 230 officers are engaged in CGC activities in the zonal education office under the Ministry of Education.
The Manpower Department has its own network in the country and has appointed 32 CGC officers in the District Secretariat. There are another 470 Human Resource Assistants with CGC duties covering all Divisional Secretariat offices/divisions.
Taken as a whole, it has approximately 1,180 officers engaged with CGC duties in the country in all educational sectors. But it can be observed what a weak delivery service there is in both the education and TVET sector up to now.
Career information: Career information and labour market data are vital resources to carry out a good CGC system. In the UK, Australia and many developed countries, there are career information networks, and databases with easy access for the students, employers as well as employees. But in our country, there isn’t an integrated career information network. Different organisations have drawn attention to establishing such information systems over the last two decades, (such as TVEC and the Manpower Department), but unfortunately, no system is successfully functioning up to date. However, some government and private organisations have taken action to establish a career network and a database to link labour market supply and demand with the employers and jobseekers.
CGC Experience in Developed Countries
If we consider some developed countries, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland, Japan, and Singapore, they pay much attention to CGC polices and strategies unlike most of developing and under developed countries. It is important to discuss their experiences compared to our country.
In the United Kingdom, as a developed European country, each school has a career counsellor, career leaders, and monitoring system of the CGC activated in the schools. Every teacher is well-aware of career paths related to their learning subjects and they transfer that knowledge to students through different ways.
In England, career guidance for young people is provided by schools which have the responsibility for providing access to ‘independent and impartial’ information, advice and guidance (IAG). As a result, careers guidance providers and organisations have been competing to sell their services to schools and have consequently been criticised for saturating the market.
In England, the National Careers Service provides guidance about learning, training and work for adults. This is delivered both through their digital service and the local National Careers Service centres offering face-to-face guidance.
In Finland, there is a strong legal basis for guidance service provision across all levels of education and training and for the services to be provided by the employment administration (such as vocational guidance and career planning). Also the youth information and guidance services offered by municipalities are stipulated by legislation. The main aim of all guidance and counselling in Finland is to support individuals in making educational choices and managing their careers based on the principle of lifelong learning in Finland. The youth information and guidance services offered by municipalities are stipulated by legislation.
In the past years, Finland has consistently worked towards creating a coherent and holistic lifelong guidance system that is easily accessible for all individuals at a time and place, with a method most appropriate to their needs. CGC is conducted with cooperation between the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, and other key stakeholders.
Australia does not have equal systems in all states and each is different to the other. New South Wales has the most strongly professionalised structure, with formal provision being made for a staffing allocation of a full-time equivalent careers adviser in each secondary school. These advisers are required to have a teaching qualification and either a postgraduate careers qualification or to have been part of a state-organised training course.
They are complemented by school counsellors and registered psychologists who usually work across two or three schools, focusing on learning problems and personal welfare issues.
Issues of CGC in Sri Lanka to be addressed
The following issues were discussed at the career guidance policy development forum (2019) organised by NEC with the support of the British council.
Lack of proper CG policies and also implementation mechanism throughout the school system. However, at present, NEC has progressed in developing a school CG policy.
Lack of an integrated system throughout the ministries and organisations in general education, higher education and professional training, TVET and the industrial sectors (employers) to deliver better CG services.
Reluctance of the leadership model, which is available to execute CG in each school, and lack of human resource allocation as well as physical resources.
Lack of competent counselling officers/teacher in schools. However, some schools have nominated a teacher as career counsellor, most of them are not competent on CGC.
There are only 1,180 officers to do CGC in both schools and the TVET, but as there are 10,000 schools, reaching the target is a big challenge.
There is no proper career guidance systems in the schools. The TVET sector has taken some steps to explore CGC but many of them lead to awareness training courses under competitive situation to recruit trainees.
Inadequate attention of some principals and teachers on CGC. Most of them are ignorant about their duties and consider it impertinent to the education system.
Misinterpretation of the vision of education because most people were not aware. They try to be the best school through examination results and performance in the subjects, not to produce good citizens, independent persons who are beneficial to society.
Career paths of the relevant subjects are not included in the school curricula.
No proper LMIS and network among the school system as well as higher education and TVET sector.
CG is an essential part of school education which links to the working world. School CG activities can be initiated at the primary level and enhanced at the secondary level, which facilitates education as well as career choices. Therefore, each student must benefit from the CGC service in the school system. These challenges include preparedness of counsellors to handle career cases in societies which are in transition from production-oriented to technology-driven, and knowledge economies.
Under these circumstances, the Government should take action to strengthen the CGC in school systems by adapting the strategies mentioned below.
Strengthening the CG implementation and monitoring system throughout the Ministry of Education
Introduce CGC policies and policy implementation mechanisms
Appoint suitable officers with teaching and CGC capacity to cover each school
Should have a commonly accepted CGC program for all
Assign careers leaders for each school and assign duties (principal/vice principal or leading persons)
Training and capacity-building of the CGC officers towards improving their competencies as professional CG advisers. Upgrade these services as other professional services promote top rank jobs in the career ladder
Raise awareness amongst all teachers as well as school principals, administrative staff (e.g. zonal educational directors) regarding role of CG in schools and inculcate CG culture in society
Career tests and CG activities must be compulsory for all students. Maintain student record books
Get private and public stakeholders’ support to link all sectors
Encourage CGC in schools and change the mindsets of the students regarding the world of work
The National Education Commission with the support of the British Council has taken action to develop school career guidance policies. Several discussions were conducted to get stakeholders’ views, and it will be a most important step but the challenge will be the implementation through different people in the system.
Taken as a whole, we can consider the CGC system as an important factor in human capital development. It can change a country, society and the economy but in the Sri Lankan context, it has so many issues. Government and stakeholder attention is pertinent to build a better CGC system in the country. International experience will be important to develop an effective CG system in order to better the outcomes.
(The writer is an Economist in the field of Human Capital and could be reached via email at email@example.com)