The Ministry of Education (MOE) recently announced plans to hold a national conference on education, an event for which we have been waiting 16 years. The ministry came up with a draft covering 10 key issues to serve as a foundation for the design of a new education system. However, these 10 topics do not include aspects such as the psychological health of students, career development education and differential counseling. The lack of attention to these details is very worrying because it means future policies could ignore student counseling.
The conference should include discussion on the following five areas: career development education, psychological health education, alternative education programs for at-risk students, increasing the employability of students at institutes of higher education, and counseling groups within schools and the development of specialized counselors. These areas will be central to education in the future and we should pay more attention to them.
First, career development education is one of the most important ways of educating highly skilled workers in developed countries. A majority of developed Western nations place career education and other basic academic subjects at the core of their curriculums. In these countries, educational authorities release guidelines or structures for career development for students that are then used by local governments and schools as a reference when drawing up courses for career development education.
For example, the UK has career education and counseling programs, while Canada has its Health and Career Education programs. Australia’s Department of Education has set up the Australian Blueprint for Career Development for school students of all levels, while each US state has a K-12 Career Development Curriculum Framework.
All these initiatives are aimed at giving students of all grades clear indications of what skills they should acquire and what goals they should achieve in terms of their career development for each academic year. These initiatives all use gradual and orderly approaches to career counseling classes as well as plans to help achieve goals.
From these measures, it is easy to see the importance of career counseling in spurring student development and individual growth based on the concept of “whole-person development.”
The second area that needs to be addressed is psychological health education for students. The social structure has become increasingly complex and students at all levels are now more prone to stress in their studies, interpersonal relationships, at home and in society. These pressures mean that they have more trouble with emotions and behavior that can even develop into psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. This ultimately leads to psychosomatic imbalances and we desperately need our educational system to offer a varying range of preventative measures and assistance to those who suffer from such problems.
Therefore, nationwide health promotion strategies should not only focus on physical exercise, but also on the psychological health of students and place a greater focus on students’ emotions and social adaptation.
Third, we would like to discuss alternative education programs for at-risk students. “At-risk students” refers to students who are unable to study successfully or those on the brink of failing. They often have less motivation to learn and study, and have poor academic results that often cause other problems such as negative emotional reactions and bad behavior.
Alternative education programs are based on systematic diagnoses and evaluations of problems, their sources and the learning difficulties facing at-risk students. They are aimed at establishing tailor-made modes of differential education or counseling strategies for each student, providing a wider range of study opportunities and increasing the likelihood of students meeting educational goals. In turn, this would meet traditional educational ideals that education should be available for everyone and that students should be educated according to their natural abilities.
The fourth deals with increasing the employability of students at institutes of higher education. Beginning in the 1990s, global economic trends have made employability and maximizing the employability of university graduates a major part of youth policy in developed nations. This has influenced the way people now think about higher education in Taiwan.
For example, the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan has suggested that the employability of university graduates should become a new measure for ascertaining the performance of universities to ensure that students meet the high demands placed on them in the workforce. Gaps in the time between graduation and when students find employment should be minimized.
The last area the conference should address is counseling groups and the development of specialized counselors. There are vast differences in the counseling available to students around Taiwan and a very limited supply of professional counselors. This makes it difficult to react to the increasingly complex problems students face on a daily basis. An across-the-board re-evaluation and strategies to improve counseling methods are desperately needed.
Student counseling should be seen as an important part of education and work together to develop individual potential while cultivating sociability and assisting individuals in pursuing self-realization. Such moves would assist greatly in rearing talented individuals for modern society.
Wu Chihyi is an associate professor at National Chiayi University, Chang Teh-tsung is the chairman of Taiwan Guidance and Counseling Association, and Wang Chih-hung is chairman of the Department of Guidance and Counseling at National Changhua University of Education.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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