“What do you want to be in future?,” a teacher randomly asks a Senior One student of a school in Remera, Gasabo district in Kigali City. “I want to become a doctor like my father,” the student replies and on and on the discussion continues. What is clear from this interaction is that children have different dreams but they cannot logically explain why they want to take that path or how to get there. And that is when the concept of career guidance comes in.
According to an online source, career guidance is a developmental process that facilitates the acquisition of attitudes; skills and knowledge to help students better understand themselves while exploring viable education and career options that eventually result into making informed decisions with developed plans to achieve their career aspirations.
Is there career guidance in schools?
According to Dr John Bosco Mutenzintare, who works with Rwanda Education Board (REB) and is the head of career guidance in schools, there is no formal policy on career guidance but plans to introduce it exist.
“The Rwandan government realised that students need career guidance and counseling in order to achieve optimum gains in their varied life situations,” Mutezintare says.
“The programme will help students in secondary schools to see a variety of available academic options that would help them through their preferred learning styles, and be helped to find how to develop plans to reach their educational and occupational goals,” he adds.
In fact while visiting a school in Rulindo district recently, The Education Times during an interaction with students discovered how urgent the policy on career guidance should be implemented.
“We were given combinations at random. I am not good at mathematics and hate it with passion. Every time I sit in class I see stars and I’m sure I will fail it,” one of the students said, adding that administrators ought to take each student’s interests and abilities into consideration.
Whether that is possible or impossible, it is evident from the student’s complaint that she doesn’t know that Math’s is very important and therefore finds no motivation to improve her grades. Most likely if she had that information, her attitude would be better and so would her performance.
Theophile Uweseyima, a teacher at Ecole Primarie de Kibagabaga, believes that students should be just guided on choosing subject combinations rather than being ‘forced’ to do something they are completely uncomfortable with.
“When students are given a wrong combination, they lose morale and end up failing exams. This can completely disorganise a child’s future ambitions,” says Uweseyima.
It is therefore clear that without career guidance, students miss out on “what to do” and “where to go” after completing A’level.
“They only look forward to orientation into the university,” Mutezintare argues.
Fortunately, REB is embarking on a venture aimed at improving career guidance in Schools. According to Mutezintare, the Ministry of Education through REB commissioned Kudar Group Unlimited and LLC, an American International Career Guidance Specialist Group, to implement an organised set of specialised career guidance services in schools.
He says they will start with 10 schools which will become the training centers for 90 pilot secondary schools and later the 90 schools will be used as training grounds for teachers from the rest of the secondary schools around the country.
“The teachers will be trained in career guidance. They will become counselors in schools and together with the head teachers will guide the students on which career path to take,” Mutezintare reveals.
“Five districts will be selected with each district having two training centers. The number will however be increased to 10 eventually. Each centre will be installed with computers that have career guidance programmes,” he adds.
Stakeholders speak out
This development has excited school administrators, teachers and parents.
Valence Kaberuka, the headmaster of Excella School in Kimironko, says introducing career guidance in schools has been long overdue “Guidance should be done at every stage of a child’s life and should focus on what students are going to do when they finish school. However, the mentor must take keen interest in the student’s areas of interest,” he notes.
Although Husaifa Nitegeki, a parent, is excited about the idea of career guidance in schools, she says early identification of a child’s talent is also very important.
“If a parent knows where their children’s strengths are, they are likely to support them to develop their talent other than just wasting all the money on academics where the child might be weak,” Nitegeki says.
Seemingly, this may not to be the case as most parents leave the teachers to take on the task of teaching and giving career advice to their children simply because they are naïve about its importance. But what should be the role of career guidance?
The role of good career guidance
Career guidance, according to a statement from the government of Singapore, should nurture the individual’s self awareness, self-directedness, and life skills to set viable goals, to continually learn and add value to their future workplace and explore viable education. It should also in addition to career options through the provision of accurate and comprehensive information, inculcate an appreciation for the value of all occupations and how they contribute to the well-functioning of society, equip students with skills and means to positively engage their parents and other career influencers.
Mutezintare also has a lot of optimism in the programme.
“Career guidance systems in secondary schools in Rwanda, will also enable the government of Rwanda to target well trained human resource needed for the national development purposes,” he says.
Modern career guidance
Some developed countries such as the UK have adapted to an arrangement where students are charged a certain amount of money to receive guidance from a tutor via a telephone line. The fee charges when converted to the local currency are about Rwf48, 000 for a single phone call that lasts about 10 minutes. Such is an example of how much career guidance is valued.
New research with regard to the above setup in a report titled “Career Advice – Helping the In betweeners” highlights that: parents and family of this group are often supportive, but at a loss to give career guidance beyond their own day-to-day experience, meaning that these young people are presented with a predictable and narrow range of career options which limits their future outcomes.
Such parents will tend to leave the careers of their children at the mercy of the academic institutions.
However, another report titled “Going the right direction” published on September 10, 2013, junks the principle that all students need the same level of career guidance at the same time and that schools themselves understand best the individual needs of their students.’
The report cites two problems. First, the erroneous claim that schools know best the full range of needs of their learners. How can they? Schools have become experts in the area for which they are held to unrelenting account, the author questions the premise.
Secondly such a model for career guidance requires the individual to be proactive and skilled in accessing the available support and concludes that young people are not as digitally competent as it’s often perceived.
Good career guidance therefore plays a critical role in preparing students for the world of work by equipping them with the skills to remain relevant in the global economy and lead purposeful lives. Research has shown that career planning programmes can positively impact academic performance leading to optimal education and career decisions.
To minimise challenges, Mutenzintare advises that a career guidance unit with efficient structures should be established at REB to have enormous effort for effectiveness.
Public reactions to career guidance
Career guidance in schools if well implemented will be key in shaping the future of students. And because it will be implemented by teachers who are well versed with the subject, the results will be good. How I wish this programme can be rolled out to every school in the country.
Career guidance if given its full attention will produce graduates with outstanding values and attitudes towards work and people. The school products will most likely be focused and knowledgeable. We were not very lucky to have career guidance talks.
The initiative will be key to effective education. These days some students finish school before even knowing their career; they are neither here nor there. A child should know the career they intend to pursue at a young age.
Henry Muchuti Samsoni
Career guidance is the most important tool that we can use to develop our education system. It is the only way our schools can produce the most productive academicians as it helps the learners to make up their mind early enough.
This is an important step in our education system. However, it is alittle bit costly as a lot of money is needed to put into practice what career guidance requires. We all want to nurture our children basing on their areas of interests but are limited by money.
Brian Pascal Olal
Career guidance is a very important factor as regards our education system and the earlier the better. Some students reach Senior Six before they actually decide on which courses they should do. Once that is done,it will help in nurturing the Rwandan citizens.