Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI – The important role of counselling in schools has been accepted by most stakeholders, including parents, teachers and administrators, but most secondary schools and high schools do not offer this service.
Two years ago, a pilot project of the Hà Nội Department of Education and Training, carried out in collaboration with international NGO Plan International, opened a counselling room for students in 20 schools city-wide.
However, after the project ended, the schools could not afford further investment and lacked funds to pay for counselling staff, said Hoàng Thị An, headmistress of the Cổ Loa Secondary School.
An said her school was trying to find ways to continue providing the service.
She said that for several years now, school administrators had been handling an increasing number of conflicts between students.
Since the school opened a counselling room in 2014, teachers were more relaxed and had become more skilful in dealing with students and parents when problems arise, An said.
She said that in the first year of operation, very few students approached the counsellors because they were shy and uncertain.
“Now they come here often and also share many stories about their family life, problems in friendship and also disagreement with teachers,” An said.
A few other schools besides the 20 funded by the project have opened counselling rooms, but most have had limited success.
Phạm Trọng Đạt, headmaster of the Đinh Tiên Hoàng High School in Mỹ Đức District said he thought a lot about it, but the lack of funds prevented him from opening a counselling room in his school.
“It is necessary to have a place to help students deal with (psychological) problems…, and there are so many social problems entering the school,” said Nguyễn Thu Hương, headmistress of the Nguyễn Du Secondary School.
"School managers have to deal with many problems besides teaching, so a counselling room will be of great help," she said.
Moreover, not many school leaders have professional expertise in counselling, according to Hương.
Apart from the lack of funds, it is very difficult to find good, qualified counsellors.
Dr Nguyễn Tùng Lâm, headmaster of the Đinh Tiên Hoàng Private High School and Chairman of Hà Nội Education Psychology, said no fight had broken out between students of the school since a counselling room was established 15 years ago.
"There are always three to four counsellors available to help students," he said.
“The room is not just for students to visit for help. The counsellors are also responsible for looking out and keeping in touch with both students and teachers, so as to prevent a conflict from arising,” Lâm said.
Hà Nội now has 939 high schools and junior high schools, but very few provide an in-school counselling service.
A recent survey revealed that of 31,000 students in the 20 schools that were part of the pilot project, about 50 per cent felt safer with the counselling room. About 2,800 sought its services.
There was a sharp reduction in the percentage of students suffering mental and physical abuse after the counselling service was offered, the survey found.
Mental abuse went down from 63 per cent to seven per cent in three years.
The survey also found few students would go to their teachers or parents to help deal with threatening situations if the counselling room was not available.
About 42 per cent of the students surveyed had suffered physical violence, 68 per cent had been subjected to mental abuse and 36 per cent were victims of sexual violence. All of them had kept their experiences secret and tried to find their own way out of the problem, the survey found.
Only 30 per cent of the students said they were willing to find teachers or cousellors when they saw violence on campus.
Nguyễn Hữu Độ, director of the Hà Nội Department of Education and Training, said more schools would be equipped with counsellor rooms in the coming months.
"All schools in the city are expected to have the service by the end of 2017," he added.
His department is studying ways to find funds for the project so as to help schools operate effectively.
Last month, the Ministry of Education and Training issued a draft circular with implementation guidelines for providing psychological counselling in schools.
Provincial Education and Training Departments would be responsible for guiding schools in opening counselling rooms that would provide students with advice on physical and mental health, gender, education, family and social problems. — VNS