Make Career Guidance Programs Compulsory in all Indian Schools

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Every hour a student commits suicide in India (https://www.hindustantimes.com/health-and-fitness/every-hour-one-student-commits-suicide-in-india/story-7UFFhSs6h1HNgrNO60FZ2O.html Majority of the cases can be attributed to failure in exams, wrong education choices and consequent unhappiness and depression. In December 2018, there were 3 student suicides within 48 hours in the IIT coaching hub Kota (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/three-suicides-in-48-hours-shock-coaching-hub-kota/articleshow/67248241.cms Students take this extreme step as they are unable to cope up with their current education and career choices which may not be their own but forced on them by parents and society (https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/featurephilia/story/student-suicide-india-career-counselling-981273-2017-06-06

Unfortunately in a country like India, education and career choice is neither a scientific nor individual decision. Students are forced into straitjackets by parents, peer pressure, societal expectations and media hype on certain high paying jobs. Indian students are pressured into choosing a degree and career based on what "others" expect from them including financial expectations and social status roles. Can there be greater unhappiness than being a round peg in a square hole? This is what majority of students are without access to college and career readiness programs before making a choice. Choosing to pursue a course and later getting into a job/a career without knowing what they are getting into and whether they will be happy and fit into the profession is disastrous. Poor performance in job roles is often the direct result of mismatched education and careers. Imagine the unhappiness of a student who is an outdoors person with a love for nature photography but is instead forced to become an engineer and sit in a cubicle coding away! The Hindi film 3 Idiots captures this conundrum very well.

While the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) has recognized the role of guidance and counselling and the CBSE board has made it mandatory for all CBSE schools to appoint a person with career counselling specialization, implementation is extremely poor and these rules are blatantly flouted even by elite public schools in cities like Bangalore. CBSE Circular no 20, Rule 53.5 is very clear on appointing a counsellor with a background in psychology/child development/career counselling but this has utterly failed. This is evident from the rising numbers of suicide among class 10 and 12 students across the country.

It is the irony of India that ICSE and ISC schools have been directed by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) to ensure regular yoga training for students but clearly fails them and neglects their education and career preparation needs. What kind of educators are running our school boards? Are they plain ignorant or simply refuse to see that in the 21st century knowledge economy it is important to choose a career which is sustainable, joyful and serves as a ladder to socioeconomic success and happiness!

It is time to wake up and see the demographic disaster which is on our doorstep if we do not enable our students and youth to make empowered education and career choices. Surely we do not want more student suicides, unhappiness and career hurdles for our youngsters. It is time to make (higher) education and career guidance programs and counselling sessions MANDATORY in all Indian schools regardless of the board be it ICSE, CBSE or state syllabus for class 10 and 12 students The Counselling service must be extended to parents as well, as they play a key role in shaping the present and future of their kids. Counselling parents is important to make them appreciate their kids choice of education and career, so pursuing higher education and a happy profession becomes a harmonious process for the parents and kids.

It is time for the Honourable Minister of Human Resource Development and the Department of School Education and Literacy to make career guidance programs MANDATORY for 10th and 12th standard students across all Indian schools.

If our country has to move forward on the path of progress, we need our youngsters to be happy and healthy in careers of their choice which matches their interests, personality, abilities and aptitudes.

Joint Petition from Dr. Namitha A Kumar and Dr. BS Padmavathi, Bengaluru