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Counselling Teachers Need To Be Registered

Kurniawati Kamarudin

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- Handling student problems is no easy task but this is the challenge that some 15,000 counselling teachers have to face at 12,000 primary and secondary schools nationwide.

However, not many realise that the majority of these counselling teachers are not registered with the Malaysian Board of Counsellors, which prevents their activities from being monitored.

As a professional counsellor, they need to register with the Board that is subjected to the Counsellors Act 1998 or Act 580 of the Laws of Malaysia.

This is to facilitate the Board of Counsellors in supervising the counselling services at schools, overseeing training and verifying the qualifications of a counselling teacher.

The Malaysian Board of Counsellors are under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and statistics show that only 2,540 teachers have registered with the board.

Its president, Associate Prof Dr Mohamed Fadzil Che Din said the figure was a worrisome one, as there was no way to monitor the professionalism of unregistered counsellors or the appropriateness of counselling methods used.

MISCONDUCT OF SCHOOL COUNSELLORS

The counselling studies was introduced in Universiti Pertanian (now known as Universiti Putra Malaysia- UPM) in 1985 and nine local universities followed suit. Some 20,000 students have graduated in the field since then.

Although the number of counsellors produced by the tertiary education institutions seem many, only 5,129 of them are registered with the Malaysian Board of Counsellors.

"If 80 percent of them continue their careers as counsellors, that means there are 16,000 counsellors produced by local universities," he told Bernama.

This is the scenario that needs to be taken seriously as there are issues involving ethics, misdemeanors and wrong practices among counsellors or those who offer the counselling service.

"Section 22 and 23 of the Counsellors Act 1998 clearly states that it is compulsory for a person practicing counselling to register with the Malaysian Board of Counsellors as a Registered Counsellor," he said.

ROLE OF THE MALAYSIAN BOARD OF COUNSELLORS

The Malaysian Board of Counsellors among others supervises the counselling services given and assesses the need for such services in Malaysia. It also oversees counsellor training.

"The Board is also in charge of ascertaining the qualifications of a counsellor before he/she is registered under the Counsellors Act 1998," he said.

In many cases, counselling teachers may fail in carrying out their responsibilities due to them being unregistered and not owning a certificate of practice.

Due to this, a counsellor who is not confirmed may not be allowed to help students in distress, including rape victims.

"Their statement is also inadmissible in court, making them unable to help their client and offer them protection. That will inevitably make it more difficult for the client and the school," he said.

According to the regulations set by the Community Welfare Department (JKM), cases of students in need of counseling need to be referred to professionals for confirmation first, before the victims could be placed into safe houses and put under protection.

"But what is happening is that many counselling teachers are unable to follow the procedure because they do not have the certificate of practice and are forced to employ certified counsellors outside, such as from JKM," he said.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Fadzil said a study was conducted in 2012 to look at the profiles, types and forms of counsellor misconduct in the country especially in schools.

Of the 856 respondents involved in the study, the Board found 11 types of misconduct routinely performed by counsellors.

Among them were being unregistered, no valid certificate of practice, breach of confidentiality, forming an intimate relationship with the client, influencing the client and failing to protect the client's interests.

IMPORTANCE OF REGISTRATION

On the case of the four siblings who are children to Malaysian couple held by Swedish authorities, Mohamed Fadzil noted that the case had to be handled wisely and effectively by the counselling teachers.

This was to ensure the siblings who were already affected by the distance from their parents were able to carry on with their lives and schooling as normally as possible. The children have since returned to Malaysia.

However, if the counselling teachers at their schools are not registered, who can protect them?

He said many were unaware that counsellors can use their professionalism to protect their clients, especially in school.

School headmasters or principals did not have professional licenses and were effectively only administrators. On the other hand, registered and licensed counselling teachers have the authority to provide a certain degree of protection to their clients who were students, he said.

Referring to the case of the three children who were attacked with a "parang" by their father in Bandar Baru Bangi, where a sibling died, Mohamed Fadzil said the services of a certified counsellor was needed to minimise the psychological damage inflicted by the traumatic incident.

"No matter how good the teachers are in helping them, it is nothing more than moral support. The children need to be seen by a professional certified counsellor," he said.

He said they were protected legally as a psychosocial method of helping to address their problem effectively.

FAILING TO PERFORM

Mohamed Fadzil said the increase in criminal cases involving students involving blackmail, oppression or other threats requires them to be placed under protection.

The allocation under the Counsellor Act provided for counselling teachers to protect their clients or students.

However, there is a concern that some unregistered counselling teachers may influence their clients to react inappropriately.

"Some fail to follow the code of conduct such as protecting confidentiality. This is the danger with unprofessional counsellors, it gives a negative impact on the school, community and nation," he said.

He wondered why the counselling teachers in schools were not registered to enable them to handle cases more effectively.

-- BERNAMA