By Simon Peter
Aside from international schools, public schools fall short when it comes to hiring trained psychologists to serve as school counsellors. Instead, teachers take on the duty as counsellors without proper qualifications to do the job.
According to a study done by University Tunku Abdul Rahman, “7 out of 82 schools have only 1 counsellor. While 35 (43.7%) schools have 2 counsellors; 31(38.3%) schools have 3 counsellors; 7 (8.6%) schools have 4 counsellors; and only 1 (1.2%) school have 6 counsellors.” (Low, et al, 2012)
The need to hire psychologists as counsellors
Looking at the bigger picture and understanding, most students enrolled in public schools are not as privileged in comparison to those in private schools. Without having appropriate emotional support, public school students have higher chances of “acting out” in other ways to ease their “mental fatigue”, by smoking, drinking, mixing with the wrong crowd, and looking for support at the wrong places.
Aside from the listed faults in the Malaysian public school system, students returning to school after the Movement Control Order (MCO) will need time to readjust and adapt to changes. Research done by the National Institute of Mental Health, concluded, emotional and mental changes such as having to adapt to online classes makes them more susceptible to anxiety and depression when they return to school (FMT, 2021).
By having a trained psychologist serving as a counsellor, students are likely to approach such services due to the provision of anonymity within sessions.
Counselling as a safe outlet
The endless battle of finger pointing to identify a student’s outburst is pointless. Parents blame teachers, teachers blame parents, society blaming the government and flawed systems. This endless debate leads to nowhere.
Voiceless students look to each other as emotional support, which sometimes lead to issues like peer pressuring, bullying, and playing truant taking its form within the gates of education. Teachers in return punish students for acting out, which further deepens the roots of misconduct.
Hence, the need for proper counsellors or scheduled counselling sessions for students in schools.
Disorders that can be detected at an early stage
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), among others, can be identified and dealt with at an early stage. Special attention for such students can be administrated; students can learn to deal with their weaknesses and gain guidance from an expert.
Countless times these issues go unnoticed within the grounds of any schools, as a result, students are just a ticking time bomb waiting to have an outburst. Although a school psychologist would not be able to clinically diagnose a student, they would be able to notice the early signs.
What is currently being done to aid student’s mental health?
Malaysian Health Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin had recently highlighted students’ mental health, allocating extra funds and resources to aid students who are in need of mental health assistance, fearing that lockdowns had taken a toll on them. This is definitely the right step in making changes needed for students within public schools to thrive.
At the end of the day, schools nurture the next generation. With proper education, physical training and the right steps taken to address mental health and well-being in schools, the possibility of a happier and healthier Malaysia is within reach.
Bernama (2021) Khairy: Malaysia to place more resources for students who need mental health assistance. Available at: https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/10/26/khairy-malaysia-to-place-more-resources-for-students-who-need-mental-health/2016085 (Accessed: 9/11/2021)
Kok. J, Low. S & et al (2012) The Provision of Counselling Services in the Secondary Schools of Peral State, Malaysia. Available at: http://www.ipedr.com/vol31/001-ICSSH%202012-B10009.pdf (Accessed: 9/11/2021)
Mok, O. (2021) Teachers, parents must ease students in gently, mental health experts say as schools set to reopen. Available at: https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/10/19/teachers-parents-must-ease-students-in-gently-mental-health-experts-say-as/2014328 (Accessed: 9/11/2021)
School Advisor (2021) The importance of effective school counsellors. Available at: https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/leisure/health/2021/04/26/the-importance-of-effective-school-counsellors/ (Accessed: 9/11/2021)