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Lockdowns result in “positive” changes for school counselling

Lockdowns and limitations to mobility have resulted in an “improvement of interactions” in school counselling according to an expert speaking at a recent PIE webinar with Cialfo. 

Experts spoke at a webinar organised by The PIE and Cialfo. Photo: The PIE News

The move online opened up more opportunities to work with students to increase engagement

The session sought to explore how university reps can meaningfully and productively engage high school counsellors to form “win-win partnerships”.

Joseph Marshall, head of higher education at The Alice Smith School, Malaysia explained that there have been a number of benefits after school counselling moved online due to the pandemic. 

“Our experience of the lockdown period has been mostly very positive… We feel overall our interactions have improved with universities for a number of reasons,” he said. 

Marshall explained that before the pandemic bringing university representatives onto site was more labour intensive. 

“We’re getting academic content that we wouldn’t have got in the past”

“From our point of view as a school, [it] involved a lot of counselling of a lot of reps in order to help them produce the material that we wanted them to produce on site, often when they travelled and had been to a lot of other different schools… that maybe had different requirements within the same trip,” he explained. 

Marshall said that online counselling has been far more flexible in terms of what’s being provided.

“There’s been far more depth to what’s being provided in terms of obviously now rather than just single university reps or a rep and an academic coming out, we’re now accessing different parts of university. 

“Things like scholarships, other areas of funding, careers and we’re getting academic content that we wouldn’t have got in the past. Academics that just simply wouldn’t have been able to travel previously,” he added. 

Ciara Newby, acting head of undergraduate recruitment international at the University of Bath in the UK also noted the advantages of online from an academic perspective. 

“I personally have gotten to know some great academics at the University of Bath that I hadn’t even heard of before,” she said. 

“Because they certainly wouldn’t have had the time to go on a two week trip to Southeast Asia, but they can give up an hour, for a couple of mornings to deliver something bespoke to a school that we’re working with.”

Newby also noted that the move online opened up more opportunities to work with students to increase engagement. 

“I really love working with our current students. I know I’m not alone in having a team of student ambassadors that institutions have to contribute to events, which obviously we didn’t have when we were travelling as well,” she said. 

However, while there have been benefits to the way universities have had to pivot their working methods, Newby said there have also been challenges. 

“Needless to say, there’s always going to be a benefit in human contacts and in face-to-face contacts, but that isn’t happening in the same way that it used to,” she said. 

Felicja Syska, VP of university engagement at Cialfo acknowledged the importance of human contact in school counselling. 

“There is no doubt that technology will never replace the fact that we yearn for human connection”

We’re all human and there is no doubt that technology and platforms will never replace the fact that we yearn for that human connection, and especially when we’re working with students and counsellors and families and university representatives, we long for that,” she said. 

However, Syska noted the benefits to technology. 

“At Cialfo we were already headed in this direction last year, even before lockdowns and things that were the outcomes of the pandemic. 

“It was one of the reasons we had already instilled in our platform the opportunity for college virtual visits, recognising that our mission was really to make education accessible across the world,” she added.

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