28th May 2000
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Guiding the guides

Book review

By Prof. Lorna Devaraja
Guidance and Counselling : Theories and Methods: A Handbook for Teachers and Parents, Dorothy Abeywickrama, S.Godage & Bros., Maradana, Pp 303, Price Rs. 450.

Counselling as a professional activity is a fairly recent development even though counselling as a casual but purposeful contact between persons probably has an origin as ancient as man's. As a professional service the beginnings of counselling are generally established as occurring in the early years of the 20th century. 

However, during the past few decades it has experienced a tremendous growth. This has been clearly reflected in the increased number of articles appearing in professional journals, related to all phases of counselling and the counselling process. 

These have been written by westerners in English to suit the western setting. The present work by Dorothy Abeywickrama, Guidance and Counselling Theories and Methods is the first scientific study written in Sinhala to suit the Sri Lankan environment. 

The author's qualifications and experience in the field of counselling are unsurpassed. She is a well-known counselling educationist holding an M.Sc. in Counselling Education. From 1987 to 1992 she was a visiting lecturer in the Guidance Unit of the Education Department. During this period she conducted many workshops on a voluntary basis for the benefit of interested groups such as the National Youth Services Council, staff of schools and the Association of Heads of Schools. From 1990 to 1997 she worked as a management and career development consultant.

After that Ms. Abeywickrama has made use of her knowledge, experience, writing skills and time for the benefit of parents, teachers and young people by writing books on the field of her expertise. The present work is the fourth such attempt. The others are Counselling Skills (1983), Employee Counselling and Absenteeism (1991), both of which are in English. The last two works have been appropriately written in Sinhala, realising the need to disseminate her knowledge among the vast majority of non-English educated people in this country. 

This work has been addressed to several categories - teacher trainees, teacher counsellors, parents and NGO workers. In today's context, when significant changes are taking place in the field of education, and globalisation and commercialisation are making severe inroads into family life: the exodus to the Middle East and the conflict in the north are causing problems of an unprecedented nature specially among the youth in addition to drug addiction and alcoholism, it is all the more important that parents and teachers should have a basic knowledge of counselling.Teachers, regardless of the fact that they may have no assigned responsibility for counselling inevitably work with pupils on an individual basis, detect problems that demand individual help and are called upon for all sorts of assistance. Pupils need help in solving problems and in making plans. Because they bring these needs and problems to teachers, teachers need some counselling skill in understanding what they can and cannot do. 

In the context of today's rat race for higher education and prestigious employment, parents too should realise the capabilities and limitations of their children while providing all possible incentives for their wholesome development. 

Ms. Abeywickrama's attempt is not to make professional counsellors and psychologists of all parents and teachers, but to provide them with the necessary knowledge and skill which would facilitate them to understand and help in the solution of the problems faced by the young. 

Therefore, although the work is scholarly and scientific it is readable and could be understood by any intelligent layman, for the author writes on the premise that the reader has no prior knowledge of the subject. 

Hence the book is useful not only for teachers but also for other individuals who work in varied settings as community agencies, placement services, rehabilitation agencies, colleges, business and industry. 

Having discussed the various theories, the author at every stage integrates her decades of experience to illustrate what she says, making full use of the records she has maintained. She has attached a chapter on vocational/career guidance and the counselling process. 

This is of great relevance today. No matter what the objectives of education may be and no matter what degree of success the school may have had in achieving them, when the time comes for children to enter employment their opportunities are governed by the exigencies of a complicated and competitive society. 

Industrial and technological expansion and diversification in both the private and public sectors have produced significant changes in the type and range of occupations now available in the country. The students from rural areas who form 80% of this country have been placed at a disadvantage because of these changes. 

The author has explained with examples from real life how vocational/career guidance can begin very early in school with the co-operation of both parents and teachers. She has suggested that vocational/career guidance should be integrated into the school system with the new education reforms. The author should be congratulated for doing this valuable work which will benefit the future generation immensely and S.Godage & Bros. for a smart and neat publication. 

The writer is the Director of the Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute 

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