Without guidance

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Pragati Karki grew up in a country where there were no guidance councellors. Now her vision is to ensure that every Nepalese student gets the possibility for guidance and support in studies.
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Kuva Pragati Karki

In 2016, when I first took up the role as a Guidance Counselor in a reputed college in Nepal, I had no idea what lay ahead for me. When I was in school, I had no one to support me in my career decisions. A few of the elite schools, who run foreign programs like A Level and IB (International Baccalaureate) provide such support to students. However, a large proportion of Nepalese students are deprived from receiving career and college counselling support in their schools.

For the first one year, I juggled through my job, just writing recommendations for all the students applying abroad, especially to American universities. Going abroad for higher studies is very common among Nepalese students with one of the reasons possibly being the country’s degrading higher education system.

International conference was an eye-opener

After a year, I came across a movement based in India called IC3 (International Career and College Counselling), which aimed to empower high school counselors to better support their students. I signed up for a conference which was to be held in New Delhi, India. Attending the conference was the best decision ever as I was able to build my networks, learn from experts in the field and above all, know what this profession was all about. After knowing so much about this profession, I couldn’t help but decide that one day, I will make career and college counselling available to each student in Nepal.

With this vision, I went to attend their one-year career and college counselling course with mandatory four-week residential classes which was completely free of cost excluding the travel to four different universities in India. My travel to the first one-week residential course was not funded from my school, and I had no money to pay for hefty travel costs. So, I asked for support from my Nepalese friends here in Finland. I had met them during my exchange studies in Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak) back in 2015 (in fact funded by EDUFI). Out of the four people I contacted, all four decided to help me and a close friend from Australia funded the remaining costs. It was with their support that I was able to take such a big step.

How to build your own guidance database

Throughout the one year of study, I learnt how to better support my students. During the course of time, I learnt that guidance counselling was for ALL students and every student had the right to career and college counselling, no matter where they chose to study. My focus shifted from those students who were applying abroad to also those students who had decided to stay back and study in their home country. It was essential to provide such support to the students who were staying back in Nepal as they too lacked information about the courses and colleges.

Being one of the first women in Nepal to take this training from the IC3 Institute, it clearly proved that we lacked resources to support our students. There was no synchronized data and information about the existing colleges in Nepal and the courses they offered. The situation was the same for the students pursuing studies in countries like India, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Month after month, I did my own research through various university websites and interviewed students who were already studying at universities with scholarships, to gain a better insight of the situation. Finally, more and more students started to contribute with the information they had, sharing their college application processes, and ultimately I felt confident enough to give presentations on different topics related to college application.

Is it your grades or interests that matter?

In Nepal, immediately after Grade 10 the students jump either to science or management fields depending upon the grades they get. Science is pursued by the “high-scorers” whereas management and arts are pursued by “average and low scorers” respectively. This is the trend in junior high schools in Nepal where students select their subjects based on their grades rather than on their interests. There is hardly any support from the school in helping students determine their interests and careers. This is why I also ended up studying science after my Grade 10 and then only later shifted to social work after realizing that science was not my area of interest.

The college application process requires the student to understand themselves better, know their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and visions in life so that they make the best decisions for themselves. This is the principle I have always lived by in my role as a Guidance Counselor. This steers them in the correct direction in their studies and in their career. 

Thus, I find it very important that we create the right environment and equip each school with resources, especially human resources with regard to career and college counselling. That way we’ll have students who are better able to navigate their career pathways and make the best decisions for themselves.

Pragati Karki studies a Master’s degree in the international program Research and Innovation in Higher Education (Erasmus Mundus). She conducted an internship at EDUFI in the spring 2022.