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'Counsellors indispensable to academic institutions'

Usha Albuquerque, Director, Career Smart, gives tips on various courses, in an exclusive interview with Sumegha Gulati.
Hindustan Times | By Sumegha Gulati, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 14, 2008 09:35 AM IST

Usha Albuquerque is a Delhi-based author and journalist and is the torchbearer of Career Counselling in India. She is the director of Career Smart and a career columnist for several national dailies. She is also the co-author of the book Alternative Career Choices with Amrit Sujan. Here Usha, in an exclusive interview with Sumegha Gulati, gives tips on various courses.

Recently, a leading news magazine carried out a survey listing the top 10 colleges of the country based on the perceptions of informants. How strong is the line between the so-called A-grade colleges and the B-grade ones in terms of quality of education provided?
The rating of educational institutions abroad is done after taking 8-10 parameters in consideration. However, in India, the parameters and sample of survey are small leading to an inaccurate ranking. In DU, the course curriculum is such that the kind of students is a value addition to an academic institution. It's just like comparing an IIT to any other college. From the faculty and the infrastructure to the students a college attracts, all decide its credibility.

There has been an increasing debate over the popularity levels of conventional and vocational courses. Which course is in most demand, in your opinion and why?
B. Com (H) followed by B.A. Economics (Hons) is the most sought after. The popularity can be gauged from the high cut-offs of these courses. The usual follow up is a course in Business Management that offers fat pay packages and lucrative incentives, which does fascinate majority of young people.

A lot of talk is doing rounds about the quality of education being given in schools. Majority of private schools have their own counsellors who assist students in stress management. How essential is this, given the fact that the students in most government schools do not avail this facility?
Every institution must have its own counsellors. A student has to cope with a number of things including growing up stress, peer level changes, generation gap, academic pressure and societal changes. Having a counsellor, thus, can be a big boost for students. In fact, according to me, there should be more than one counsellors in each school.

Where did you do your schooling from?
I attended Loreto Convent, Shimla and pursued my graduation from Madras, with a silver medal in English (Hons).

You had opted for a very unconventional career of being a career counsellor. How has been the journey till now?
Careers are not something static. They are very dynamic. I started out as a teacher. Journalism, Doordarshan, producing programmes followed. However, it was during Hum honge kaamyaab (Zee television serial) that I realised how enthusiastic the scholars were to know of new career options. Career Smart was the outcome, which I started around 10 yeas ago.

What is your message to the students trying to pursue career counselling as a course?
The best option for all those aspiring to become career counsellors should pursue a B.A. in Psychology, followed by an M.A. in the course. After this, they can go for a course in 'Guidance & counselling' of which career counselling holds a major part.

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