Rethinking competencies for guidance counsellors in Norway
The required competencies for Norwegian guidance counsellors have been debated ever since the start of counselling in schools in 1959. For the first time the national authorities in education have now defined the proposed competencies in a directive which will be added to the Education Act.
While the Ministry of Education outlined the necessity for a specialist education for counsellors in the late 1950’s, no legal actions were taken until 1963, when the teachers’ education in Trondheim started with the first education for counsellors. In 1998-99 a survey showed that all school counsellors had a teachers’ education and about half of them had some form of additional education relevant to giving guidance in school. The larger majority had considerable experience in working in schools.
Individual rights, but no institution
According to the text of the Education Act, all pupils in school have a right to guidance, however there is no definition of the institution that should provide it. The competencies required for guidance professionals in schools were not defined either.
Over the last 10 years, much focus has been given to guidance in Norwegian schools. The most discussed aspects were the competencies of the guidance community and the allocation of recourses (time) to guidance. In the directives following the Education Act, a number of details are defined, and the general notion is that the directives give a minimum of educational requirements for guidance practitioners. In reality, the directives do not give such guidelines, but as most counsellors combine their role with a teaching job, the guidelines for pedagogical positions given in other directives are followed.
Increased professionalism for counsellors
In latter years the focus on career guidance has increased and the competencies of guidance professionals are under review. Following both national and international demands, the Norwegian Directorate of Education and Training has drawn up a proposal for the required competencies of guidance counsellors.
Proposed general competencies for counsellors:
Proposed specific competencies for guidance counsellors
- People hired as counsellors in schools should have a general education at a Bachelor level.
- Their education should cover aspects relevant to counselling of at least 60 ECTS point. At least 30 of these should cover career guidance or social counselling, relating to a particular field for which the person is hired.
- Professional experience and knowledge about education, schools and their roles in the society should be pursued.
- Planning , processing and evaluation of counselling sessions.
- Performing individual and group guidance.
- Informing about pupils’ rights.
- Giving realistic and individually adapted counselling.
- Helping in seeking information and application procedures.
- Having a good knowledge of the Norwegian educational system and knowledge about systems in other countries.
- Good knowledge about educational possibilities in Norway and other countries.
- Good knowledge about labour options both nationally and international.
- Integrating career guidance with the curriculum.
- Coordinating career guidance internally in school as well as externally with stakeholders.
- Working together with the social counsellor and referral when needed.
The Norwegian guidance counsellor has often been seen as having a somewhat isolated position within the schools. With this new directive, the role of the counsellor has the possibility to change considerably; (s)he can become a professional who has the relevant knowledge and coordinates all guidance activities.
Much of the information part of the guidance is being distributed to other parts of the schools, teachers should give information about their own professional fields and contact teachers should give much of the information traditionally given by the guidance counsellor. Thus the guidance counsellor can become a ‘guidance coordinator’ who carries out a specialised job.
In addition to this, the international focus is entirely new, which might support a broader view on the international dimensions of career guidance in Norway.
Klaaspeter Kuperus, Euroguidance Norway