Perceptions of the role of the secondary school counsellor in Saudi Arabia
The role and function of the school counsellor has always been a matter of controversy and confusion. Commonly school counsellors neither fill their defined role nor meet all students' needs. In Saudi Arabia this is exacerbated by a lack of professional identity and status, of a clearly defined role, and of administrative support and adequate facilities. This study exammes the performance and importance of the role of the school counsellor in Saudi Arabia through the perceptions of principals, teachers, students and counsellors themselves. Questionnaires were administered to 112 principals, 316 teachers, 451 students and 117 counsellors; semi-structured interviews were conducted with 9 principals, 14 teachers and 12 counsellors. Despite widespread support for counsellors there were considerable discrepancies in how different parties saw their role. Important functions were perceived as not being met. Counsellors were, and were seen to be involved in discipline and administrative tasks. Barriers to effective practice were shown to be: an absence of clear policy guidelines; poor resources; high student/counsellor ratios and lack of knowledge and cooperation from other school staff. Some ethical/professional issues were raised -like confidentiality- which indicated that without considerable structural change the service would continue to fail to meet either students' needs, or the expectations put upon it. The role of the school counsellor in Saudi Arabia needs to be more clearly defined, through training and (counselling) supervision, and assigned to qualified counsellors with facilities and the time to accomplish them successfully. Ultimately success will demand greater understanding of their role by all school staff whom might themselves benefit from training in counselling skills.