Effects of Career Planning Courses Across Schools and Colleges

Higher Education October 29, 2017

Numerous Qatari students enroll in preparatory programs after finishing high school or during their first year of university. Known as foundation programs or bridges to university, the programs help students to reach university-level competencies in terms of achieving admission requirements and choosing majors. Students in the programs learn skills that help them to earn higher scores on the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examinations that often form part of the admission process. They also help students to transition better from high-school to college settings (Nasser, 2012, p. 43).

However, according to Nasser (2012), many Qatari students and parents have criticized the programs for being too time-consuming and more appropriate for secondary-school education. At the same time, students have expressed concerns with the length of the program, which takes 1-2 years for students who have not attained university level, and makes them finish the degree in 5–6 years. Nasser (2012) has argued that foundation programs pose financial burdens on the government and would be better if integrated into secondary schools for students before they matriculate into university. Nasser (2012) also found that students who complete the programs are more likely to be admitted at university and to earn degrees. However, it would be better to prepare students earlier in high school in order to reduce costs and save time. Of course, Nasser (2012) conducted his study only on Qatari students who attended preparation programs at universities in Qatar, which raises concern for other Qatari high-school students who have decided to study abroad or otherwise foregone the chance to be prepared for university. In response, designing a career planning course applicable to all high-school students in Qatar would ensure better preparation for students before they transition to college at home or abroad. 

Career planning comes in different forms across counseling interventions for students, including structured career planning courses (Orndorff & Herr, 1996), and many researchers have examined the positive impacts of career planning interventions on college and high-school students (Brown & Cinamon, 2015; Nasser, 2102; Orndorff & Herr, 1996; Salleh, Abdullah, Mahmud, Ghavifekr, & Ishak, 2013). Benefits include better career decision making, higher academic performance, and improved engagement at school (Schaefer & Rivera, 2012). Salleh et al. (2013) examined the effectiveness of a 2-week structured career planning intervention program for academically challenged students in Malaysian high schools and concluded that structured career planning programs are more effective than unstructured ones. Students who participated in the program showed a significant improvement in their academic learning skills, career planning skills, and academic learning motivation compared to those who did not (Salleh et al., 2013).

In investigating characteristics associated with students’ development of self-efficacy and outcome expectancy in selecting high-school majors, Brown and Cinamon (2015) revealed that high-school students’ academic decisions do not necessarily represent their future academic preferences, as well as that many students change their academic focuses during high school. However, results also indicated that high-school students who engage in career-related activities that allow them to hone their skills and interest are more likely to be more confident in their selection of major, which in turn resulted in higher outcome expectancy and self-motivation (Brown & Cinamon, 2015). Given the results of Al-Emadi et al. (2013), the Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning (2011), and Stasz, Eide, Martorell, and the Rand-Qatar Policy Institute (2007) showing that a chief challenge for Qatari students is the lack of career decision-making skills, lack of motivation in school and academic learning. Career-engagement activities would increase students’ ability, confidence in choosing majors, improve their career planning skills and motivation in school.

Niles and Harris–Bowlsbey (2013) have discussed steps needed to design and implement a career planning program, including defining the target population’s characteristics and needs, having measurable objectives, and determining how to deliver career planning services. Effective ways of providing services for high-school students include hosting classes and training teachers to address career-related topics in their curricula. In addition, counselors can invite company representatives to speak with students in class about professional environments or to provide workshops for students about making career-related decisions.

Clearly, structured career planning courses can help school services to meet the specific needs of high-school students and allow the incorporation of external entities such as employers, community organizations and parents.