FOUR years after the enactment of the Guidance and Counseling Act of 2004, the University still has only two registered guidance counselors out of the 154 licensed practitioners all over the country.

Unless majority of UST’s guidance counselors take a licensure examination as provided for by the law before being allowed to practice, the University’s guidance and counseling program risks a natural death.

Office of Admissions head Lucila Bance, one of the registered guidance counselors in the University, admitted that the implementation of the law has been dragged by poor information dissemination.

“It was already in the process of implementation immediately after the enactment of the (law) but I think they found it difficult to disseminate information to all people concerned,” said Bance. “There are even guidance counselors who are unaware that they have to take the board examination and pass before they can actually practice counseling.”

Authored by former Bohol Representative Eladio Jala in 2002, the Guidance and Counseling Act was passed in March 2004 to regulate the practice of guidance and counseling in the Philippines and “to promote the improvement, advancement, and protection of the profession by undertaking and instituting measures that will result in professional, ethical, relevant, and effective guidance and counseling services for the development and enrichment of individuals and groups.”

But before a candidate can take the exam, he or she must hold a master’s degree in guidance and counseling. Exemptions, however, are granted to candidates who have at least five years of experience as full-time guidance counselors, three years of teaching Guidance and Counseling courses, and passed at least 18 units of master’s level courses in guidance and counseling, all under the “grandfather’s clause” of the said act.

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Bance and Nenita Cervantes, resident guidance counselor of the College of Nursing, are the only two guidance counselors in the University who registered through the grandfather’s clause.

Bance, the national treasurer of the Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA), issues certificates of good moral character and proofs of active membership to guidance counselors who want to be qualified under the grandfather’s clause.

Slow start

In an interview with the Varsitarian, some guidance counselors of the University said that the UST Guidance and Counseling Center has yet to receive direct information from the PGCA.

“It was all hearsay (at first),” said Ramona Cruz, UST-Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy guidance counselor. “We learned about the professionalization of guidance and counseling only two years ago. There were no clear guidelines yet so there were a lot of misconceptions.”

Leny Gadiana, UST High School guidance counselor, said it was only last year that the University guidance counselors obtained a copy of the formal guidelines and criteria regarding professionalization.

“It was only last year that there was formal publication of the guidelines and criteria and we have to photocopy it in order to have our own copy,” Gadiana said.

Gadiana also revealed that even guidance counselors from other schools did not pay too much attention to the professionalization scheme and the board examination because of lack of information.

“There was even no clear supervision regarding the implementation of guidance program,” Gadiana added.

With only less than a year left, Bance said only registered guidance counselors can practice guidance and counseling starting 2009.

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“Guidance counselors who do not have the certificate of registration can only practice guidance and counseling until January 2009,” said Bance. “After 2009, those who do not have a license can already be removed from work and can already be accused of malpractice of profession based on the Act.”

In the University, at least 18 out of the 27 guidance counselors are still taking their master’s degree in guidance and counseling. Five will be certified under the grandfather’s clause while three will take the first board examination on Aug. 21.

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