NIE’s PhD programme sheds light on effective ways counsellor Muhammad Hafiz Zainal Abidin can reach out to students
By Charlotte Kng
Jan 6, 2020
When Mr Muhammad Hafiz Zainal Abidin got his first job as a counsellor with the Singapore Children’s Society in 2008, he was brimming with enthusiasm to change lives for the better. But he realised those at the receiving end had to first be willing to accept help for change to happen.
“Many of the children under my care were primary school pupils who refused to go to school. I would make every effort to reach out to them but still be told to ‘go away’,” he says.
The 35-year-old was taken aback by how some of the pupils or their parents could reject help. He believed that if he could identify the factors that motivated students to seek help, he would be able to convince them to get help through counselling.
This newfound purpose spurred him to enrol in the National Institute of Education (NIE)’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programme in 2010.
“I had heard good things about NIE’s research faculty in social sciences and felt that its specialisation in counselling and psychological studies would be helpful in my research,” he says.
“The institution’s involvement in counselling in local schools also meant that there was a relevant pool of data I can tap into.”
The PhD programme at NIE helped Mr Hafiz gather findings that not only brought him a step closer to understanding the factors motivating students to seek help, but also equipped him with the research framework and statistical analysis skills to help improve the ways he conducts counselling sessions in the future.
“The outcome of my research was an eye-opener for me. For instance, I did not expect that the students actually valued parental approval very much, and that it plays a key role in motivating them to seek and accept help,” he says. “It showed me the importance of bringing parents and peers into the picture when motivating an individual to seek help.”
Looking back, Mr Hafiz says his decision to embark on a postgraduate journey was a rewarding one.
“My NIE experience has widened my contribution to the counselling field. Beyond therapeutic intervention, I am now armed with the statistical skills to conduct research related to counselling, which can be used to influence policies and improve the perception of counselling.”
National Institute of Education
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