Thursday, August 6, 2015

Attack on Psychologists

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - The Head of Moscow's local government commission on education is demanding that local school psychologists in Moscow be tested for their competence and crystal clear criteria for effectiveness should be laid out as to what the specific tasks of psychologists are. For instance, psychologists must spot school students experiencing stressful problems in one group and help shift him or her to either a smaller or bigger group. The role of
psychologists should be to 'provide the right psychological
climate in the classroom' and 'a psychologist must be a 

person whom a child can come to with his problems, trust
and confide with, and attain psychological support.'

            Anton Molev, head of the commission, claims there are very few competent school  psychologists and a headmistress of School Number 2098 backs him up with the words, 'Unfortunately, professional psychologists are very rare'.  Anton Molev attempts to explain this incompetence by claiming, 'This is connected with the fact that in the early 1990's, schools simply employed psychologists because it was fashionable, but the quality of them was doubtful and the understanding about why they were needed was absent.

            'This is why it is imperative to regularly check their credentials.'

            IS THIS FAIR?

            Are those comments fair? If you ask many Russians about what they think about school psychologists many do not know what their role really is and some think they just
test school students because that is what is expected of them. However, criticism of the competence of psychologists could easily be aimed at officials. How many compentent educational officials are there? It is like the kettle calling the pot black! Molev's proposals appear to be devoid of practical common-sense and ask too much from school psychologists. As one parent stated, 'How on earth can one psychologist in a school of 1200 pupils deal with all their problems? How can they physically do all this?' This is presuming that there are any psychologists left in those schools.

            The local government has implemented huge cuts where hundreds of librarians, psychologists and speech therapists have lost their jobs. Do those cuts do much to improve the psychological climate which students find themselves in?

            Unfortunately, none of the Russian newspapers interviewed any school psychologists about what they thought of Molev's proposals. It is more likely that                   psychologists are the latest scapegoat who can be unfairly blamed for the errors being made by officials. Some critics believe that the real reason for those proposals is simply to justify the further dismissal of school staff. But officials should ask themselves whether a day may come where they are fired by higher officials!

            The facts remain that there are very good psychologists and possibly much more than either Molev or the head claim. 


            Psychologists can play a great role in assisting pupils. They can spot a child with not only learning difficulties, but prevent possible suicides or even embarking down the blind alley of crime. Psychologists are not just in schools to deploy
unpopular intelligence tests such as IQ tests. That is why
so many people in the West don't like or trust psychologists.

            What was meant by Stanley Binet as a means of spotting learning difficulties and intervening to aid pupils, later degenerated into an unfair form of discrimination which has stained the profession in both Britain and America.

            I once met a highly competent psychologist called Svetlana at 'The Family Club', which is kindergarten near Rechnoy Metro station. She did not only work as an educational psychologist but offered therapy sessions to traumatised people. She told me, 'One of the greatest joys I get from life is when a very sad and unhappy client comes to my room and then after a session he emerges a new person beaming with a new kind of joy on his face. I can see an enormous burden has been lifted from him'.  The right words from a proficent psychologist can make a person perceive his
problem in an entirely fresh way which he might never ever
have imagined.

            Svetlana showed me how she dealt with troubled school children whom their parents had sent to her. Some of those young children had become withdrawn or were behaving oddly. She would let the children play with a Japanese sand garden by letting them making up a story by using toy figures.

            'I noticed that one boy who used one figure to represent his own self made a retreat from the other toy figures because they were all judging him and he wanted to be free from all those belittling judgments. I quickly identified that the child's low self-esteem was largely due to the hard judgments of his parents. The problem was that I had to approach the parents and tell them a truth they did not want to hear.'

            Svetlana had visited America and lived their for two years in order to further upgrade her qualifications. She is a
highly qualified psychologist and therapist whom state
officials such as Anton Molev should honour. However, this psychologist no longer works in state schools. With the present day cut backs, what guarantee would she obtain that her job would be protected? All it might take is the       displeasure of one parent, or official, and she might lose her job on a whim. She informed me that many of the teachers who worked with her did not appreciate her role at all and could be at times, hostile. Being an educational psychologist is not an easy job for even the best professionals!

            Teachers and psychologists should challenge officials to reveal what is their real agenda and if they are so concerned about education why are they firing so many librarians, psychologists, speech therapists and medical staff at schools? Why do educational officials persistently refuse to listen to the opinions of many teachers? For example, a representative of the Union Teacher, Leonid Perlov and many other educators have worked out many very practical proposals to improve the current educational system. Yet local educational officials stubbornly refuse to talk to them. If this is the case, then it is highly doubtful they would listen to the most competent educational psychologists. Evidently listening is not an art officials are accomplished in!

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