Argentina [Figure 1] is the southernmost country in South America. It encompasses a variety of climates and the density of the population varies across regions of the country. In 1999, the total population was 38 million living in 24 different provinces (Aisenson, et. al., 1999). Argentines are known for their pride in their country and its culture. The culture has been influenced by the history and traditions of its citizens who have cultural ties to many countries in Europe as well as Russia and the Middle East. The country is predominantly Catholic (93 per cent) and ties to family are strongly valued (CareerJournal, 2002).
Counseling, Psychology and Vocational Guidance
Those trained in psychology are seen as the providers of counseling and therapy in Argentina. From the 1960s, counseling services and psychology training was offered in national universities. At an international symposium on career development and public policy, Aisenson and her colleagues (1999) gave a detailed presentation relating the delivery of career development services in educational and health settings. She also defined vocational guidance in Argentina as, "psychological and education resources to help people through transitions and changes throughout their lives, and to develop and review training and job-related projects and strategies useful to acquire new competencies and career development" (page 74). In 1999 free guidance and career services were available to the public through schools, universities, hospitals and government agencies but Argentina did not have an integrated national counseling system.
Schooling in Argentina is guaranteed for students 5-15 years of age under a federal education act passed in 1993. However, Argentina sees education of its youth as also the responsibility of parents, government at all levels, the Catholic Church and other religious and social organizations. School is available at four levels. An initial level is for 3-5 year olds, with the last year compulsory and similar to our kindergarten. The next level is organized into three, three-year cycles and completes the rest of the mandated education. There is an option for young people up to age 17 to continue in a program oriented toward employment, with options for knowledge and skills development in many production and technical and consumer areas. Higher education occurs in non-university schools prepare teachers for the levels just described. University programs that offer a wide variety of majors and tuition at public universities is free. According to Aisenson (1999), there are 35 public and 40 private universities and other institutes. Graduate degrees and adult education courses are similar to programs in the United States.
Guidance Services, Training and Preparation for Work
Some guidance and training services are offered at all levels of education and the structure of services is similar in some ways to what we find in other Latin American countries like Mexico and Chile. At the school level serving children 6-17, the government mandates vocational, academic and occupational counseling but when a counselor is hired they often have training in psychology or educational psychology with little direct training in vocational guidance or career development. Often teachers or professors provide tutoring on skills needed to get jobs and provide knowledge of the types of jobs available, often with some minimal training offered in course beyond the teacher-training program. Aisenson, et al. (1999) report that the public universities have the most organized vocational guidance services and help young students choose careers, select postgraduate training and identify job possibilities. There are some vocational guidance programs in mental health centers. Counselors in private practice offer counseling to individuals but this fee-based service is accessed by limited clientele in upper income brackets. …