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School CP - September 2003
New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 7 September 2003
Tackling indiscipline woes in schools
Are our children turning into mobsters and hoodlums as events happening in some schools of late seem to suggest? SARBAN SINGH seeks the answers.
"CIKGU rotanlah anak saya kalau dia buat jahat, asalkan jangan sam-pai anggotanya patah atau cacat sudahlah." This was the classic one liner most parents used to utter when they checked their children into school, telling the teacher not to spare the rod if their children misbehaved as long as the punishment did not maim or cripple.
Despite this, it was rare to hear of children being brutally punished in school. Nor did the pupils fail the teachers.
There were occasions when the pupils were punished but did not dare report to their parents for fear that the parents would add to the punishment.
The message from teachers was simple. There weren't many rules but if you breached them, be prepared for punishment.
Raj still remembers the slap he got for being spotted outside the class during lessons without a pass.
Chai and Surinder were given a stroke each for being rowdy during the Pupils' Own Language (POL) period. Gerard had his shirt removed and was made to stand for 30 minutes at the assembly yard for failing to button up properly despite repeated warnings.
And there were those who had the ignominy of having their names in the hall of shame - punished by being caned during assembly for repeatedly playing truant or getting into fights.
Satha is one who was given a public stroke despite winning a gold medal in athletics for his school in a State-level meet just the day before.
All because the headmaster did not like the manner his friend drove the car, in which Satha was in, into the school compound.
"After heaping praise on me and being presented with the medal on that Monday, I was given the stroke.
"The principal said there should be no compromise when it comes to discipline and I believe that was a contributing factor to my success later in life," says Satha, who went on to become a national champion and is now a regional manager (human resources) for the Asia-Pacific of a multinational.
In short, there were no two ways when it came to discipline although Raj, Surinder and Gerard represented the school in cricket, hockey and football.
These were "the big" schools, the beacons of education in the State.
But like everything else, things change.
Raj's alma mater is hardly any power in sports today. Discipline has gone to the dogs. Parents no longer rush to register their children in the school Surinder and Weng Kong went to unless they have no choice.
These schools have become just like any other ordinary school today. However, this malaise is not confined to these few schools.
Only a fortnight ago we read of the exploits of students at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar as well as Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Ipoh. We had also read of similar episodes in many a school over the years, both residential and public.
Some may recall how a Form One pupil of Yu Hua Secondary School in Kajang slapped a teacher. All because of a wager with his classmates.
But are we really facing a crisis here? Not according to Education director-general Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat. Describing the situation as under control and not worrying, he says statistics show that cases of misconduct by students last year were fewer than that recorded in 2001.
It only seems to be out of control when blown up in the media, he says.
We have been reading of squabbles, albeit subtly, with parents blaming teachers and the administrators of education and vice versa.
Ask any teacher and he or she will tell you how they dread going to school as students have become so disrespectful and openly defy them.
They have become such a demoralised lot that quite a number opt for early retirement. Some go to the extent of likening their job to baby-sitting.
They hate it when parents insist that their children can commit no mischief and will conveniently blame the system if their child gets into trouble.
They cite parental neglect as the main cause of indiscipline in schools. When they seek their co-operation in matters of discipline or academic work, there is little or no proper response from parents.
Parents, in return, are quick to accuse teachers of incompetence and indolence.
Ask the students and they will sing a similar tune. Teachers are said to be no longer interested in teaching, were perennially absent and in some rare instances, were not sure whether what they imparted to the students was the gospel truth.
While they continue to rave and rant, students have graduated from committing mischief to getting involved in crime.
Previously indiscipline in schools encompassed unruly behaviour in class, truancy, theft, damaging school property, bullying, extortion, being rowdy and use of foul language.
Today they have graduated to getting into trouble with the police, sex romps, dadah, assaulting teachers, designer drug and dadah abuse, alcohol and substance abuse and involvement in triad activities.
Hillary Sta Maria, a serving headmaster, says parents often compromised on rules with their children at home.
"Something which is wrong in school is allowed at home.
"This only confuses the child and he will then rebel," he says.
Sta Maria hopes the Sekolah Angkat programme will be reviewed so that the police would be more proactive in helping schools with their programmes to educate students on the ills of indiscipline.
Another retired headmaster Chor Swee Meng says previously, many of those involved in misconduct were students who did not fare well in the Sijil Rendah Pelajaran examination. He says they comprised about 35 per cent of all students.
"Those who did not do well were sent to the vocational schools to allow them to learn some skill and to enable them to earn a living in future.
"This would interest them and the likelihood of them being involved in undesirable activities was minimised," he says.
However, today, all students, whether they were academically inclined or otherwise are passed and go on to Form Four.
The majority of students who violate the rules come from this group, he says, although there are also a handful of intelligent ones who occasionally meddle with the rules.
© New Straits Times (M) Berhad
The Star, Kuala Lumpur, 21 September 2003
Woes of a discipline master
By Mallika Vasugi
WE hadn't seen Mr Xavier for a long time and were pleasantly surprised to bump into him at the local supermarket.
"Hey, Mr Xavier," hailed Carol cheerfully, "haven't seen you in ages."
"Five years," resounded Lily, "since your transfer. You bad boy - you never kept in touch!"
"Ah, he must be a big shot by now, aren't you, Mr Xavier?" Carol gave him a coy glance. "P.K.1? HEM at least? Where got time for us ordinary people?"
Mr Xavier looked a little bit dazed by all the attention he was receiving. He looked up from his full trolley and gave us a perfunctory nod of recognition. Then he raised a finger to his lips and cautioned, "Shhh? not so loud." He looked furtively behind him and said, "At the cafeteria, 10 minutes' time. Make sure you are not followed," and he disappeared behind the instant coffee display.
"Oh my God!" said Carol. "You don't think he's done anything wrong, do you? really wrong?"
"A fugitive teacher," whispered Sue excitedly. "Teacher on the run."
"Don't be absurd," said Lily. "We would have heard all about it by now. Remember teachers' misdeeds are always top news items. But he has changed hasn't he? He's like a drooping shadow of his former self."
We settled ourselves comfortably in a corner of the cafeteria and had almost forgotten about Mr Xavier when he suddenly appeared so stealthily that Carol almost dropped her curry puff into her cup of tea.
"Really, Mr Xavier," she scolded, "you shouldn't go round sneaking up on people like that."
Mr Xavier apologised and pulled up a chair beside us.
"Tea, no," he shook his head. "I gave up tea and coffee years ago. Bad for my nerves. Milo satu," he said to the passing waiter and turned to us with a woeful look on his face.
"Don't ever ..." he began hesitatingly. "Whatever other duty is given to you in school, don't ever," he shuddered, "don't ever agree to take on the discipline master's job."
He paused, sighed and continued. "You are all my friends. That's why I'm telling you this. You know how I was years ago, before my transfer. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and can't believe how much I have changed. I look old enough to be my own grandfather." He smiled bitterly as Carol and Sue tut-tutted.
We remembered Mr Xavier as he had been five years ago. Youthful, although he was already in his 40s, with an exuberance and enthusiasm for teaching that made him one of the most popular teachers in the school.
Then he applied for a transfer to a school nearer his home where he was appointed the discipline master - an unenviable position considering the fact that the school was located in a notorious "gangster" area. We had heard nothing from him the past five years and had assumed that he was as thoroughly occupied with teaching duties as we were.
"You people read the papers? More and more stuff written about lack of discipline in schools. Pupils beating each other up, threatening teachers, starting fires. Teachers sued for slapping students ... Just the tip of the iceberg, all these," he said, wagging his finger at us.
"An infinitesimal tip. Let me tell you something. My own personal, unsolicited and probably biased opinion. The day they set up all these restrictions on punishment - no more public caning, no more sharp raps on knuckles and such - that was the day our discipline started deteriorating. Do you remember how it was with us when we were pupils ourselves? Would any of us have even dared to be rude to our teachers? Four of the best we would receive in the headmaster's room and out we came with a sore bottom and chastised heart.
"Strangely, you know we never felt any animosity against the teacher who'd reported us or meted out the punishment. We knew we were wrong. But look at the state of students now. Foul words just bounce off their tongues. Complete disregard of school rules and utter disrespect for teachers. So what do we do? Issue warning letters. You know, amaran pertama, kedua ... Then we finally suspend him. After one week he's back, worse than ever with a new vengeance in his heart towards the school.
"Counselling, they tell us. We have to use psychology, they tell us. Look into their background, they say, and find out the root cause for their deviant behaviour. So tell me something. Are we paid to teach or become full time analysis experts-cum-babysitters in the school?
"What ever happened to the role of parents? How would they feel if they had their cars scratched several times a year? How would they like to pay thousands of ringgit to spray and re-spray their cars just because they had acted as disciplinarians? How would they like to receive threatening notes or have their names publicly abused?
"Seems to me nowadays pupils can get away with anything short of murder. Maybe even murder in the future. Who knows? Don't ask me. I'm no authority on all this. But why bother having rules in the first place if they're not upheld together with the punishment system? It seems like such a mockery doesn't it? And what about the other students, the good ones? Don't they have a right to some sort of security within the school walls?"
Mr Xavier's voice had become a little shaky. "Parents are too busy making money these days. Like someone once said - all expenses are paid at their children's expense. Sometimes I wonder how much kids really need designer clothes and fancy handphones. Life was simpler those days, wasn't it? And not so many discipline problems. I wonder where it is that we've gone wrong."
I think we were all rather gripped with a feeling of unexplainable melancholia.
"Bye, Mr Xavier," said Carol as we stood up to leave.
"You know," said Lily turning to me suddenly, "for the first time I'm actually waiting for the day I can retire from teaching."
© 1995-2002 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)
Utusan Express, Kuala Lumpur, 25 September 2003
Eight errant students can sit for SPM exam
JOHOR BAHRU Sept 24 - The eight Sekolah Menengah Teknik Batu Pahat students who allegedly assaulted a schoolmate last month will be allowed to sit for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination pending further action.
State Education Manpower, Youth, Sports and Culture Committee chairman Ahmad Zahri Jamil said the state education department was arranging to transfer them to other schools so that they could sit for the examination following appeals from their families.
Replying to a supplementary question from Osman Sapian (BN-Kempas), he said the term gangsterism should not apply to this case because to him, there was no gangsterism among students like in cases involving adults, only extreme mischievousness.
In the incident on Aug 10, the student was beaten by the school football team allegedly over jealousy over a girl in the same class.
Ahmad Zahri said statistics from the state education department showed that disciplinary action was taken against 6,289 students in the state up to middle of this month, which was only 1.014 percent of the total school enrolment of 620,000 in Johor.
Of this, 1,200 was given advice and 2,906, warnings for small offences.
A total of 1,264 students received caning of one stroke, 416 two strokes and 201 three strokes, he said, adding that for more serious offences 258 students were suspended and 34 expelled.
Two students in residential schools were suspended and eight expelled from their hostels, he added.
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