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rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  2007   :  MY Schools Mar 2007


CP - March 2007

Corpun file 19033


New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 11 March 2007


War on indiscipline in schools intensifies

Student misbehaviour has become a complex issue requiring urgent solutions. CHOK SUAT LING studies what's on the drawing board.


Some schools have a high-tech way of keeping students in line: They spy on them. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras monitor and record everything in the classrooms, canteens and entrances. With such intense scrutiny, they expect better behaviour from students. SMK Kolombong in Inanam, Sabah believes in the effectiveness of such surveillance. It is one of a handful of schools around the country that uses electronic means to check indiscipline and thuggery among students. At SMK Kolombong, the CCTVs were installed with funds raised by the parent-teacher association (PTA). The school hopes to curb fighting in class, littering and truancy, and has reported a positive outcome.


Last year, 3,358 juveniles were charged in courts nationwide for various offences under the Penal Code. One recent case was that of 16-year-old Matheus Mering, who died after being assaulted by seniors on Jan 27. Another case last month involved Sekolah Menengah Teknik Gerik students. Several Fifth Formers beat up a new student over a set of missing room keys.

Many measures have been proposed and enforced. Campaigns, road shows and spot checks have been organised; hotlines and crime prevention clubs introduced; and the Moral Studies curriculum revised. There have been threats of expulsion, caning and jail; the police have been brought in to assist in student monitoring; and the number of school counsellors increased.

But there has been little impact. The ministry recently decided to focus on the parents. This "softer" approach since late last year has been teaching parents and guardians parenting skills via seminars, tear-jerker-style movies and advertisements. The campaign only began a couple of months ago but educationists are hopeful about the long-term results.

There is something else in the pipeline. School regulations related to student discipline have been updated and a booklet of the new version will be distributed to all schools soon. Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim explains that the revision is based on feedback gleaned from various sources, including other ministries, parents and associations. Some of the suggestions came from the ministry's disciplinary hotline.

"We included all that we found feasible. For instance, the earlier regulations did not state whether we could take back students who were suspended. The new version expressly stipulates that such students cannot return to school. We do not want them to influence other students."

Adds Hon: "The updated regulations also state clearly that caning should only be carried out by the headmaster with one witness. It details the proper procedure for caning. Public caning is forbidden.

"The regulations cover discipline from all aspects and underscore the need for student discipline to be an important part of the schooling agenda."

According to Hon, a special committee has been established to implement a new programme called 3K, which aims to ensure safety, health and cleanliness in all schools. "Under 3K, schools need to be proactive to ensure that gangsterism, loafing or lepak and other negative activities do not permeate the school."

He believes that one essential responsibility of schools is to create and develop a safe environment free from violence and crime. "There should be no room for situations to develop which could cause fear in children or harm them. Schools have an obligation to take the necessary steps to stem and contain all forms of misbehaviour."


© Copyright 2007 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 19006


New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 14 March 2007

Letters: School discipline

Better to use cane than to churn out rotten adults

By Scott Thong Yu Yuen


M.A. Nair of Bandar Muadzam Shah "Win their hearts and minds" -- (NST March 9) seems to assume that when teachers lose their temper and resort to "physical outrage", it is because they "lack self-control" and have "unexpressed anger". He also feels that "with emotional maturity, teachers would be more sympathetic".

Generally, he makes it sound like teachers "torment" their students as the first resort, that teachers have an easy job and shouldn't be "easily irritated". That teachers shouldn't act like tyrants towards their students. But in my opinion, it is actually the other way around.

Does the writer have any experience in handling children? It is one thing to criticise teachers in general for not "empathising" with the students. It is another thing entirely to actually try and take charge of a class of 40 shouting, misbehaving children.

I know many teachers who struggle with their students every day. They genuinely want to help their charges study. They are sympathetic and patiently try to communicate with the students to motivate them. However, it doesn't always work.

Many students seem to have given up on studying. Then, there are other students who drag the entire class down to their level of apathy and chaos. They scream, shout, play, pout, sleep, and fight. Anything but sit down and learn. I have taught tuition classes with such raucous students, and it is not easy.


I therefore suggest that all opinion-givers and policy-makers spend a week teaching in a school before they air their conclusions. Walk the walk, then you can talk the talk.

I do not condone physical or verbal abuse of students. I simply wish to bring attention to the dilemma faced by school teachers today.

If we want teachers to do a good job of guiding the young, then at least let us equip them with the necessary means.

I am personally in favour of careful corporal punishment, meted out according to strict guidelines. I was a naughty child, and yes, I had to be threatened to study. I am today grateful for the physical disciplining I received. I may have disliked it then, but I would far more dislike turning out to be a brat, a juvenile delinquent and a rotten adult.

© Copyright 2007 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights reserved.

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