Monday, August 4, 2008

Discipline and teachers

One aspect of the Chinese school system that makes it 'better' so to speak is that discipline is given emphasis. On the other hand, when the teachers do not act responsibly and intelligently as educators in this aspect, much is left to be desired.

I've heard quite a number of stories where children are punished, caned, ridiculed, belittled because they were just being children, unaware of their mistakes or simply not able to cope as well as others with the demands of schoolwork. Without proper balance at school and home, the discipline Chinese schools enforce on children will turn them either into 'robots' or kids with low self-esteem and lacking in confidence to speak their minds.

Today, I read about yet another case in my morning daily's letter-to-editor:

Wrong way to punish pupils

My son studies at a Chinese primary school in Cheras. Two pupils, one a Malay girl, have been punished by their class teacher and made to sit on the floor for months, while the others look on, some laughing, but many more feeling sorry for them, my son being one of these.

To punish pupils to this extent for so-called laziness is not right as there are many reasons why a pupil might not be able to complete his homework on time. Perhaps he is unable to keep up with his peers and has no one to guide him at home.

I don’t know whether asking students of a primary school to sit on the floor for months is the only way to punish them for failing to complete their homework, but I am very sure that it will affect their confidence, self-esteem, self-respect and dignity after being laughed at or being the object of sympathy.

In this context, I think the school has failed to maintain the basic right of every child to self-respect and dignity.

After a copy of a letter of complaint on the matter to the Public Complaints Bureau was given to the headmaster of the school, the girl was on the same day, granted a chair to sit on, permanently or temporarily, I do not know; but the boy continues to sit on the floor.

This is the attitude and stand of the school even after a parent steps in to complain.

I have done my part and my best as a parent to lodge a complaint after my son told me about the experience of his peers, his eyes brimming with tears.

On behalf of my son

The Sun, 4 Aug 2008

While this and other cases could be out of the norm as some may claim, I believe it is an issue that requires serious scrutiny. Yes, there are children who have graduated from Chinese schools with flying colours to become great leaders in business, politics and academia, with the additional advantage of the Mandarin language, and probably without having been affected much psychologically from the strict discipline. But what about those that don't although they could have thanks to the 'bad' teachers? Is one child less important than another?

Having said this about Chinese schools, I am not saying that Kebangsaan or private schools are any better in this aspect. I know of a child in a renowned private school whose face was vandalised by the teacher with permanent marker pen just because he was an intelligent seven-year-old who could have been a little more precocious than others.

And when I was in Standard Three back in the late 1970s, our class teacher was one who did not spare the rod, whacking some of us 9-year-olds on the back with the long, thick wooden ruler used for drawing lines on the chalkboard, the chalk duster, and the feather duster if we couldn't answer correctly. I had my share of slaps on the cheek simply for being the first one to submit my finished work to her. And one girl was violently pushed against the wall, her head knocking the wall with a loud bang and falling to the floor because she was 'stupid'. And one, day, just because we were noisy, she did not let us out for recess, resulting in a few kids getting stomach aches/gastritis. A number of our parents complained to the headmistress about this teacher and it was only the following year's Standard Three pupils that were spared from such torture by this teacher, who continued to teach there till she retired...Till today, these images are still clear in my mind.

So back to my dilemma about which school to send Caitlin to....

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