No to abuse, yes to discipline

WHY was the child hurt - was it done to teach and discipline, or was the teacher abusive?

Parents and society must consider this before calling for action to be taken against a teacher, said the National Union of the Teaching Profession’s (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan (pic).

“We don’t condone abuse and assault but before going to the authorities, parents should try to find an amicable solution with the teacher or school concerned. Don’t just react in anger and spite.”

With a code of ethics in place, the NUTP hopes that any wrongdoings by either teacher or student, can be resolved at the school level instead of in court.

“It’s in our DNA to love our students but we’re not angels either. Teachers, in disciplining obstinate, recalcitrant and often times incorrigible students, sometimes make emotional mistakes, but these do not warrant them losing their jobs.”Citing an example, he said a teacher who was charged in court for pinching a girl’s ear this year should have just been asked to apologise and pay for her medical fees.

“But I agree that in the case where a student was beaten with a shoe for talking in class, the teacher had gone overboard although he was trying to discipline the child. This is why we’re insisting that the Education Ministry comes out with a guideline on what teachers can do to instil discipline. Don’t just tell us what we cannot do,” he said, while reiterating the need for a review of Professional Circular No. 8.

Issued in 1983, the circular spells out the types of punishment which cannot be inflicted on students.

“Now, only caning for boys is allowed but if he was merely talking in class, is it fair to use the rod? If not, what else can we teachers do? We need new, more specific guidelines on permitted punishment methods which are compatible with the challenges faced by teachers.”

He said the NUTP is also engaging with parents of children with special needs and those who are physically-challenged.

“We’ve received complaints from teachers who have had to make police reports when the children were injured, fearing that they would be blamed for it,” he said, reminding parents that schools are not daycare centres.

Former teacher S. Sri Murugan, 44, said he left the profession after two decades, because it had gotten too frustrating.

Sharing how former colleagues had been verbally abused with vulgar words, he said teachers only have the NUTP to back them up.

“Yes, there are rules to follow, but we must have some leeway to discipline our charges. Parents used to have full confidence in us but now, the child is always right.

“We must not reach a point where teachers dread going to school because they are afraid to carry out their duties,” he said, adding that teachers have a duty to mould the child, most of whom spend more time in school than at home.

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