‘Better to educate than punish’

Jonathan: Discipline among our students is best nurtured through guidance and empowerment.

A VIDEO of a student criticising the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) History paper recently went viral.

While most netizens agreed that the profanity-laced video was uncalled for, the subsequent developments divided opinions far and wide.

In response to a police report lodged by a teacher, two schoolboys were arrested on Feb 25. They were investigated under Section 14 of the Minor Offences Act and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Although police had obtained a two-day remand order, the students were given an early release on police bail. They later uploaded a video apologising for their outburst in the initial video, which has since been removed.

Hulu Selangor district police chief Supt Suffian Abdullah said on Feb 26 that the investigation paper would be completed and referred to the Selangor Deputy Public Prosecutor.

From raiding their homes, seizing their phones and subjecting them to a drug test to arresting them, the treatment of the police towards the students was shocking, to say the least.

Imagine the trauma the boys must have experienced, at a time when they still had a few more exam papers to sit for.

It is also worth noting that among the reasons the investigation was launched was that the video was deemed to have insulted a neighbouring country.

I find this puzzling as I believe no country would take another to task for words uttered by a teenage student.

Instead of lodging a police report, the teacher could have handled the issue internally by involving school counsellors and authorities, as well as parents.

The students should be taught to behave courteously and express dissatisfaction respectfully. These are all values that can be imparted by schoolteachers. Schools also have a range of disciplinary measures in place, a further reason why there was no need for the police to be involved in the first place.

This incident also highlights several problems that we can pay attention to.

Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act has been a contentious issue. In essence, it stipulates that sharing offensive, false and menacing content is an offence punishable by law.

But who is to decide if something is “offensive” or “menacing”?

As rightly pointed out by many netizens, this debacle would not have transpired if the video had not gone viral.

While there is personal responsibility in posting materials online, it is nevertheless chilling to see the law being used on youths.What the students received was disproportionate to the offence. It is also disappointing to see that politicians can make racially-charged statements that threaten the very fabric of our community only to have mere investigations launched, while the youths were arrested swiftly.

Besides that, the SPM History paper has also been a subject of contention for years, with one of the main criticisms being that it encourages rote learning.

Perhaps it is time to reexamine how the subject is taught. If done holistically, I am sure students would not utter inaccurate statements as seen in the viral video.

History, when taught properly, should stimulate objective and critical opinions.

Whatever one’s stance is on the content of the video, I believe we can all agree that discipline among our students is best nurtured through guidance and empowerment. After all, it is always better to educate than punish.

Jonathan, 21, a Malaysian student in the United Kingdom, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. For more information, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

Now that you have read the article, test your understanding by carrying out the following English language activities.

1 How do you think the student in the viral video could have expressed his dissatisfaction with the exam paper, instead of uploading a post filled with abusive language online? Discuss with your activity partner.

2 Do you always agree with your friends’ behaviour? Or have you stepped in to discourage or dissuade a friend from a certain bad behaviour? Share your experience with your partner. How did you go about it? What was the outcome of your “intervention”?

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email starnie@thestar.com.my.

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