THERE are varying opinions about the methods of disciplining children in schools in this country.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid has said that school heads are allowed to delegate the tasks of disciplining children, including caning, to a teacher if the need arises. However, a child therapist has urged teachers to look at other ways and without corporal punishment. Even parents have differing opinions on this matter.
When nothing is seen as the best option, the matter is pushed to the school again, and it’s the teachers who would have to bear the burden.
Let’s look at where teachers are trained, the Teacher Training Institute or Institut Pendidikan Guru. Some would ask whether a classroom management programme would fit the curriculum.
Though it is emphasised that teacher trainees need to be equipped with practical skills in handling a classroom, it is how good they can manage their class that counts. Let’s pray they can do this with the little exposure or experience they have.
Studies show that children learn best in an orderly and engaging environment, and respond to discipline in different ways.
Students with disciplinary problems are identified as an unproductive group with low-level disruptive, disengaged or aggressive and anti-social behaviours. Low-level disruptive and disengaged behaviour is the most common problem that has been identified among students.
Most teachers rely on intervention strategies to curb unproductive behaviour, with some using a threatened penalty to deter students from disrupting the learning environment.
Since corporal punishment, including caning, is now seen as inappropriate to correct disruptive behaviours, what is the best solution?
Many psychologists, counsellors and therapists prefer the step-by-step approach, which begins with a warning followed by in-class time-out, out-of-class time-out and being sent to a school leader before suspension and expulsion.
The approach involves isolating the disruptive students from their peers and removing them from their learning environment. It does seem sensible as it allows the teacher to continue to teach and the other students to learn.
However, the “offending” student who was removed from the classroom might find it hard to get back into learning after missing school for a while.
Educators seem to understand that removing students from school does not generally work. Truth be told, the disciplinary problems seem to intensify after some time.
Changing the physical condition, curriculum and resources, and the teaching strategy could help to keep students engaged and interested in learning. Teachers should try teaching critical thinking, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills that would help students learn to handle difficult situations.
Most teachers will face low-level problematic and disengaged behaviour in the classroom so it is critical that they learn the skills to handle this during their training.
Teachers should not focus on students with good behaviour only. Instead, they should look at creating and maintaining a supportive and safe learning environment for every student in their classroom.
There will never be one standard approach that can be used across the board to address disciplinary problems among students. But with the appropriate training programmes, teachers could have the skills to manage such problems effectively in their specific environments.