28 December 2010

School Probes Are Unfair

This is a comment written by Mr. Liong Kam Chong, a former colleague when we were together as PKs in our respective SMK in Negeri Sembilan during the middle of 90s. He had served as the head of the education resource and technology unit at the NS education department before he left to do a master at a local university. He was promoted as a PK in a SMK in Seremban district upon his return from his study and barely a year or two later we lost touch as he was promoted as a principal to a reputable secondary school in Seremban town till his retirement a few years back and I left to attend a one-year headship course at IAB, Genting Highlands
(because we used to meet during our regular sessions of official meetings as PKs). Mr. Liong was the brain behind a state education department program in formulating school time table using a computer software program adopted from Singapore. Indeed I have benefited a lot from this program in which my rural school was among the earliest has used the software to build and formulate my school time table and in many of my daily school administration works. In fact he has unselfishly took the trouble and his time to coach me step by step, the first time, in building the time table.

I notice Mr. Liong is a regular contributor of comments and suggestions on education issues to the two of our main English dailies after his retirement, namely the New Straits Times and The Star. He has given many insightful, logical, out of the box, practical, etc. comments or suggestions through the dailies which I believe the education authority has taken note some of his comments and suggestions. Prior to this I have posted one his comments in this blog and I would like to add in his latest comment and suggestion regarding school rules and regulations in relation to discipline matters in schools for us to ponder. The comment was published in The Star, Tuesday, 28 December 2010, page N45, VIEWS.

Schools have rules and regulations to help prevent, contain, control and curb indiscipline among their students. Yet, students disciplinary problems continue to hound school authorities, district education offices (DEO), state education departments (SED) and the Education Ministry.

Every now and then, "shocking" cases of student indiscipline are revealed. It is also believed that many other cases are covered up. We are right to ask: "Has the handling of discipline cases by the schools thus far been effective and efficient?"

Perhaps the following concerns merit consideration. Every time an indiscipline case in school surface, we will hear of the Education Ministry asking for a report from the SED which in turn will direct the DEO to prepare the report. The DEO in turn asks the school to submit a report.

So, it is the school head who will finally write the report which is then "posted" upwards. The DEO may send an official to visit the school to hear out the headmaster and the parties concerned. But, it is the report from the school head that is final and official.

This practice raises an interesting question: Can we really believe that a school head would compose a report that is detrimental to his/her own position as head and may also hurt the image of his/her school?

Granted that a head is honest enough to give all the facts revolving around an indiscipline case, the causes and consequences of the case are subjective and can be "manipulated" to the advantage of the school authorities. And that is the report that will reach all the way to the top. No wonder, then, that in most indiscipline cases, the school is usually absolved of any wrong doing.

I think that all schools should have an ad hoc panel comprising representatives, such as from the school's PTA, the alumni association, police personnel, an official from the DEO and representative from the school office. This panel should be responsible for investigating and reporting on all indiscipline cases. Such panels will give school heads a new perspective in solving school disciplinary problems.

Also, we often hear that the number of students involved in indiscipline cases is only a minor proportion of the total number of students. Similarly, the percentage of schools involved is minimal compared with the total number of schools. These statistics are often misused to paint a rosy picture of indiscipline in schools.

The former director-general of education, Tan Sri Dr. Wan Zahid Mohammad, advocated "zero-defect" when he helmed the ministry. Perhaps our schools, DEOs and SEDs should heed this advice.

Schools, DEOs and SEDs are also quick to declare that a particular case is resolved and the file closed. It is this attitude that breeds and condones negligence and the accommodative "live and let live" attitude.

Let the New Year bring a fresh and bold approach to school discipline by all concerned stakeholders.


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