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Pulling top leaves of the weed, leaving roots untouched

President, Education Commission,
Mouvement Patriotique

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The very idea of conducting a workshop on School Indiscipline is a laudable initiative in that it finally acknowledges the existence of a problem which has long acquired a loud national resonance and vexed the entire nation. Until recently, the problem of school indiscipline was wrapped in a veil of secrecy, worthy to be uttered only in whispers and hushed tones lest it adversely impacts the reputation of the school. The above initiative on the part of Rectors is likely to arouse the interest of well-meaning individuals and institutions.

The Mouvement Patriotique, judging the problem of school indiscipline sufficiently alarming and its likelihood to spin irretrievably beyond control, held several discussion sessions on the issue internally. The Party is of the view that:

1.Indiscipline at school is a multi-faceted phenomenon with regard to its manifestations and causes, its meanings and functions in the social, pedagogical and emotional fields. Since there is a multiplicity of factors, both from inside and outside of the school, that coagulate to feed the decline, any attempt to a solution based exclusively on internal school housekeeping policies would amount to merely pulling the top leaves of the weed without getting to the roots. Corrective measures should logically be rooted in an analysis of all factors that provoke the rot, not the least being schools in socially-deprived regions which, instead of being ‘agents of change’, end up absorbing the mores, mindset and low aspiration level of the locality.

2.School indiscipline has multiple progressive layers e.g.,
a) disturbance in classroom
b) conflicts with peers
c) conflicts within teacher-student relationship
d) students eventually develop a pack mentality by acting in groups, with body language, words and expressions immersed in screeching vulgarity, as well as an assortment of other unpalatable possibilities.

3.The school atmosphere, starting from pre-primary onwards, needs to be an inviting, pleasant and safe place, with a right balance between rehabilitating a misbehaving student and upholding a high standard of discipline, with self-discipline and self-confidence being the two key indicators of future success.
In that context, each school needs to have a:

4.Student Wellness Committee to be chaired by the institutional head, and comprising selected members of staff, PTA and other co-opted members from the locality. The purposes of the Committee are to:
a) devise strategies to render the school a more pleasant and agreeable place.
b) deal with stress-related problems, and guide students, parents and teachers to lessen students’ stress through counselling and guidance.
c) provide a written Code of Conduct for the particular school: maintenance of orderly behaviour for staff, students, parents, and vendors.
d) review multi-hazard safety plan, crisis intervention, first-aid personnel, etc.
e) establish and foster healthy school-community relations.
f) inculcate ethical values through various student activities to be regularly performed during morning assemblies.
The ideal person to coordinate the above activities is the soon-to-be recruited Welfare Officer (though a Student Welfare and Ethics Coordinator) would be a more appropriate appellation given the multiple responsibilities involved and the crying need for ethical behaviour).
The Student Welfare Committee will be expected to function in close collaboration with the proposed:

5.Ecole des Parents, the purposes of which are to:
a) involve parents more closely with the transactions of the school in order to improve the school climate for more meaningful learning and academic achievements.
b) help parents with the necessary knowledge and skills to deal with their children and create a more conducive home atmosphere, through workshops, talks, etc.

6.Have a Standing Discipline Committee in each school since today’s school landscape and student profiles have changed beyond recognition. Schools should be given the legal right to impose reasonable sanctions that conjugate reasonably with today’s education tenet which calls essentially for a restorative practice for overall school improvement.
In that respect, the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children should belie the general prevailing perception of being an over-pampering agency, and should adopt a less partisan approach by inculcating rights as well as responsibilities in students.

7.School Management and Teaching Staff: Responsibility and Accountability
For good school management and effective teaching, good conditions are as crucial as good ideas, good heads of school, good educators and good recruitment procedures — all peppered with strong doses of responsibility and accountability.

8.The contributions of Government towards school indiscipline is another aspect that prevents schools from functioning swimmingly when educational institutions are denied essential facilities and tools, e.g, gymnasium, proper library and inculcation of reading culture, manageable class size for better class discipline, more emphasis on regular classwork than on final exam results as well as the simultaneous permanent posting of a Rector, Deputy Rector, Senior Educator in each school.

9.Hold Regular Structured Workshops during vacations at Zone level by school personnel to reflect on school indiscipline, a safe and caring school, proper academic engagement and on-task behaviour, followed by concrete recommendations and follow-up actions. These should become a regular feature of our education landscape.

10.Conduct an objective evaluation of the sense of professionalism of Heads of school and Educators at all levels, which has become an urgent need.
In any education system where success is defined as the avoidance of failure, there is risk of aspirations being set too low. In a world where competitions among nations rest essentially on competitions among education systems, the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing!

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