|Saturday, 8 November 2003|
Indiscipline in schools - National and international
Sri Lankans have learned to tolerate patiently the breakdown in law and order, corruption and inefficiency in the public services, and politicization, and patronage in all sectors. Now they have to add to these woes that affect them indiscipline among students, be they undergraduates or students in national and to a relatively lesser extent in international schools.
The breakdown of discipline, unruly discourteous behaviour, unbecoming among students, and reckless awful conduct are deplorable.
The newspapers constantly carry records of misbehaviour in universities, in some national and in a few international schools, most of which rarely house an international student but have proliferated like mushrooms after rain. If the educationist whose primary obligation it is, the political leader whose responsibility it is, and civil society whose concern it is, are to ignore anymore this malaise or malady they will soon have to, rue their negligent conduct, and callous indifference towards schools, and their functioning.
Discipline should be inculcated and firmly instilled when children are young and growing into their formative years. This need not be executed with a cane but more with counselling about the value of good behaviour and the discredit which unethical and unruly conduct could bring upon one. But now some parents believe that their offspring are born with inalienable good qualities and such parents are blind to the beam in one's child's eye but see only the mote in another's child's eye. In international schools a few parents consider their junior "prodigies" as cherubic, and angelic and whatever may be their fault blame it only on others.
To such parents of children who be they in national, and more so in few international schools, children need only to be petted and pampered.
These spoilt children in national and international institutions of education expect, and so do their parents too expect, that their offspring have to be partially treated as superior products. Teachers and the school Principal and deputy are required to handle these children as belonging to a caste apart and sheer indulgence alone is demanded to be extended to them despite their delinquent conduct and behaviour.
It is disappointing and annoying to others in an international or national school to observe these sort of scamps together, congregate, and boisterously behave keeping aloof and away from their relatively poorer peers in a distinctively disturbing deplorable manner.
Their conversations are often shallow superfluous and focus on scandalous entertainments of dubious moral value that their money had helped them to enjoy. It is a few ill brought up students in international and national educational institutions that has led to provoke the commission of mischief and disorderly behaviour in an otherwise wholesome healthy establishment. The few misfits lower standards of conduct.
Parents instead of upbraiding and correcting their mischief making young products misguidedly stand up for them and mistakenly and irregularly blame the teachers and criticize the Principal, Deputy or Assistant. Consequently the teaching staff, both in national or international institutions get fed up, apathetic and demoralized as much as the Principal or Deputy. Yielding to children's misconduct and gratifying them in the years when they do not appreciate adequately right from wrong make them deteriorate into incorrigible students as scourge to either a national or international college.
The irreparably naughty few in national and international education establishments lie and absent themselves from classes to attend matches, embark on picnics so as to consort with one another of the different sexes, visit the cinema when an adults only film is screened, and engage in unseemly camaraderie, unconventional conversation in expensive, almost exclusive clubs, and eating places of poor repute.
Both the parents and school authorities are then bamboozled. If they are detected in these clandestine activities and firmly counselled they create uproar in school and insult the Staff, Principal or Assistant aided by parents who tenaciously persist in believing that their children are of an impeccably innocent type. Such parental delusions end up in breeding the irremediable spoilt child. Such children mollycoddled by misguided parents end up, if ever they do, in educational or occupational levels as the scum of the earth in their behaviour.
Sadly and unpardonably, the Manager or Directors of a few of these schools, especially international ones, are misled by a few parents and do nothing to improve conditions except to blame the Principal or Assistant.
The affluent parents of children believe that as money can make the mare go so will their wealth intimidate principals, assistants and staff, and they successfully cheat the management with mendacity. These rich parents want the infractions of their spoilt children, in international or other schools, ignored. They come to argue on behalf of their mischievous kids.
If staff, principal or assistants do not entertain them during school time they inform directors and managers who wrongly think the principal and staff had erred. No self respecting, dedicated principal or staff members can tolerate disturbance by a few marauding parents who assume that the school belongs to them since they pay fees. Lucre alone cannot buy an honest staff or principal. A few may yield to temptations and fault.
Moreover, directors, fail to realise that a duty conscious, faithful principal or staff member could not tolerate parents walking in and out of school causing disturbance to the complex. No good school, international or national, can allow people to come in as into a fair or market. Certainly by appointment after school hours parents are welcome and their representations if fair or true can be accommodated and should be entertained. It is strange that a principal of an educational institution engrossed in work can spare time to meet parents straying in at odd hours of work into a school, national or international. Money can buy some things but not all, it can enable entry into some places but not into all. Nevertheless, arrogant, self esteeming parents gatecrash without any prior notice to solicit or even demand, favoured treatment and pandering to their ill-bred brats; happily a very few in an national or international school.
It is common knowledge that no principal of a school never ever abandons a class or even other duties to answer stampeding, "pushing through" parents and no decent parent breaks into a school or class without seeking earlier an appointment.
In a few of the leading international schools and national establishments such rude entry of parents and their interruptions of work is not tolerated at all; gates remain closed generally against intervention and their disruption of regular school work by boisterous or rough parents pandering to their children's irrational request to be singled out for special attention or treatment. In decent national or international institutes egalitarian and equal treatment of all students usually prevails devoid of any discrimination. Good directors or management know this axiomatic verity too well, and do not expect principal, assistants and staff to circumvent or act in violation of long tested healthy practices in administering schools and teaching. Sadly some directors are unaware of this: they have to learn.
At present more than schools parents at home have to do much to educate their offspring, and participate in tutelage, and above all in building children's conduct. False value have to be rid from students; affluence can corrupt as easily as it could improve one.
A child spends about six hours daily in five days at a school and about nine month roughly during three terms. Vacations and holidays in between may consume about three months in a year.
The rest of the time and days, which amount to a large and substantial quantity is spent in homes or so, one believes! Hence, it behoves good parents to maintain surveillance over a child's learning, guide and counsel a child, and interact intellectually with the child.
These responsibilities do not rob a parent of much time but call for continuous concern and attention which in turn encourage the child and furnishes an incentive and a sense of challenge to children to confront and succeed. Parents thus do something certainly more useful than pestering principals, assistants and teachers in international and national schools. Even directors and managers cannot disagree with this contention if they want the institutions to make a mark. But it is not easy to discern the truth, learn and abide by it even for a management or parents.
The days of memorising or being spoon fed have gone by in teaching; dictating notes by teachers and imbibing them and disgorging them by students too are no more advocated in schools. Education is now more meant to lead and to train so that students exercise their curiosity, initiative, skill and enterprise to strive, seek and find out what is relevant and required.
The students have to learn, learn among themselves, and from the teacher, and from parents. The latter therefore should be more responsible than ever to teach politeness, manners, culture, and discipline to a greater extent to their offspring. A school national or international, cannot easily and always single out and specially concentrate on individuals, but they can help out children to an extent after school hours.
To depend on tuition, is however unhealthy and no decent school advocates recourse to tuition but some parents may swear by this unhealthy habit that inhibits learning through one's own endeavours and interest. The collapse of discipline begins in schools, some national and a few international institutions, and reaches upwards like a palm tree to hurt university education, and the public and private sector.
- Prof. Bertram Bastiampillai
Produced by Lake House