- Audrey Vijaindren, NST
Malaysians' waning respect for educators?
RECENTLY, the Nibong Tebal magistrate’s court in Penang sentenced a mother of three to six months’ jail and fined her RM2,000 for causing hurt.
The mother slapped a Bahasa Malaysia teacher at a school in Seberang Prai Selatan in 2015 after learning that the teacher had pinched her 10-year-old son for being slow in class.
In the same year, a disciplinary teacher in Sibu, Sarawak, was assaulted by a student, who was angry for being reprimanded during school assembly.
In March last year, a Physical Education teacher in Malacca made a police report after being assaulted by his student’s father.
In January, a teacher in Mersing, Johor, lodged a report when her student’s father attacked her in the teachers’ lounge.
With corporal punishment no longer the order of the day, teachers have been told to adopt a gentler approach when it comes to disciplining students.
Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan said in March last year that the old method of meting out punishment was no longer applicable, even on those with serious disciplinary problems.
“A teacher cannot cause harm or hurt a pupil. That is the main rule. No matter what the reason, you cannot lay your hands on a child. If you have a problematic kid, there are always counselling sessions, there are always parents, talk to them,” he was reported as saying.
Not too long ago, children feared the consequences of telling their parents that they had been punished in school, for fear of getting additional beating at home for misbehaving and not respecting their teachers.
Today, the tables seemed to have been turned, and more and more teachers are made to feel inferior at the mercy of superior parents with deep pockets.
Therefore, have we lost respect for our educators?
Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim believed the recent court case in Penang was isolated and urged parents to be more involved in the development of their children’s education.
“This can be done by respecting and appreciating the work of teachers. Strong parent-teacher relationship is important as it creates mutual respect for both parties,” she said.
Parents, she said, generally did not endorse delinquent behaviour among their children.
“Most of the time, they were blindsided by the events or misled by their children. This is when it is important for parents to keep an open mind and seek an amicable solution to problems that arise.”
She said the rights of the children were more protected now than before.
“In Malaysian schools, public caning was accepted 20 years ago. The punishment is only accepted today when it is conducted in a private setting and guided by stringent rules and regulations.”
Noor Azimah urged parents to play an active role in the development of their children by being stern, yet loving, instead of mollycoddling them.
“It is important for parents to be present to guide their children as they mature in life. When a child misbehaves, it is often a manifestation of things that happen at home.
“Parents are often guilty of ignoring their children by perpetually being on their smartphones or being too focused on something else.
“They fail to realise that their children just want to hear a word of praise, engage in conversations or crave eye contact.
“We, as parents, have to constantly check ourselves.”
A Klang school headmistress, who only wanted to be known as Chang, observed that students these days were more rebellious.
“I often get scared by their rowdy behaviour, which I believe comes from not getting much attention at home.
“We used to get respect from the kids and their parents. These days, we were always on the losing side no matter how noble our intention is.
“It got so disheartening that I even had to advise my teachers to let some of the discipline matters slide in order not to complicate matters.
“A few years back, one of our female teachers’ car was vandalised and spray-painted because she was tough on the kids in her class.
“Not long after that, she received a warning letter from the gang in the neighbourhood that the kids belonged to,” she said.
“This recent case in Penang does not surprise me. We have had to deal with countless cases of meddling parents in the past.
“It’s gone to the point that we can’t even correct them verbally because we were told that the children would be ‘emotionally scarred’.”
Hector John, 72, who has been teaching for more than 50 years, said the Penang case was a really unfortunate incident that could have been nipped in the bud.
“Any issues involving teachers, students and parents should be taken to the attention of the principal or the discipline teacher.
“No one has the right to take matters into their own hands. The punishment seems harsh, and all this is just going to traumatise the children.
“If a kid is slow, then it is the teacher’s job to guide him. There should not have been any form of abuse in the first place.
“In my opinion, the school authorities should not have let this situation escalate. It’s really bad management.”
While teachers had the right to discipline students, it should not be in a manner that caused a negative impact, John said.
“Teachers have a duty to teach, guide and set a good example. If they are doing the opposite, the school authorities need to be aware. Parents have the right to go to the headmaster to make their concerns heard.”
Registered Child Care Providers Malaysia (PPBM) president Datin P.H. Wong believed that respect worked both ways.
“It goes back to the understanding that everyone has rights and responsibilities, whether as parents, teachers or students.
“Violence is never acceptable. If I understand correctly in this particular case, the mother slapped the teacher because her child was pinched.
“As far as she is concerned, she is protecting her child and feels that teachers should never lay a hand on her child.”
Wong commented that instead of punishing a child, the question to be asked was the reason behind the child’s behaviour.
“What are the circumstances that may have led to the child behaving as such?
“How can we deal with children who are struggling with problems or are ‘delinquent’?
“Do we punish them, as is the case in most situations, or do we hear their side of the story, and listen to what they have to say?
“Delinquency does not just happen. It is the result of other action or inaction by people around the child, whether at home, in school or in communities.”
She said there was no difference in the way punishment was carried out today compared with 20 years ago.
“Malaysians in general still hit and punish their children in the name of discipline. In actual fact, there are better and more positive ways to deal with difficult behaviour.
“All parents should undergo a course on understanding the ages and stages of a child’s development.
“Research has shown that corporal punishment achieves nothing but creates more violence or fear. We need to understand and respect children as human beings with rights just like adults.
“Parenting is even more difficult today only because the support system, which used to be the community itself, is no longer available to young parents struggling to make a living.”
She said mollycoddling the kids or keeping them in a sheltered environment would only hinder their development.
“Understand, listen and be a friend to your children. And, never forget that you are a role model for your child.”