Archive for the ‘Behaviour / discipline management’ Category

Fighting bullies with empathy

Monday, February 5th, 2018
It is a noble idea to have programmes to create awareness about the effects of bullying, one must understand why empathy, a basis for caring, is essential in life. FILE PIC

LAST year, several articles were written on bullying, especially on how to stop bullying through prevention campaigns. While it is a noble idea to have programmes to create awareness about the effects of bullying, one must understand why empathy, a basis for caring, is essential in life.

Let us begin by educating people on developing empathy before caring for others.

According to American psychologist Martin Hoffman, empathy is congruent with caring.

As empathy helps in the development of prosocial behaviour in a child, it plays a crucial role in the development of altruistic concern or caring for others. Children with problematic behaviour will benefit from this because empathy reduces hostility and aggressiveness.

So, when does one develop empathy? Does it exist when we are born or develop as we grow up? Researchers argue that empathy is innate and needs to be developed.

Hoffman said there are five empathy-arousing modes. Three of them are primitive, automatic and involuntary, which are important for rousing empathy, while the other two are more cognitive-based. These five empathy modes progress according to age.

When a child is born, the first empathy-arousing mode is “mimicry”, which is akin to imitation. The infant imitates its mother’s facial expressions. Another example that empathy is innate and affective is that when a baby hears another baby cry, it will start crying, too, as an element of empathic distress.

The second empathy-arousing mode is “classical conditioning”, which develops in preverbal children.

Apparently, children receive feelings of distress as conditioned responses if they observe someone in distress. For example, when a mother feels sad or anxious, her anxiousness may be transmitted to the child and therefore the child becomes distressed.

The third empathy-arousing mode is direct association. Direct association refers to situations where a child’s experiences evoke feelings in him if he connects or associates with a victim’s situation.

The fourth and fifth empathy-arousing modes involve cognitive aspects that are “mediated association” and “role-taking”.

In “mediated association”, language plays an important factor.

Verbal messages from a distressed person must be semantically processed and decoded, which act as a mediator between the distressed person and
the observer.

Therefore, the observer who decodes the person’s message and relates it to his experience will respond empathically to the distressed person.

In role-taking, an advanced level of cognitive processing takes place, where a child puts himself in another person’s shoes and imagines what he feels.

Researchers have found that making children imagine a victim’s distress will arouse more empathic feeling than making them observe the victim’s distress.

In enforcing role-taking, teacherscan boost empathy in students through subjects such as Moral Education. Students are made to understand the perspectives of other people by making them act out roles, either through role playing or drama.

Researchers believe that empathy training in the form of role-taking can cultivate students’ cognitive, emotional and social development. This is one measure to prevent one from becoming a bully.


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Parents will suffer if they overlook children’s formative years

Friday, February 2nd, 2018
(File pix) Children are innocent and receptive to new ideas and influences.

THE issue of discipline in schools has attracted much attention from parents and academicians.

Two years ago, I shared my views on to how to bring up children and groom them into well-balanced and academic individuals.

As a parent of two adult children, I would like to share my experience on how I guided them to behave responsibly and inspired them to do well in their studies.

From their childhood to adulthood, they were never scolded or caned to discipline or correct their behaviour.

Instead, I guided them to develop a character that could lead them to the right path. Since young, they understood the importance of discipline and good behaviour.

Children are innocent and receptive to new ideas and influences. They will gain wisdom as they grow.

A child’s character and personality are established by 7. It is important that parents shouldn’t overlook this period of development

My children were not pampered, instead, they were guided to learn good behaviour as they grew.

When they were 1½ years old, they were taught to fiddle with pencils and were exposed to fun learning. They were also guided when to have fun playing with their friends.

I cannot recall any moment that my children had not done their best to impress me in their studies when I began coaching them as toddlers.

Although the journey was tedious and challenging, I cherish every moment of our time together.

Learning together was also time for us to bond.

Children emulate parents’ positive and negative traits, more so when parents are their first teachers and guardians.

If your children misbehaved and are reprimanded by the school authorities, you shouldn’t overreact.

You should examine what had gone wrong in the character development process before overcoming the problem.

To cope with the increasing cost of living, many parents are working hard to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, if you overlook the character-building process of your children during their formative years, not only do you have to pay a high price, you will also feel guilty for your oversight.

Many parents thought that schools could turn problematic children into a well-behaved people in a short period of time. Teachers, too, are humans.


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Copy of rule book a must for schools.

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Every school must have a copy of the Education Ministry’s disciplinary guidelines.

Teachers, especially new ones entering the profession, aren’t aware of what they’re allowed to do and the standard operating procedure for disciplining students.

The two books — general discipline guidelines in schools, and discipline guidelines for teachers and schoolheads — were published in 1981 and 1988 respectively.

There are over 10,000 schools nationwide but many don’t have a copy of the books.

But legal action, he said, is detrimental to children as it’s emotionally distressing.

“These books make clear what teachers are allowed to do but many schools don’t have copies of them anymore.

“We couldn’t even find them in bookshops.

“The books, however, must be updated in line with the changing times,” he said, adding that parents could also read the books to know the role and limits a teacher has in meting out punishment.

The books, like the 200,000-strong union’s newly completed code of ethics on parent-teacher relations, would promote better understanding between parents and teachers, he told a press conference here yesterday.

On Jan 7, NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan told Sunday Star that key points in the code include disallowing helmets, or other items that could be used as a “weapon”, in school.

The code, Kamarozaman said, called on parents who have issues with a teacher to see the schoolhead first before going to the authorities.

But the police, he said, would be called in if parents entered with helmets, or items that could cause harm.

“We’re waiting to present the code to the ministry.

“It can be distributed on registration day so that parents and teachers are on the same page.”

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Let’s protect our educators

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

PARENTAL groups and educators are in support of the code.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim agrees that parents, like teachers, should adhere to a code of ethics. Clear two-way communication, she said, is vital.

“Several countries have adopted the code. We should consider some of their best practices,” she said, while suggesting that the Rakan COP (Community-Oriented Policing) programme be reactivated in schools.

“Parents drop kids off at school and they leave. Naughty kids walk past the gates in view of teachers and prefects. No one says anything so parents are in the dark. There must be communication at all levels,” she said, adding that channels for parents to complain, must also be kept open or some would turn to the Internet to vent their frustrations.

She also called for at least two administrators to be present to listen to discipline cases in the office. As school heads are often not around, everything must be recorded.

“Find an amicable solution. Helmets and items that can used as weapons, must be left at the guardhouse if a parent wants to enter the school.”

While having a code of ethics is good, Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin feels it should be provided for by the respective schools, not the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).

This is because different schools, have different cultures. Also, students’ backgrounds and needs, vary. There cannot be a blanket code for all schools.

“If the school has a capable head, he or she can come out with a code that’s more appropriate and specific to the needs to the school.

“A good school head will have a clear management policy so harassment and confrontation of teachers is minimised, if not prevented,” he said.

“The harassment and confrontation of teachers can be avoided if the school policy – especially on security, is working well.

School heads, he suggested, must ensure that:

> School gates are closed at all times.

> All visitors report their presence to the guard on duty.

> All visitors are escorted by the guard to the administrative office.

> Administrators are neutral in addressing issues raised by parents, that action is taken immediately.

> Discussions with the PTA is held if an amicable solution cannot be found.

> The district education office and state education department are informed of serious cases.

Most parents, he believes, will only take drastic action if their complaints are not attended to or issues are not solved.

“One father went into the classroom and slapped the teacher for punishing his son. Another, who is a police officer, threatened a teacher who suspected his son of theft. But these are isolated incidents.”

He urged school administrators to provide parents with full details of what’s happening in the school.

He also advised parents not to confront teachers directly and to see the school head if there’s an issue concerning their child.

Association Against Parental Alienation Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (Pemalik) supports the implementation of the code because teachers must be protected or they will be afraid to do their job.

Pemalik president R. Ravishanker thinks the code should also include a standard operating procedure (SOP) for dealing with children of single parents.

Sharing how one parent in a fit of anger, had kicked the pots in a headmaster’s office after one pupil was allowed to go home with the other parent, he said it was very unfair to the school.

Forcing teachers or the school to make such decisions exposes them to abuse. Our educators must not be dragged into conflict, he said.

“But what should a teacher do when one parent begs to see his or her child for 10 minutes? If the teacher allows it, will he or she incur the wrath of the other parent?”

He said there have been many cases where a parent brings the police to the school, resulting in the teacher and headmaster being caught in the middle. Such situations can become emotional and tense very quickly, he said.

“The NUTP’s code of ethics should include situations where single parents – whether it’s those with or without custody, want to visit their child. What are the documents these parents must have with them? How much discretion should the school have?”

Lawyers Friends’ for Life (LFF) is helping the NUTP to look into the code’s legal impact.

LFF treasurer Haliza Abdullah said the non-governmental organisation comprising practising lawyers, is in the midst of preparing an opinion for the NUTP.

But the code, she said, has no legal effect until it’s implemented by the ministry.

“The system regulating education must benefit all parties. We’re concerned about the rising number of cases involving teachers and parents who are not able to settle matters arising from disciplinary action taken by the school.”

She said LFF is approaching the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry for input on how the Child Care Act would relate to the code.

“We are supporting the code because it’s a way of telling the public that seeking a remedy in court is not always the best solution.

“Understanding responsibilities and accountabilities is more important especially when it relates to education.”

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation senior vice chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye laments how parents today are overprotective. Parents, he said, must be made aware that their child has misbehaved, or has disciplinary issues.

“Definitely we need a code because it can prevent misunderstandings that could land teachers in court.

“Discipline in school is crucial but parents and teachers must be on the same page. In many cases, parents think their kids are well behaved so they get angry when punishment is meted out.”

The code, he said, must spell out the SOP for teachers faced with problematic kids.

Discipline is the joint-responsibility of parents and teachers. So, once a parent is made aware of their child’s misbehaviour, they must not deter the teacher from doing his or her job.

If teachers have to constantly worry about being sued, their morale would suffer and eventually, they will stop caring. Lee recalled how the teaching profession used to be held in high esteem and how parents would support teachers when disciplinary action was taken against their child.

“Now, if the parent is a big shot, he will immediately call the ministry to complain. Parents must respect teachers, otherwise how can they expect their children to do the same?” he said.

If teachers are not protected, the school system would not be effective in educating the younger generation, he concluded.

Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam agreed. He said teachers are always blamed when parents are unhappy.

“Teachers are either asked to settle it themselves, or apologise. When teachers punish a child, it’s in the media. But when it’s the other way around, teachers suffer in silence.”

He said the situation has gotten from bad to worse with more and more teachers feeling frustrated because no one is standing up for them. Some parents, he said, would get aggressive and take matters into their own hands.

He said it’s vital that the code is accepted by parents otherwise it would serve no purpose. But having a code alone, is not enough. The government must restore respect and integrity to the teaching profession by setting up an independent commission to look into improving the education system.

“If my grandchildren are reprimanded by a good teacher I would say ‘thank you’, because I know they are doing it out of love and care. Most parents nowadays don’t even ask their child what they did wrong to deserve the punishment.”

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has welcomed the proposed code.As a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the government has the responsibility to protect children from any danger that can bring physical and mental harm to the child, said its deputy minister, Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun.

She said whatever form of punishment that is carried out, must b

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Slapping is too severe, say parents

Saturday, January 6th, 2018
Some teachers make their students write a line many times over as punishment in school, for offences like talking in class.

Some teachers make their students write a line many times over as punishment in school, for offences like talking in class.

THERE are mixed levels of acceptance among parents when it comes to how their children should be disciplined or punished in schools.

Some interviewed by StarMetro are saying that they are fine with their kids being slapped in schools if there are valid reasons, while many others are against slapping as there should be more appropriate ways to deal with problematic schoolchildren.

Assistant administrator Hafiza Mokhtar, 26, said she is able to accept this form of physical punishment if there is a good reason for it.

“If you ask me, teachers back in those days have done worse to naughty pupils but it was all in the name of disciplining them and making sure that they change their ways.

“Parents today are more protective of their children.

“I do not think a teacher slapping a pupil has ever sparked this much debate and controversy until now,” she told StarMetro.

However, Hafiza, a mother of one, said slapping should not be allowed if the child is aged 10 and below.

Slapping is not an acceptable way of punishing schoolchildren as it could seriously injure or traumatise the child.— Filepic

Slapping is not an acceptable way of punishing schoolchildren as it could seriously injure or traumatise the child.— Filepic

“Punishments aside, if I were a teacher, I would prefer calling the parents in to inform them of their children’s behaviour in school.

“If all else fails, I think the child should be sent to correctional schools for rehabilitation,” she said.

The Star recently reported that teacher Azizan Manap, 44, better known as Cikgu Azizan, was charged on Oct 31 with slapping an 11-year-old schoolboy for indiscipline, which included glue-sniffing, bullying and playing truant, at the SK Taman Semarak assembly area at 7am on April 6.

He was ultimately given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to the charge under Section 323 of the Penal Code on Dec 19 after the prosecution decided to drop the charge.

Homemaker Chang Tai Kwan, 53, said she was against the idea of slapping a child.

“If you slap a child and they do not dodge, sure, you are only hurting the flesh of their cheeks.

“But what if the child decides to turn away as a response and you end up slapping them in the ear?

“That is dangerous because you could affect the child’s hearing,” she said.

Chang said while it was the teacher’s responsibility to teach schoolchildren proper behaviour, slapping them was not the way to do it.

“I am okay with the teacher using a cane.

“Caning them at the legs and buttocks is the best for me.

“Parents should also be aware if their children are naughty in school.

The Star’s report on Dec 20, 2017.

“Like for me, I know my children can be a bit disobedient, so I tell teachers about their behaviour.

“There must be mutual understanding between parents and teachers if they both want their children to grow up to be decent people,” said the mother of four.

Production manager Lye Han Wen, 40, said he did not even slap his own child at home, let alone allow an outsider to do so even if it is in school.

“Teachers should issue stern warnings first to naughty students.

“If it is serious, there should be more productive ways of disciplining schoolchildren, such as getting them to do community service or cleaning up the school.

“Light punishments such as caning is fine too, but slapping is a bit too much if you ask me,” he said.

Lye said by inflicting physical violence on children at such a tender age, it would be too traumatising for them.

“When I was a child, being caned was already traumatising enough for me.

“Slapping would have been far worse,” he said.

Teacher V. Rajathi, 33, said slapping in school was not an acceptable way of disciplining schoolchildren no matter the situation.

“We have our set of rules to follow when it comes to disciplining schoolchildren.

“When things really get out of hand, suspension is the way to go,” she said.

Rajathi said engaging with parents could be a problem as well when some of them pamper their children and support their child even though he or she had been naughty in school.

“Perhaps they find it very hard to understand.

“Sometimes, children have two different sides.

“How they act in school and at home can be different.

“Maybe their parents are strict with them so they feel scared, but in school they start to act out because they know that teachers cannot do anything to them,” she said.

As a parent herself, Rajathi also said she would not allow anyone to slap her children.

“But at the same time, if I discover that they were not disciplined and had been causing trouble in school, I need to figure out the best way to take action and teach them a lesson,” said the mother of five.

Technician D. Dennis, 48, said while he too does not condone slapping schoolchildren, parents should first know if their children had been showing good or bad behaviour in school.

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The cane versus ‘brat-ocracy’

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018
Teachers used to walk around the school with a cane, which was used indiscriminately and often. FILE PIC
By SAMUEL YESUIAH - January 3, 2018 @ 9:51am

TEACHERS are in a dilemma whether to reprimand or ignore students who misbehave.

The Education Ministry’s permissible punishment guidelines for teachers were last issued in 1983 and has more “don’ts” than “dos”.

The guidelines are in favour of students, and the hands of teachers are tied when it comes to dealing with indiscipline.

Teachers who reprimand students have had bad encounters, with some parents taking them to court. Others have assaulted teachers.

The Cikgu Azizan case is a clear example of how a teacher can be hauled up to court for taking action against indiscipline.

Although the case was dropped, there is still no clear indication from the Education Ministry on what the school and teachers can do to discipline errant schoolchildren.

Teachers reprimand students in many ways.

Sometimes, teachers scold students when they misbehave.

Sometimes, students are made to do community service.

Students who are recalcitrant or aggressive are usually handled by the discipline teacher.

Teachers rarely slap or cane students in class.

But, when students cross the line and incur the teacher’s wrath, some teachers do slap or hit them.

Teachers used to walk around the school with a cane, which was used indiscriminately and often.

Today, teachers do not carry the cane and it is used sparingly by assigned teachers.

Only the discipline teacher or the head of the school has the discretion to use the cane on students for very severe breach of discipline.

Many people are against teachers reprimanding students who misbehave.

Many parents are against the use of the cane; they want teachers to counsel and use other soft, psychological approaches to discipline difficult children.

Somehow, parents do not understand the severity of student indiscipline at school.

European countries that have abolished corporal punishment are now facing a new kind of threat from rebellious and violent children, called “brat-ocracy”.


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Preventing bad behaviour at school

Friday, December 29th, 2017
Disciplinary teachers, which effectively means all teachers, have long been driven to the wall by the misbehaviour of some students, some of them bordering on what may be termed criminal conduct. NSTP file pic

THE National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) is understandably frustrated.

Disciplinary teachers, which effectively means all teachers, have long been driven to the wall by the misbehaviour of some students, some of them bordering on what may be termed criminal conduct

The Cikgu Azizan Manap case, as it has come to be called, is described by NUTP as the culmination of years of frustration faced by teachers.

In the words of NUTP, Malaysian parents are fast becoming litigious. No detention classes, no standing in or outside the classroom. And, so the list goes on.

Hence NUTP’s call to the Education Ministry to issue new guidelines to enable teachers to know what permissible punishments they can mete out when faced with indiscipline in school.

The guidelines last issued in 1983 has more “don’ts” than “dos”.

To be fair to the Education Ministry, some of the don’ts do make sense.

Take the case of snipping off the hair as a form of punishment or painting or writing on the face of the child.

These and similar disciplinary measures are clearly a no-no because it will affect the self-esteem of the child and may morph into something more monstrous.

The teachers helplessly ask: What can they do if the child repeatedly fails to complete his homework?

Perhaps, the answer lies in looking at disciplinary problems at school holistically.

And, that means examining the role of three key players in the game of teaching and learning.

There is the parent, the child and the teachers. Mending misbehaviour requires triangulation of the three. Parents — mums and dads — must cultivate a loving relationship with the child.

A child who is listened to and cared for is a nurturing ground for well-disciplined behaviour

This very same behaviour will be carried over to the school and peers. And, teachers need not do much in the way of discipline for children from such homes.

Of course, there will be a few errant teachers who may breach this relationship of trust.

But, these are errant behaviours, not the norm for teachers. So, the first line of correction is at home, and, that falls squarely on the shoulders of the parents.

Some parents are too busy chasing their dreams. What they are saying in effect is that their child is not worth their attention.

If the parents give their children time and attention, they will reciprocate that attention with love.

They will carry this love to the school, to their teachers and peers. This circle of discipline will in time widen, the ripples of positive behaviour travelling far and wide.

Psychologists will say discipline is not about punishment. Perhaps they are right, but only up to a point.

By NST -

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Spell out punishments for indiscipline in schools

Friday, December 22nd, 2017
As a practice, senior teachers are made members in disciplinary council entrusted to monitor students’ discipline.  NSTP file pic/ L.MANIMARAN

SCHOOLS are educational institutions where students are guided with knowledge and life lessons that cannot be personally taught by their parents at home.

Students who disobey school rules could be punished by the disciplinary councils of their schools.

As a practice, senior teachers are made members in disciplinary council entrusted to monitor students’ discipline.

Our parents tell stories of their teachers being very strict to ensure they follow school rules.

If they were caught breaking the rules, disciplinary action would be taken against them.

If their teachers caught them skipping classes, they were spanked in front of other students.

Today, it is a different story. Students, it seems, cannot be punished.

When I was a Form One student in a religious boarding school, I was once slapped by my mathematics teacher for failing my test.

It was my wake-up call to do better in my year-end examination.

In fact, most well-performing students in my school had similar experiences.

We were always closely monitored by our teachers, especially wardens.

I believe every boarding school has similar rules. In my opinion, punishments in schools should be specifically spelt out for each infraction.

Students should be given advance written notice about disciplinary actions they would face in the event of a breach of a rule.

This also gives teachers awareness of the kind of disciplinary actions they can take. No more random punishment, so to speak.

Body-contact punishment, like spanking, is permissible if it does not cause injuries to students.

The recent case of a teacher slapping a student in Negri Sembilan and the subsequent trouble he got into should serve as a lesson for both teachers and parents.

By Amerul Azry Abdul Aziz.

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NUTP against proposal to abolish school expulsion for problematic students

Saturday, December 9th, 2017
(File pix) National Union of Teaching Profession Malaysia (NUTP) is against abolishing school expulsion as punishment for problematic students

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Union of Teaching Profession Malaysia (NUTP) is against abolishing school expulsion as punishment for problematic students as proposed by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim.

Its secretary-general, Harry Tan Huat Hock said the school is an institution to educate and requires effective regulations to save students from negative elements.

Cases involving students with severe disciplinary problems leading to expulsion as punishment should be seen as a welfare case and to be managed by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM).

“KPWKM has the power and its own Act to address problematic students as well as having established rehabilitation centres including Asrama Akhlak, Sekolah Tunas Bakti and Taman Seri Puteri to accommodate girls and boys who are expelled from schools.

“For expelled students, their names will be submitted to the Social Welfare Department and investigations will be conducted in search of the cause and solution. Based on that, the problems associated with expelled students should be managed by KPWKM,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Tan said the Ministry of Education did not have the ability to control and rehabilitate students who have serious disciplinary problems including drug abuse and gangsterism as most teachers were only trained in academic that focused on teaching and learning.


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Bullying prevention week for schools in the works.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: An annual bullying prevention week may be on the cards for Malaysian schools, thanks to an initiative by Star Media Group and property developer SP Setia.

#StandTogether is a nationwide campaign, spearheaded by The Star’s R.AGE team, calling for the first week of April to be designated as an annual bullying prevention week in schools across the country.

The campaign will be launched by Tengku Datin Paduka Setia Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah at a special event today at 2pm at Setia International Centre.

Celebrities such as Lisa Surihani, JinnyBoy, Jenn Chia, Paperplane Pursuit and Arwind Kumar have pledged their support to the campaign, and will be speaking about their personal experiences with school bullying at the launch.

To follow today’s launch event, which will also feature a musical performance by Chia, follow R.AGE on Facebook (

Schools and organisations interested in taking part in the #StandTogether campaign can contact R.AGE via email (, Facebook Messen-ger (@thestarRAGE), or WhatsApp (+60172834406).

R.AGE is also producing a documentary series about school violence in Malaysia. A teaser will be released today after the launch.

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