A report on how a school teacher at Unity Primary School in Choa Chu Kang had cut student’s unkempt hair just before the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) assessment has been making its rounds in cyberspace. Outraged by this transgression, the student’s parent went on to file a police report; nevertheless, this response – along with the corresponding reaction by the school and the Ministry of Education (MOE) – split opinions. In May this year, parent Mr. Mohammed Ariffin also filed a police report for verbal abuse, because the teacher purportedly said to his child “I don’t want to see your face” (here).
Mr. Terence Teo published a note (here) on his FaceBook account, and here are two paragraphs extracted from the note (emphasis mine):
“Teachers have better things to do than (while carrying out the instructions of the school administration) having to deal with idiots who think that they can lodge a police report because of the loss of hair. Hair! Teachers have 39 other children in their class to worry about than just one moron who can’t follow instructions or, who feels really attached to a 60-dollar haircut. But when said moron has the backing of an equally-moronic parent, whose support and ‘partnership’ is required by another moron at the top of the school hierarchy, obviously the only one in the whole equation who was carrying out the instruction suffers.
You want teachers to hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct, then start listening to them. Otherwise, all you’re seeing in the news is the product of 15 years of teachers feeling like they’re being treated like crap and then deciding, ‘Hey, why bother? Let’s act like everyone else!’”
Respect For Teachers And Assistance From Parents
Taking into account the aforementioned, the resolution adopted by the teacher in-question may not have been the most appropriate, given the context of the examination; however, let us not be distracted from the fact that the child had indeed contravened regulations that had been regularly laid out. I am therefore arguing that there should be greater respect and appreciation accorded to Singapore’s teaching profession (which really starts with the MOE and the leaders within respective education institutions), and that parents should work more closely with their children’s teachers for the benefit of the younger ones.
Mr. Teo’s frustrations are palpable: instead of choosing to work harmoniously with the schools and teachers (and thereby opting for more harmonious and constructive dispute resolution strategies), some parents choose to work against these entities. What goes through the minds of these parents? What would motivate them to blow up the matter unnecessarily? Some sense of perverse tit-for-tat justice or righteousness? I don’t know.
What I do know is that such unfortunate incidents would only undermine a teacher’s authority in the classroom, rendering the proper execution of teaching-learning pedagogies and disciplinary practices that much tougher. As it is, educators are already burdened by a plethora of roles and responsibilities beyond the dispensing of knowledge and skills within the classroom per se; hence, it is crucial for them to be backed up and supported by the school administration (there is no point reinforcing the nobility of the profession if this assistance is not guaranteed), and for constructive partnerships to be cultivated between them and the partners. Acrimony has no place in these relationships.
I don’t fancy the idea of running a school like a corporation (which seems to be a fad nowadays, especially with the independent institutions), in which students and parents are oddly perceived as “customers” rather than “partners” (why is there a need to constantly bow down to such whims and fancies, to these “customers” who do not have experience or comprehension of how education should be executed?) Rather, parents and teachers must work more closely together to strike equilibrium between methodologies adopted within the classroom and the household.
Parents are not perfect; neither are teachers. Then harmony, not discord, should be the way forward, because these two parties are bound by the common goal to help a child learn and grow. Irresponsible and irrational police reports are, quite naturally, not the way forward.