Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The discipline issue in Bhutan

Through out the year we have tried to be very positive and upbeat about our lives in Bhutan and generally that is not a struggle. It is a great place to live and travel and even work. However I do not feel I can end this first year, without airing my concerns about one very hot educational issue: discipline.

For me the greatest cause of concern at school has been discipline. Student behaviour problems are often discussed as having risen directly from them knowing their rights! And teachers routinely lament corporal punishment having been prohibited. I have been shocked, depressed and angered by the level of violence I have seen; not heard about from students but directly observed. 

In October an article by a training teacher who had recently completed teaching practice once again outlined the horrors of the so-called "positive discipline" method currently employed and proposed returning to corporal punishment as a viable and necessary way to improve students' behaviour. This so enraged me that I wrote an article and sent it to Kuensel, one of the local newspapers. To my delight it was published on October 31st only a few days after I had sent it. Kuensel actually gave it the title, not me, by the way. Many of you may have already read it but it can be found at the link below if you are interested. 

kuenselonline » Blog Archive » Positive discipline is enlightened punishment

It was gratifying to see the number of BCFers who contacted me after its publication to express their support for my views.

After the final exams for class XI and class IX, I once again put pen to paper and the article below is the result. 

Reflections on "negative discipline." Does rhetoric give way to practice at some point?

In 2011, in Bhutan, I have seen boys pushed roughly into the metal cabinet in the staff work area by an enraged male teacher and then repeatedly thumped by other male teachers, for using foul language to a female colleague, in her class.

I have witnessed a boy being viciously elbowed in the back several times by a grown man and person of authority, for being absent for morning study.

I have watched a whole class of grade 11 students be marched from their classroom and made to stand in the blazing sun on a summer's day for being unable to solve a mathematical problem.

I have been astonished that boys can be made to stand in the public quadrangle of the school from whatever time it was, that they arrived late for the morning study session, which starts at 6am, and then been left to stand there until 10am, therefore missing breakfast and the first 2 classes, only to be lectured and have clumps of their hair cut out as a further punishment.

I have observed a class XII boy dragged into the staff work area by the front of his gho and shouted at and slapped, until in tears and begging for forgiveness, he was allowed to leave. This was for defying and challenging a teacher at a time when he is under extreme pressure with a hospitalized father and during the pre-exam period.

With regularity I have looked on as boys and girls have been required to "frog jump" submissively across the quadrangle for as many times as the teacher deems fit, for various misdemeanors.

Each time a little more of the faith I had that educational change was happening, vanished.  
Who is responsible for ensuring positive discipline replaces the violence?

Each time I asked myself how this can be, in an era where child friendly education, children's rights, educational reform and Buddhist doctrine dominate the official jargon? Is anyone doing anything more than just paying lip service?

Each time I ask myself can I really 'make a difference'? The only answer I have, is focus on the students or leave!!!!! 

I simply couldn't let 2011end without airing my grievances, especially as I know that we will soon be off and there will be no postings for a while as we will not be in Bhutan.

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