MOE, Singapore school discipline needs tightening up

The soft approach towards school discipline by MOE (much favoured by westerners and some locals) has resulted in the appalling state of discipline in our schools.

With many teacher friends in Singapore schools, I have no shortage of stories to share with you.

Disciplinary cases:

  1. setting fire to the toilet (2 cases)
  2. tampering with the school security system
  3. smoking in the toilet (widespread)
  4. gambling outside the school
  5. challenging teachers to a fight
  6. insulting and belittling teachers openly
  7. refusal to comply with orders
  8. destroying school property
  9. quarrelling with another classmate during lesson time
  10. using mobile phones during lesson time
  11. persistent disruptions of lesson
  12. challenging the discipline master
  13. damaging and stealing equipment especially in computer rooms

Under such stressful working environment, I admire our teachers for their long-suffering patience and stoicism. But sadly for some, after teetering on the edge for years, they quit the rather than put up with the daily abuse. The loss is to the Singapore Education system.

A return to old-fashioned discipline could restore some semblance of order and discipline in Singapore schools.

Still not convinced? Speak privately to Singapore school teachers then.

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12 Responses to “MOE, Singapore school discipline needs tightening up”

  1. There is much truth in this longer overdue emphasis on this subject. I firmly believe that in our strive for a more modern and liberalising approach to our education system we should not in our over enthusiasm throw the baby out with the bath water. Temperance and a judical apprach should be applied. There are some timeless and valuable areas such as morality, ethics, social responsibility, values shoudl be reintroduced. We do not want scenes from some of the recent episodes we hear about from the Western shores about teacher abuse and loose morals infiltrating our schools – we should keep it out before it is too late. I congratulate the author of this topic and strongly support the views stated by the author!

    • Thanks for your views. You’re right about timeless values that should be restored.
      Part of the problem lies in the relentless pursuits of all sorts of awards by school heads thus relegating such values to the background.

  2. The mutual respect that is expected through a “softened approach” does not work if the system remains oppressive. A system that depends on the stick fails as soon as you take the stick away. In order to overcome the period of lashing out that occurs in a sudden discipline vacuum, teachers need to change their ways as well. Teachers have to cultivate a system of shared responsibility that they themselves believe in and embrace. Not an easy thing to do if they themselves have been raised in htis same system. It takes time and work. Policing only works in a police state. Students can only learn behaviour by example. If they are lashing out violently, it is a behaviour they have been taught.

  3. The whole “people are the product of their environment” theory is so wrong. They aren’t taught to be violent, they’re naturally violent.

    Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered, he wants what he wants when he wants it: his bottle, his mother’s attention, his playmate’s toys, his uncle’s watch, or whatever. Deny him these and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He’s dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no developed skills. This means that all children, not just certain children but all children, are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in their self-centered world of infancy, given free rein to their impulsive actions to satisfy each want, every child would grow up a criminal, a thief, a killer, a rapist and so on.

    Therefore, adults must assert their authority and teach kids self-control and virtue from day one.

    • This analysis seems like a bit of a step backwards in the discussion. The theory may have some merit, but we will never know unless it is substantiated with some sort of evidence or research. To oversimplify such a complex notion as cognitive development is careless. Its lazy. It shows no interest in breaking the cycle of violence that has moulded these beliefs in the first place. It is easy to resort to the hopeless comfort of domination over those who are weaker, despite its obvious flaws and the misery that it causes to others. The freed slave now gets to enslave others.

      Since these views do not carry any substance beyond superlatives and exclamatory assertions, it is difficult to respond in any other way. If this post seeks to improve on the discussion rather than end it, then please back it up with some science.

  4. The educational system is not oppressive. Neither does it smack of being a police state.

    On the contrary, schools here have adopted a soft approach (a more enlightened one) eg counselling. The cane is rarely used. Even “soft” punishment like time-out from the classroom has been abandoned in favour of counselling the offender.

    Result? Teachers are seen as weak, and to be manipulated. Respect for teachers is lost. Misbehaviour becomes rampant. With their hands tied, teachers can’t enforce discipline. Gradually, seeing the futility of trying to maintain discipline they give up.

    Youngsters are still growing up. Their immaturity and youthful exuberance need to tempered with some discipline.

  5. Oppression is not necessarily limited to physical violence. It can exist even with a ‘soft’ approach. Taking a violently oppressive system, and removing the cane form the equation will cause exactly what you describe: Teachers who are weak and misbehaviour rampant. And so they give up.

    But really, is that the best idea we can come up with? Control by brutality… with the brutality removed. Of course it doesnt work.

    We are supposed to be the smart ones, but we cant get past this simple problem. What we need to clarify for ourselves as teachers is what school is exactly and why we need it. Not with the answer we’ve been taught to give, but the real answer.

    There are no over-night solutions to this problem, so dont ask me for one. But in the long run, by working as individuals and making our learning environments more pleasurable and efficient, the right change will occur. To revert more severely to violence and damage control is not the answer. And sitting back waiting for others to lead the way sets a poor example to our students.

  6. The debate on school discipline rages on in the letters page of newspapers, sharply dividing them into two camps: one with a preference for old-fashioned and strict discipline while the other for a more enlightened approach.

    Like filial piety, respect for others, good manners etc good discipline is an important trait to cultivate.

    Some may even remind you of the biblical injunction that “to spare the rod is to spoil the child.”

  7. Some may even remind you of the biblical injunction that “to spare the rod is to spoil the child.”

    The bible also says its an abomination to eat shellfish. Luckily we can make that decision for ourselves. Thats why we need to teach our students how to make decisions for themselves too. To find out for themselves why it is beneficial to respect others, not just because authority says so.

  8. Imagine a class room where you as the teacher can talk with a parent or client, while the classroom is focused and learning. The only time they realize that you exist is when one in the group needs an answer only you can provide. If a student breaks a class rule, a more senior peer, corrects them. They follow the advice knowing there is a reaction (pushups) to their actions. Only, students who accept this structure are promoted. Where it is not abused and they are not used.

    Leadership and teaching skills and responsibility of teaching others what you learn is paramount and reinforced. All ages are in one class including adults. Checks for skills are evident and when a child is old enough to drive the family car and only then, may they be considered for black belt.

    It works, and I enjoy watching them grow into confident mature adults.

    • Thanks for your views, Bob.

      In Singapore when the teacher is engaged with another teacher, parent or student outside the classroom, the rest will seize the opportunity to partake in some toomfoolery and to give demonstrations of their teen angst. A paper missile will take flight. Some SA will crack a joke and the whole class will collapse in laughter.

      Good for you if your class is well-behaved, considerate and self-disciplined.


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