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Discipline and Participatory Management

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Discipline and Participatory Management: The pupils ‘own’ the school as much as the teachers and headmasters, especially in government sc...

Discipline and Participatory Management:

The pupils ‘own’ the school as much as the teachers and headmasters, especially in government schools. There is a relationship of interdependency between the teacher and the pupils, especially in this era where learning transaction is based on access to information, and knowledge creation is based on a foundation of resources of which the teacher is the pivot. One cannot function without the other. Educational transaction has to shift from the benefactor (teacher) and the beneficiary (pupil) to a motivator and facilitator and learner, all of whom have rights and responsibilities in ensuring that educational transaction takes place.

At present, school rules, norms and conventions define permitted ‘good’ and ‘proper’ behaviour for individual and groups of students. Maintaining discipline in schools is usually the prerogative of teachers and adults in positions of authority (often the sports master and administrators). Frequently, they also induct children as ‘monitors’ and ‘prefects’ and delegate the responsibility of maintaining ‘order’ and ensuring control. Punishment and reward play an important role in this. Those who implement rarely question the rules, or the implications that ensuring compliance may have for children’s overall development, self-esteem and also their interest in learning. Forms of disciplining such as corporal punishment and, verbal and non-verbal abuse of children, continue to feature in many schools, and are used to humiliate children in front of their peers. Yet many teachers and even parents still believe that such punishment is important, unaware of the immediate and long-term detrimental effects of these practices. It is important for teachers to reflect on the rationale that underlies the rules and conventions that govern schools, and whether these are consistent with our aims of education. For instance, rules such as the length of socks and the whiteness of sports shoes are of no educationally defensible importance. Rules regarding maintaining silence in classrooms, answering ‘one at a time’, and answering only if you know the right answer, can undermine the values of equality and equal opportunity. Such rules may also discourage processes that are integral to children’s learning, the development of a sense of community among peers, though they may make the class ‘easy to manage’ for the teacher and facilitate ‘covering the syllabus’.

Inculcating the value/habit of self-discipline is important for the systematic pursuit of learning and the development of the child’s interests and potential. Discipline must enable the performance of, and be conducive to, the task at hand. It should enable freedom, choice and autonomy for both teacher and child. It is necessary to involve children themselves in evolving rules, so that they understand the rationale behind a rule, and feel a sense of responsibility in ensuring that it is followed. In this way they would also learn the process of setting codes of self-governance and the skills required to participate in decision making and democratic functioning. Similarly, the children themselves could also evolve mechanisms for conflict resolution between teachers and students, and among students. The teacher should ensure that there are as few rules as possible, and that only rules that can be reasonably followed are created. It does no one any good to humiliate children for breaking rules, particularly when there are good reasons for the rule being broken. For instance, ‘noisy classrooms’ are frowned upon by teachers as well as headmasters, but it is possible that rather than the noise being evidence of the teacher not being in control, it may be evidence of a lively and participatory class.

Similarly, headmasters can be unreasonably strict about punctuality. A child who is late for an examination on account of a traffic jam must not be penalised, and yet we find such rules being imposed in the name of higher values. Unreasonableness on the part of authorities in such matters can demoralise children, their parents, and also teachers. It may help to remember to first ask a child why he or she broke a rule, to listen to what the child says, and act accordingly. It is befitting a school head or teacher to exercise authority rather than power. Arbitrariness and unreasonableness are characteristics of power, and are feared, not respected. Systems for the participatory management of the school by children and schoolteachers and administrators need to be evolved. Children should be encouraged to elect their own representatives to children’s councils, and similarly the teachers and administrators of a given school need to be organised themselves, so also the parents.

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CLEAR CTET: Discipline and Participatory Management
Discipline and Participatory Management
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