Having strict policies to handle indiscipline does not mean corporal punishment is back in schools

16 April 2012 The education ministry is revisiting its way of handling disciplinary problems in schools and has asked schools to frame strong penalties for students who do not abide by the school’s code of conduct.

The decision to relook the policy comes at a time when corporal punishment is banned and schools in urban Bhutan are grappling with a growing indiscipline problem among its students, who many a times come in conflict with the law.

The revised discipline policies will be implemented next month.

Schools in Thimphu have already met with education ministry officials and discussed ways to handle indiscipline and criminal problems by its students.

Education secretary Sangay Zam said it’s high time the society inculcates a culture of law-abiding citizens. “Until and unless this is dealt with seriously and firmly, we might reach a situation where things may become unmanageable,” the secretary said. “Disciplinary problems will be dealt firmly, uniformly and consistently without any fear or favour and if it’s a criminal act then the law should take its course.”

While soft disciplinary actions such as counseling work for some students, education officials said some students continue to think that they can get away with anything.

“So I think we need to make children realise that there is a consequence to their action and if they have done something wrong, then they should face the music,” Sangay Zam said.

A principal of one the schools in Thimphu said that there are discipline problems everyday in his school such as pushing the teacher or bullying students or fighting.

“Now students are not afraid to come to school after drinking and going against the teacher has become a trend,” the principal said. “There is no fear at all.”

Counselling and detention, which replaced corporal punishment in schools, do not work in Bhutanese schools and students, the principal said. Students use their broken families excuse to “emotionally blackmail” teachers during counselling.

“May be there were weaknesses among teachers to go about implementing them that these strategies did not work,” he said.

To handle indiscipline problems, Bajothang high school and Punakha higher secondary school, for example make their students take an oath every morning about the norms, visions and expectations of the school.

If a student is found misbehaving repeatedly or more than twice, these schools suspend the student and give lot of assignments and projects with a strict deadline.

Schools will now have written down polices, making distinctions between indiscipline behaviour and criminal acts and categorise them accordingly. The degree of offenses and sanctions for each indiscipline act will also be framed and punishments may range from giving additional assignments to detention to suspension and depending on the severity of the case, may be even expulsion. The school will deal with these problems.

Changangkha lower secondary school feels that their revised discipline policies would work. “I feel it should because it’s not made to spoil the children and parents should understand that its done in favour of their children,” the school principal said.

Among others, the school is planning to have a “character” subject that the student needs to pass to go to a higher class. The subject would have about 10 components such as punctuality and behaviour. “If the student fails in this but passes academically, he would still be considered failed,” the principal said.

Schools said these changes in handling indiscipline problems would also alert parents who so far have not given enough support to schools in handling their children’s behaviours.

But if it’s a criminal act like assaults and battery, then the case will be handled as per the law. The education ministry has taken a stand to have a multi pronged approach to handle disciplinary problems.

“Now we have to take a serious stand otherwise we are becoming too accepting and complacent,” the secretary said. “The ministry has empowered the schools, teachers and from our side if all these things are done in a transparent and fair manner, we’ll not entertain any appeals from parents.”

The education ministry has also decided to stop transferring “problem students” from one school to another, as is the practice today. Now, if a school asks a student to leave, the student or the parent will have to find another school.

“The ministry will not facilitate any transfers due to disciplinary problems,” the education secretary said. “Its not working because everyone is taking it very easy and they can get another school.”

Education ministry however made it clear that their stand of “zero tolerance to indiscipline” does not mean corporal punishment is back and that teachers can go back to caning students.

“We believe that if discipline improves in our schools, academics performance would also improve because attendance will be regular and children will pay attention in class,” the secretary said.

Doing away with corporal punishment was a drastic change leaving teachers inadequate to handle discipline problems in schools, said education officials.

“What we found during our interactions with teachers was that ‘no corporal punishment meant no punishment’,” the secretary said. “But that is not the case, we’re not allowed to beat but there are other ways of penalising bad behaviour.”

 By Sonam Pelden
Additional reporting by Namgay Tshoki



15 Comments to “Zero tolerance to indiscipline”

  1. NewMan | April 16th, 2012 at 14:32:42 BTT |
    ‘“The ministry will not facilitate any transfers due to disciplinary problems,” the education secretary said.’With the amount of corruption prevalent I wonder if this will ever work.

  2. bhutangalbhutan | April 16th, 2012 at 20:07:14 BTT |
    ha ha ha !!!
    Another joke from the MoE and Dasho Sangay Zam!!!“What we found during our interactions with teachers was that ‘no corporal punishment meant no punishment’,” the secretary said. “But that is not the case, we’re not allowed to beat but there are other ways of penalising bad behaviour.”

    but what is the “Other Way”..????

    People think twice before you or your beloved become a teacher coz you will be burdened with policies and consequences (if you fail) from MoE.

  3. anti-sadism | April 16th, 2012 at 20:26:19 BTT |
    having corporal punishment in schools does not mean teachers have every right to do anything they want… they are also bound by law and they are also human… they have got children, they know how to deal it….. but punishment is about such a way to make students behave in right manner. having corporal punishment in our school will be better not bcoz of our teacher beating students but, having aware of it and students makes more careful to their actions.
  4. minimila | April 16th, 2012 at 21:48:47 BTT |
    Please, AUM SAGAY, it should be union and fair to all the people.
    But as New Man said, there are hundred and one Questions about its implementation and fairness???Lets see and Watch.

  5. snipperk | April 16th, 2012 at 21:57:02 BTT |
    Why do we have such a mismatched policies and visions? Obviously, this was a case of “Spare a rod and Spoil your Son” case. Students were over protected and always unnecessary. All of our children go to school, therefore, the equation would be always same but to this advantage, Students thought that they are master of themselves while those at the other end felt lame and insulted. Corporal punishment not good but its not good to do away with it. As a human being we need to have a little fear from everything, fear of teacher, fear of parents, fear of law, fear of rivers, fear of god etc etc. This little good fear is missing in our youth and this is the problem in our nation. Do not think of western education system because they are born and bought up in that kind of environment thus they respect responsibilities and rights equally……….lets change (i am not saying lets go to school with canes, but when every alternatives fail, lets not mind if it is for the good sense)
  6. nachikethass | April 17th, 2012 at 03:25:46 BTT |
    I used to be a teacher in Bhutan, having taught classes from 7 up to 12, from Gedu to Thimphu (in a private school). I never had any ‘serious’ problems with my students.
    I never had to slap them or punish them harshly. The worst I had to do was give them writing tasks.
    Yes, perhaps I did not succeed in making all of them study very hard – but I left Bhutan knowing none of my students hated me and most loved me and respected me.
    What it takes is patience, humour and understanding.
    Please do not make it sound as if Bhutanese students are bad in general or that Thimphu students are worst – they are not.
  7. new | April 17th, 2012 at 10:46:31 BTT |
    oh! ho! MOE Minister n secretary, you will take another month to frame useless ‘Zero tolerance for the parents who do not abide by the law of the education system’.
  8. Messi | April 17th, 2012 at 10:50:10 BTT |
    There should be a Teacher Protection Unit if students and parents start beating teachers…Whats happening in our country now? It no more bears the past glories of our great Gurus…time has come to be called as degeneration period or what?
    Its high time now for the MoE to dig out relevant Treasures to help solve and avoid future complication coz I believe our schools and teachers are the builders of the nation not the destroyers…parents and citizens please help our MoE, schools and teachers to make a better of our future citizens…the sovereignty of our country lies in the hands of our citizens…
    What ever our teachers does to our students is not to spoil them but to make them a better person, sometimes teachers knows best about their children than their parents…so take heart and be considerate.
    The MoE should not go on about implementing more policies, burdening our dear teachers on their heavy teaching loads, rather give space or room for the development of our teachers more professionally to handle situations more amicably…BEATING NICELY IS GOOD FOR THE STUDENTS BUT NOT BADLY BEATING!
  9. drukgyelo | April 17th, 2012 at 10:50:14 BTT |
    Lets wait and see what kind of strategy would come into action as a substitute of detaining and counselling…..hope teachers would not have to handle diary books to record indisciplinary acts of students beside heavy work of planning …..
  10. tutu | April 17th, 2012 at 11:11:26 BTT |
    Education needs to look at the issues as challenge, not trying to find control as means but to conduct research on social cultural context of the nation.
    Counseling is not helpful because teachers are taking the role, teachers can never be counselor.
    I strongly believe that measures to be taken need further assessment and research, instead of one sided view of the problem through the lens of teachers.
    Controlling is not solution but prevention and early intervention is needed.
    Hope MoE reconsider the rash decision of controling the future nation.
  11. phingkha | April 17th, 2012 at 11:32:07 BTT |
    I do like to humbly kneel down to our MoE for coming up with stimulating plan and making advantages to our students sensibly to perform systematically in the school. I do readily cherish it…. But to ruminate the other side of the coin, I do really have big doubt that how such good policy can execute effectively by our principals among the students. And also there will be chances to be bias. As there are some principal who discriminate the students and show the hypocrisy simply by inquiring the student “ what does your parents do…..?” or asking whether their parents are dasho or rich…?” yes, if dasho or rich their belongs to then the principal never take the action but the poor students desperately has to accept the action taken. Thus I am very sorry to interrupt such policy should not be only for the unfortunate family students……….
  12. Mandala | April 17th, 2012 at 15:54:27 BTT |
    My question to Aum Sangay is, “What are those other means?” I think there should be precision of language before it is misunderstood.
    As an education leader you should come up with a clear-cut definition of the newly adapted Ministry’s jargon;”Zero tolerance”, otherwise this jargon is also going to miss-lead our nation builders (Teachers) like it happened with doing away with the corporal punishment.
    Don’t try to save your head with vague concepts, let’s save our heads together.
  13. adorable | April 17th, 2012 at 16:16:52 BTT |
    There are two schools of thought about the corporeal punishment as per the research done in the HARVARD university. Even the western educationist realized that some sort of old thing about the village school master has to be there in he mist of modern education. The discipline has to there in the learners to learn somethings otherwise the things go wrong and the country has to bear the brunt of all the fuss. Great job secretary MOE. It came in right time when our youth in the schools has taken every thing granted . They were intoxicated . At times perhaps the student have forgotten their country, king and the people. I am in the opinion that the stick works best for the students when all the measures fails .This is through my experience as a teachers for last 15 years and as a educationist now.
  14. greenerever | April 17th, 2012 at 17:48:17 BTT |
    it’s a very good result of MoE trying to apply westernized policies into our system. we can get diorrohea if we eat unriped fruits so is the brainchild of few people applied into our systems before consulting the citizens…..
  15. Norbs | April 18th, 2012 at 09:17:40 BTT |
    Moe n planners thinks wat dey wat to think…do wat dey want to do…implementing wat dey want to implement BUT how can v(teachers) do so….its nt like eating sweets…sumtimes sweets used to vomits….waw….wat a thinkers think n planted CANT b appropriate for teachers…..u think it WILL work bt b in odas shoes n do…..nw our students r nt like urs students ven u taught decades ago…….u hve right to do n plan….go ahead,will see what happen……wat a planners…….

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