I have just listened to an interesting interview with Education minister Evarist Bartolo during which he addressed security and aggression in our schools.
We live in a country that seems to abide by the extreme. It is either black or if not then it is white. We do not seem to be capable to find a balance, being objective is not in our nature. This comes from the fact that many a time we do not even listen long enough to analyse the solution we are presented with and jumping into conclusions without seeing the whole picture. Consequently the measures we put in place to rectify any wrong doing are either inadequate or too harsh.
Stating that all forms of discipline in our schools has gone haywire is a very strong statement and while I am sure that some cases are exaggerated , it is also true that our schools have failed to keep up with the disciplinary standards that people my age were used to back in the eighties and the nineties.
Back in my day my parents would never doubt a teacher’s word against mine, now this has gone all topsy turvy. Even those students attending schools known for being the rowdiest showed a sense of respect towards their teachers and educators and the most unruly of students were dealt with fairly even though with methods that are strictly forbidden today.
I do not condone abuse in any form, but in our typical Maltese style we have gone to extremes. Yes, being hit by a ruler on the palm of your hand for not doing your homework hurt, especially on a cold Monday morning, I was at the end of several “sajjetas” of the sort yet here I am typing away with the same hands that were constant recipients of such “torture”. If anything, the fear of being smacked made me wary of doing my homework.
Recent cases of abuse and our general failure to distinguish the truth from sensational media reporting has triggered an epidemic of overprotection towards our children. We do live in a world where trust has become very precious, and where malice manifests itself in all forms and kinds, but we must not forget that our schools have for decades been the extension of our homes, that many of our teachers are dedicated individuals that go out of their way to ensure that our children develop not only academically but as citizens.
Parents, legislators and educators alike must work hand in hand to rebuild the trust that has been lost for the wrong reasons. I agree with the minister in the sense that schools should not be turned into high security prisons but neither they should be lawless, nor should our educators feel helpless when it comes to discipline students. An adequate balance should be sought to get back on the right track and I am afraid that unless we re introduce some sort of competitiveness both academically and even more so extra-curricular in our schools, our students will not engage in trying to better themselves giving way to arrogance due to ignorance.
Change will not be met without resistance, but change is necessary at this point because the present system is clearly in dire need of being amended. The academic success rate is not one to complain about, although it can be bettered. What worries me and what should worry every parent and educator is whether our children are ready to face the real cruel world by the time they finish school.
We have granted sixteen year olds the right to vote, let us ensure that we also give our sixteen year olds the opportunity to become young adults who can face responsibilities because ultimately they will be the ones to lead the country in the years to come.