Friday, February 18, 2005

Part 2 of the J1s' Experiential Learning took place today. The tour groups had the whole of today to complete their assignments based on their experiences at Escape Theme Park yesterday. Of course, students being what they are, they didn't impress us much with the way they handled their own time. On a day without a structured timetable so that the students could complete their tasks unsupervised (it was an interdependent learning exercise after all), there were a few who just couldn't take their tasks seriously enough and decided to manage their time doing their own thing as they tried to leave campus before dismissal at noon. These few caused the whole J1 cohort to report back at the Hall for a round of attendance taking a half hour before they were officially allowed to leave.

We staff are constantly torn between freeing up the students to be responsible unto themselves, yet being forced to take 'corrective measures' when students (even if just a few) do stupid things to erode our trust in them.

This sort of thing happens less often when one leaves school to work for a living. The consequences are much greater to bear, for one thing. A reprimand, let alone a dismissal from a job has serious repercussions on a working person's prospects for the future.

For the student, what's the worst that could happen? A scolding? Demerit points? CWO? Easily laughed off, and these days if anything happens to a student in school, the parents step in to shelter the offender and will try all ways and means to shift the blame elsewhere, particularly back to the school itself.

Question: will a working person's parents do the same thing if their child got fired from his or her job? Would Miss X's mom take Starbucks to task if the organization had punished Miss X for a work-related misdemeanor? This scenario is highly unlikely, yet it happens in school. No wonder students don't see much further beyond the end of their noses. They live in a parent-sheltered non-reality. No responsibilities, no consequences, they don't even take themselves seriously.

This is not to say that the majority of our students are like that, but it's true that a few bad apples spoil the barrel. Because of a selfish few, the majority, who are responsible if fun-loving, cannot live in the freedom that they deserve. We're always coming down hardest on the good students because they happen to be diligent enough to be present whenever there's a shelling to be delivered.

I wonder if up to this level of education, parents are more a hindrance to their children's education than they are a help. At this level, we staff need a freer hand to hire and fire students, just as corporate employers are free to deal with unproductive employees. After all, employees or students, at this level they are of the same age and should be treated as such. That way, we will have students in our schools who really want to be there, who have studied their contracts carefully and know what is expected of them and will live up to their expectations in order to receive the benefits that they expect in return.

There must be a clear point at which parents know when they cannot interfere in the lives of their children any longer, and I propose that that point should be, for convenience sake, by the time the kids have taken their 'O' Levels. At JC level, 17-18 year-olds do not need their parents to shelter them any longer and by the same token shouldn't need their parents to tell them what to do either. It was like this 20-30 years ago. To have the situation as it is now is regression, not progress.

Why am I obsessing about this topic today? Because tomorrow is the J1s' Parents' Day. What message are we sending, I wonder?

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