In the latest move to curb discipline problems, schools across Malaysia will soon have complaint boxes that would allow students to pass on information regarding student misconduct and criminal activities to school administrators.
On Sunday, Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid announced that any information provided by students via the box would be verified by teachers in charge of discipline and, if need be, forwarded to the police.
“The information from the students will be kept confidential. Students need not fear volunteering information about fellow students involved in any form of misconduct.
“This will come under the supervision of disciplinary teachers and the information will be conveyed to school liaison officers,” he told local press, as reported by The Star.
Schools to reintroduce 'complaint boxes' to sniff out student misconduct @MahdzirKhalid @KemPendidikanhttps://t.co/7QLqNDpxQA pic.twitter.com/S9fwcqHAvR
— New Straits Times (@NST_Online) February 5, 2017
According to Mahdzir, schools have seen a rise in truancy cases among students, especially those who have become involved in crime.
“We fear that students who skip school may be involved in serious crimes and may end up being convicted,’’ he added.
However, there are concerns that the anonymous nature of the complaints may cause more problems than solve them.
Speaking to the Malay Mail Online, Mak Chee Kin, chairman of the Malacca Action Group for Parents in Education, questioned whether a proper process was in place for teachers to deal with complaints, saying that without it, the system could backfire and encourage a culture of backstabbing.
He also suggested the possibility that some students may maliciously use the complaint box to victimise innocent students.
Meanwhile, Associate Professor Mohamad Ali Hasan, president of the National Parent Teacher Association Collaborative Council, asked: “What mechanisms are in place to ensure the complaints lodged are genuine? This may end up creating a platform to be abused by pranksters.
“How will the school administration ensure students who lodged the complaints will have their anonymity protected?”
Most secondary schools and some primary schools in Sarawak have installed complaint boxes on school premises to… https://t.co/x7dx4UdXwP
— BorneoPost Online (@theborneopost) February 7, 2017
A secondary school in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, which has had a complaint box for over a decade, shows that perhaps the concerns are unwarranted.
Jisin Nyud, Sarawak Teachers’ Union (STU) president and former teacher at Padawan High School, told the Borneo Post that during his stint at the school, there had only been a few complaints and all of them were “trivial cases of students complaining about other parties bothering them”.
He supported the ministry’s decision to introduce the boxes to schools nationwide, saying: “I think it is necessary because now with students’ access to social media, students are exposed to the vices that come with social media. We do need more ways to know what the students are getting up to.”
Some students are also in favour of having the boxes: a Form Five student, who wished to be known only as Amin, told The Star that the complaint box would give shy students the opportunity to convey an issue privately.
“Some students may not be brave enough to speak to teachers,” he said, adding, “I believe teachers would take the effort to read the notes and see what would be the best course of action.”
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