Thursday, 29 March 2012

Reviewing Student Discipline Approach: An Effort Worth The While

Disciplining students at Ilmu Khas Campus can prove to be very challenging and presents some of the most perplexing issues that the Institute faces. When given the trust to oversee the students’ discipline three years ago, it was nightmarish because a thorough review of student discipline approach was very much needed to ensure the rules and regulations of the Institute is observed comprehensively and abide by the students all over again. This is indeed, retrospectively not an overstatement.

An effective philosophy of student discipline must have several components. First, the philosophy must include a way to inform the students of the Institute rules and expectations. Second, the philosophy must include a way to remind students of the policy and enforce the rules. Finally, administrators and lecturers must collectively be prepared to discipline the students should the need arise.

Executing the first and second component was expectedly uncomplicated and effortless since the rules and regulations are already documented. Nonetheless, it was like waking up a herd of tigers when the “DOs” and “DON’Ts” were accentuated to ascertain that the rules be heeded appropriately. Students with habits of arriving late for the first lecture were among the first to make strong protest when their first hour was marked as absent even though they were physically present for 45 minutes. Majority of the students (lecturers inclusive) objected the implementation of this rule emphasising on the issue of “unfairness”. Fortunately, administrators and colleagues who share the same sentiment of wanting to see changes in students’ behaviours supported the action taken and by the end of two semesters, there was significant number in reduction of late comers. The obstinate were identified and made to register themselves at the Student Affair Department daily for certain duration until they were able to consistently arrived for lecture at least five minutes before 8:00am. After three semesters, the number of late comers was trivial.

Attending lectures have a positive impact on learning and progress for the students.  The Institute must have effective systems and procedures for encouraging regular attendance and investigate the underlying causes of poor attendance which should be set out in an attendance policy. These systems should be reviewed regularly and modified where necessary to reflect the circumstances of the Institute. Being absent for any lecture is not of any student’s choice. If the circumstances are unavoidable, absence must be accompanied with an official document to affirm the reason. Personal claims like stomach cramp, migraine, visiting a sick uncle at the hospital or paying last respect to a dead relative are among the popular vindications used to qualify their absenteeism from without cause to with cause. However cruel it may seem, their nonattendance would still be forfeited unless they go through the proper channel, fill out the exemption forms, informed their Mentors and Student Affair Department before taking their leave. Objections for such tedious procedure were countless when the rule was first earnestly imposed but it was a matter of time that everyone became familiar and receptive of it. Majority of the students developed awareness of the need to validate their absenteeism which resulted in the decrease of truancy.

Students need to be aware of clear, escalating consequences for inappropriate behaviour. Firstly the student should be warned if their behaviour is incongruous and made aware of the consequences should the behaviour persist.  If the behaviour continues, the consequences need to be immediately enforced. Should the student continue to be disruptive the next step should be to contact a parent or a guarantor and make them aware of the trend of the negative behaviour.  Finally, if the student is unable to modify his behaviour, the Act 174 should be exercised as a deterrent to the deteriorating demeanour.  These punitive actions, however, should be employed only after all avenues for minimizing the opportunity for disruptions and attempts at individualized instruction have failed. This procedure is aimed at executing the third component of the student discipline approach where administrators and lecturers jointly uphold the officially employed rules and regulations of the Institute.

Learning invaluable life lessons, developing character and integrity, and understanding one’s responsibility to the larger community embody the values of the Institute discipline process. Everyone is responsible in promoting and encouraging good attendance and punctuality among the students. When these two aspects become a ritual, they will foster good attitude and conscience. Other commendable traits will develop further within these students, provided there is ample monitoring and reviewing of the student discipline approach from time to time by the assigned authority.

Relentless and constant observations and supervisions of student behavioural patterns are much needed to ensure wrongdoings are kept at bay. The process can drained anyone in-charge but indeed after three years, the effort is worth the while.