By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, (http://rcsocialjusticett.org) & Director, CREDI
“It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile, because they have self-exiled from the education of their children, and to fully reassume their educational role…this can only be done with love, tenderness and patience.”
– Pope Francis
We must consider also the importance of home, school, community partnerships in the education process. Pope Francis has also said: “…the educational pact today has been broken; and thus, the educational alliance between society and the family is in crisis because mutual trust has been undermined. There are many symptoms. For example, at school, relationships between parents and teachers have been compromised.”
In 2009, the then Minister of Education, Esther Le Gendre, said: “Our guiding philosophy is that all children regardless of ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status or gender have a right to become all they are capable of becoming.” Where are we today? Do we have a vision about the kind of society we would like to build?
If so, how are we using this information to inform our goals in education and the planning/delivery of our education system – at all levels? Do we know how many of our parents/schools are helping students to become critical thinkers; to develop skills for moral reasoning; to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible, innovative, productive citizens, and lifelong learners?
What is the quality of leadership/management in our schools? What are the barriers to effective teaching and learning in our schools? What is the role of school supervisors in promoting quality education? What early warning systems exist to inform us that a school may be failing/in crisis? What is the response in such situations?
Discipline in schools
These and other questions ran through my mind as I reflected on the three disturbing video-clips that I saw on Facebook of bullying, extortion and violence at one of our secondary schools. And while everyone was talking about what should be done to the students involved, another video-clip appeared on social media depicting a confrontation between the principal and some male students there.
I was troubled by what I heard the person, allegedly the Principal, saying to the students. And then there was the main perpetrator’s aunt who took to Facebook to cuss and try to defend the indefensible actions of her nephew.
The video-clip of a group of cowardly girls in one of our primary schools ruthlessly bullying/assaulting a “schoolmate” again highlights the need for action to be taken to address discipline in our schools.
During my years as Deputy Director of Education/Head of Quality Assurance in a London borough, I constantly reminded parents and educators that children learn what they live. Students, staff and parents should be treated with dignity and respect.
However, if our parents fail in their duty of care for their children, and if our schools fail to create an environment that is conducive to teaching/learning/fostering good relationships at all levels; if they fail to develop whole school approaches to discipline and prefer instead to confront students in a manner that will “wind” them up to respond with aggression, we will soon find ourselves further down the slippery slope.
We need to consider indiscipline within the wider societal context in which there is too much anger and violence. What impact is this having on students? How are we using our knowledge of the main variables that influence students’ achievements?
Each school must consider the context in which teaching and learning is taking place; the overall effectiveness of the school; leadership and management; achievement and standards; personal development and well-being of students; the effectiveness/inclusiveness of the Curriculum; the quality of provision, including resources; and home/school/community partnerships.
Schools matter– as do parents and students; and they should all be accountable. Unless we put in place rigorous self-evaluation frameworks in our schools, coupled with independent external evaluation/assessment – such as the UK’s Ofsted Inspection system, with a dedicated team of external school inspectors, we will always have difficulties in determining how well our schools are doing, the quality and standard of education in our schools, and what we need to do to help them manage improvement. What yardstick are we using to test “quality”?
“Our children need sure guidance in the process of growing in responsibility for themselves and others” said Pope Francis. Any parent and/or educator who abrogates his/her responsibility to guide the children in their care, is simply adding to our daily woes.