Viet Nam News
Nguyễn Khánh Chi
Mahatma Gandhi famously said that eye for an eye would make the whole world go blind. In other words, two wrongs don’t make a right.
That the world is yet to heed the wisdom of those words is self-evident, but our country has been an outstanding example of forgiving while not forgetting the atrocities heaped on us for years by colonial and imperial forces.
But are we losing this aspect of our civilised culture? A recent incident raises this concern, and it is one that cannot be taken lightly because a profound lack of maturity and wisdom has been displayed precisely by those two subsets of the population that cannot afford to do so – teachers and parents.
At Long An Province’s Bình Chánh Primary School, parents of four students demanded last Thursday that a teacher kneel down as punishment for the latter imposing a similar punishment unfairly on a whole class, allegedly for the fault of just some of the students.
It is said that some students had not done their homework and kept talking during class time, prompting the teacher to make the whole class kneel down.
When her action prompted outrage, the teacher apologised and promised to right the wrong at a meeting between her, the school’s headmaster and parents, but the latter insisted on their pound of flesh, humiliating her in front of some other colleagues.
The head of the Ministry of Education and Training’s Department of Teaching Staff and Education Managers, Hoàng Đức Minh, said “a teacher acting beyond regulations should bear responsibility and be properly dealt with. But any act of humiliating a teacher is a violation of human rights.”
He said the parents may face legal repercussions for their actions.
Hà (not a real name) from Hà Nội, who has worked for the education sector for 18 years, said: “If I faced similar aggression from parents and the school’s management board did not act constructively to resolve the case, I would seek assistance from higher authorities.
“I would even ask for the intervention of security forces or call 113 for help if there was any force or threat of force used.”
Hà said education departments should conduct training courses for teachers that include moral standards, communication skills, problem solving, especially resolving disputes/conflicts between teachers and students, teachers and students’ parents, and teachers and school’s management staff.
Personally, as mother of a sixth grader, the parents’ behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and should never have happened in a society where education and teachers have been held in high regard for millennia.
Some basic lessons have to be relearnt by society as a whole. A child’s education does not begin or end in a school. It involves every member of the family at home, and in all environs outside the home and school where children are taken. Parents and teachers today should know that the spare the rod and spoil the child idiom has for long been discredited. Corporal punishment has proven ineffective in changing a child’s behaviour in the long run, and could, in fact, be counterproductive.
Many countries have banned corporal punishment.
One parent noted: “In families where parents yell, threaten, punish and/or beat children, children often keep behaving in the ways they want, often in difficult and challenging ways. Disciplining a child is a necessary part of parenthood. I believe the key things are to listen, to journey together with your children as their good friend and to talk to them in an open and constructive way.”
Nguyễn Huyền, a mother of two school-age children in Hà Nội’s Cầu Giấy District, was shocked at the lack of respect shown to teachers.
“The incident occurred in a primary school, so I can’t imagine how badly it will impact on the little school goers there. It’s very sad that they have to witness such behaviour from their parents.”
We cannot dismiss this as an unfortunate, one-off incident and sweep this under the carpet. It reflects a breakdown that goes beyond a teacher’s career being destroyed, goes beyond a dysfunctional school to impact the entire education sector in particular and our society as a whole. It cannot be delinked from other symptomatic incidents like violence in schools, students recording fights instead of trying to stop them, shortage of qualified teachers, shortage of schools, shortage of funds and so on.
But it is important to identify the failures at all levels. The teacher was wrong, but should never have bowed down to parents’ diktats, and all the teachers have also acted together to prevent a colleague being subjected to such indignity. The parents, who are also teachers at home, behaved like thugs. What is the message that this sends to their children? We need to reflect on what kind of a society we are becoming, what kind of adults and leaders we want our children to become. — VNS