Illustration by Đàm Minh Chí
By Nguyễn Hằng
An eighth-grade student at the HCM City-based Ngô Quyền Secondary School has recently been disciplined for slandering BTS – a popular K-pop group, and its fandom on a social networking site.
The schoolboy created the page “ANTI bts in VietNam” on June 27 and posted obscene messages and photos about the band and its fans, known as the ARMY.
The page angered Vietnamese fans, and they reported his behaviour to the school.
As a result, the student was suspended from November 6-9. His moral score – a score that Vietnamese schools use to evaluate the behaviour of students – has also been marked down to the lowest possible level until the end of the term. He was also made to read a letter he wrote criticising himself in front of the whole school last Tuesday.
And that's not the end of it. A video of the student reading the letter, which lasts nearly 2 minutes, was posted on the school’s Facebook page. The clip was then shared thousands of times including on pages with millions of followers.
It has immediately sparked a debate about discipline among parents, teachers and experts nationwide.
Some approve of the measures taken against the boy, saying he deserved it. However, many think it's too harsh, inappropriate and counter-productive. They are afraid it could cause psychological harm to the student.
Phạm Quý Thuận, a student’s parent, said educational methods changed over time.
“But all the methods aim to make children change in a positive direction,” he said.
In this case, the school should think about the child’s psychology first. Would the punishment change his behaviour in a positive way or would he feel ashamed, scared or develop a strong sense of inferiority that might affect his studies and psychological development, Thuận said.
Nguyễn Hoàng Chương, principal of Lộc Phát High School in the Central Highlands province of Lâm Đồng, said schools often disciplined their students following Circular No 08/TT, issued by the Ministry of Education and Training in 1988, and Circular No 12/2011/TT-BGDDT, issued by the ministry in 2011. However, neither of these documents include anything about making students embarrass themselves in front of the whole school.
“This form of discipline will stigmatise the student. It is emotional abuse,” he added.
In this case, the school should have worked with the student’s parents to fix the problem. Parents had to take responsibility for children's bad attitudes, he said.
Khuất Thu Hồng, president of the Institute for Social Development Studies, said she also felt the punishment was too harsh.
“The student abused a boy band on a social networking site, but the school shamed him before thousands of people,” she said.
From a psychological perspective, it could badly hurt the student’s self-esteem, she added.
Hồng said any student could take things too far on social networks because they had not been taught how to behave correctly online.
In a related movement, the ministry on Monday ordered HCM City’s Education and Training Department to report on the case.
Bùi Văn Linh, head of the ministry's Political Education and Student Affairs Department, said the punishment was inappropriate.
Linh said any discipline should be based on the principle of respect and to promote positive changes among students, while avoiding hurting them.
So, what should the school do to address this mess?
First, it should revoke the disciplinary decision and remove the video from Facebook. Next it should sit down with the student’s parents to discuss how to teach him not to repeat the same mistake in the future. Last, the school also needs to teach all students how to behave appropriately on social networking sites.
Teach students with patience and love, not harsh disciplines!— VNS
BTS is a South Korean boy group, formed and managed by Big Hit Entertainment. The seven-member group officially debuted on June 13, 2013. In 2017, BTS entered the international music market, leading the Korean wave into the US and breaking many sales records. It became the first Korean group to receive a Gold Certificate from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), awarded with the single "Mic Drop".
In 2018, BTS became the first K-pop group to speak at the United Nations on September 24, in an effort to empower young people. They are the youngest people ever to receive a Cultural Medal from the South Korean President for the group's contributions to spreading South Korea’s culture and language.