Set guidelines on behaviour in schools

My old-generation parents empowered the schools to discipline their children. If I got into trouble in class, not only would I be disciplined by the teacher or principal, but I would also receive double the punishment at home.

However, the attitudes of the younger-generation parents are very different ("Respect teachers - they shape our kids' future" by Madam Evelyn Chan Wai Yee; Oct 28).

Today, some parents start with the assumption that their children are right and, therefore, the teacher must be wrong.

The lack of respect arises because, unlike in the old days when teachers were often seen as the most educated members of the community and were looked up to, the education level of many parents now is perceived to be on a par with teachers'.

Parents may think that a teacher's job is easy - with long holidays and short working hours - without taking into consideration the lesson planning involved.

It does not help that the parents are often spoiled children themselves, used to having their own way, and they view teachers as servants whose primary responsibility is to act as a nanny.

They blame the teachers for the children's lack of manners or discipline, completely ignoring the fact that it is the parents' job to teach these to the children.

When I was younger, discipline could mean some form of humiliation, like standing in a corner, a smack on the head with a ruler or being sent to the principal for a lashing.

Today, teachers may feel powerless when it comes to discipline, often fearing repercussions, such as a verbal confrontation with an irate parent, physical assault from students, threats of a lawsuit and charges of assault.

What can be done? Schools and teachers should be proactive in stating the responsibilities of all parties, including parents. They should have a clear set of guidelines about what constitutes acceptable behaviour and what the disciplinary consequences for unacceptable behaviour are; they should lay down the process that parents must follow if they want to appeal against a disciplinary decision.

This will not solve the problem entirely but it offers a means of defending a school and its teachers against parents who want only to complain and attack, especially if the school board is involved.

Francis Cheng