School Discipline: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly




Discipline is essential to the holistic development of a student. However, one may argue that discipline in authoritarian and consequence-based confines may not be as effective as counseling. The effectiveness and end result of any discipline-based system should be to attain an ecosystem where individuals refrain from doing what’s wrong starting from decision making. Prevention is always better than cure.



On moral grounds


The current discipline regime followed in secondary schools are just like those followed in primary schools and junior colleges. Discipline is dictated through bylaws and rules, what is deemed fit by the school authorities encapsulates the school’s core principles and morals. Discipline takes a law-based form. Unlike the law, punishments are kept within the school unless its severity warrants the law to intervene, involving the police. Normally, the student is given a handbook at the beginning of his school year which lists the consequences of breaking school rules and what defines a disciplined student.



More counselling approach


Discipline in a school-based system should veer away from a draconian the-law-dictates-this style. Not doubting that there needs to be consequences when a child repeats his offences but the initial stages of treating discipline should follow a more counseling approach.



Degree of gravity


For minor offenses there shouldn’t be corporal punishment. A reason-based approach and counseling are better deterrents. For minor wrongdoings, some schools dish out light punishments such as staying back in school or cleaning the classrooms. However, it does not address the problem of why the child committed the offense in the first place. It is better to explain to the errant student why his behaviour is not acceptable. This is the hallmark of a good disciplinary system.



Get to the root of the problem


For example, John refuses to do his homework and shouts back at his teacher when asked to submit his work. His teacher angrily tells him to stay back in school, outside the staff room, till 5pm. What good does staying back do to address the reason why John doesn’t do his homework? He will dread going to school even more. Instead, the teacher should first understand why he is not handing in his work. Does he have problems doing his work? Are there distractions at home? Does he have family problems or other issues? This will be a more effective way of getting to the root cause of the problem.


Whatever system a school adopts to tackle discipline, it should be from the ground up and schools should keep in mind that counseling should take priority. Learning personally from one’s mistake by reasoning – and not just through punishment – is a more effective solution.