Several educationists have criticised this move and said it will harm their future prospects.

Man in white shirt speaking over micImage credit: Anbil_Mahesh_Poyyamozhi/Facebook
news Controversy Tuesday, May 10, 2022 - 21:32

In an announcement that has raised eyebrows, Tamil Nadu School Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi told the State Assembly on Monday that “misbehaving students will be expelled from school”. Not only will they be expelled, their “transfer certificates or TCs and conduct certificates will carry the cause of expulsion”. 

The Minister was responding to GK Mani, floor leader of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), who expressed concerns over students' behavior with teachers in many schools. After schools were reopened post-Covid-19, several videos of students vandalizing school property and misbehaving with teachers were reportedly doing the rounds. The School Education Minister said that the students’ phones will be confiscated if they bring the phones to school and use them. In his speech, he added that parents too had a crucial role to play in building the personality of their wards, and that to encourage good behaviour among students, parents and teachers had to work hand-in-hand. 

From the next academic year, the Tamil Nadu government schools will also have awareness sessions on drug use among the youth, and sessions to promote good character and morals among the student community. 

Several educationists in the state have criticized the decision to expel misbehaving students from schools, citing that expulsion amounts to “retributive justice” and will only harm the students’ future prospects.

“A transfer certificate is a part of the record of academic performance and behaviour of a student during the academic year. Therefore, putting a black mark on the TC is equivalent to writing off the student, as the TC is a crucial document to secure admissions to schools, is used as a reference to write conduct certificates in the future, and can also be the basis for processing passports and visas. So an announcement such as this can have disastrous effects and has the potential to ruin scores of children’s lives,” says Chennai-based educationist Prince Gajendra Babu. 

Important to counsel children, learn the trigger for bad behavior

Recently, several clips of Tamil Nadu students vandalizing school property, attacking teachers and fighting with classmates went viral on social media. This could be the reason for the School Education Department to make the new announcement. However, education activists warn the government to revisit their assessment of the situation and come up with better solutions. 

“There are crores of students studying in Tamil Nadu’s public schools. Just because a few videos made headlines, we cannot take that as a general assessment on the students’ behaviour and claim that all the children have become unruly in schools,” Prince Gajendra Babu adds. 

The best way to tackle the misbehaving students is to understand why they are being unruly, and to counsel them and correct their behaviour, instead of just throwing them away, educationists explain.

 “Even if there are children in conflict with the law, schools and teachers have to make them understand the law and act according to the law. It is important to understand why they are behaving this way and to counsel and bring them back to normalcy,” Prince adds. 

Post the announcement, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch (TNCRW) – a state level forum of NGOs and activists working for the rights of children – wrote to the Ministry of School Education. 

The letter asked if “there was any research which showed that expelling a young student with a black mark on the Transfer Certificate would encourage him or her to come back to the right track and exercise good behavior?”. The letter also asked how many positive disciplining strategies were adopted by teachers and schools towards students. 

TNCRW’s letter also touched upon the two-year Covid-19 lockdown and its cumulative impact on a child’s mental health. 

Effects of lockdown and isolation 

The letter added that social isolation among students, lack of control and discipline during the two year lockdown period will show when the students return to school. “The recent incidents of unruly behavior by students are but an example of the continuing gap between teachers and students that has risen post the lockdown,” the letter stated. 

“Every family has gone through ups and downs during the two year lockdown period. It could be social isolation, financial troubles including loss of jobs, loss of pay, mental and emotional harassment from family members etc. Children coming from such homes are bound to be scarred by their experiences. We do not know what they did during the lockdown, the troubles their little minds faced, the negative influences from their older friends or classmates (including exposure to illegal substances), the mental harassment or bullying they faced etc. All of these have a cumulative effect on the child, as his or her behavior is not one day’s occurrence but patterns that have developed over several years,” Prince Gajendra Babu adds. 

Finally, for high school students, the added pressures of facing board exams and lab work upon returning to school can cause further stress. “Lots of children have not been exposed to laboratory work - record keeping and observation writing. The physical health and extra curricular development of these kids have been totally ignored over the last two years. Upon attending physical classes now, they are just given textbooks and expected to study. This can cause resentment and make them act out,” he added. 

Educationists have appealed to the TN government to reconsider the announcement and come up with better solutions involving positive reinforcement and positive disciplining strategies. 

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