SDP’s John Tan has no idea how schools work

A bunch of boys from an all boys’ school were found with upskirt images of six female teachers. They were caned. One was even expelled. Then came this ludicrous accusation by John Tan, who is the vice-chairman of SDP, that the educators involved in this incident were wrong too.

He said this on his Facebook page:

Image from Facebook

Image from Facebook

In making that ludicrous accusation, he assumed that caning and expulsion was all that the school did. That shows that John has an abysmally poor understanding of how schools work. When schools mete out any punishments, especially one of such magnitude and public nature, they will always couple the punishment with some form of counselling and getting the students to reflect on what they have done. Parents would be informed and, often, involved in the counselling sessions.

And the caning isn’t just to punish the boys involved. It was also to send a signal. As the principal of the school said, he needed to send a strong message to them and the school population that this kind of behaviour would not be tolerated and would be dealt with swiftly. The principal also took the opportunity to remind all students in the school of how they were supposed to behave:

“It’s not acceptable behaviour for young men. As men, they are supposed to protect the ladies, not take advantage of them. To do something like this is so very wrong.”

So clearly, if John had a better understanding of how schools worked, he would have known not to make such ludicrous accusations.

Oh wait. What about the part about the kid who was expelled? And the accusation that the principal broke the law pertaining to the Compulsory Education Act?

Now this is where John’s understanding of the education is shown to be woefully poor.

The Compulsory Education Act (CEA) stipulates that it is compulsory for all Singaporean children to attend and complete their primary education in a one of the national primary schools. Parents can apply for their children to be exempted (e.g. homeschooled, attend madrasahs, or international schools). But exemption is subject to approval. Nevertheless, the main point is that CEA covers up till primary education. And the boy who is expelled is in Secondary School. So no. CEA doesn’t even apply in this case.

Even if it does, if John had taken the time to read the CEA, he would know that the CEA puts the responsibility on the parents to ensure that their child attends school. It doesn’t say anything about principals or schools. So it seems that John doesn’t know how to read legislation. Just as well that he wasn’t elected as an MP…

But most importantly, when a school expels a student, MOE has a system to help that student find a place in another school. Expulsion as a punishment is sometimes also used to benefit the boy. It aims to give him a chance to reset, to go to a school where he probably has less baggage, where he may feel less judged.  And the receiving school will often be briefed (very discretely) to continue with the counselling.

Do all these things work? No. But you can’t go around accusing educators of not trying. Because they do. They try really hard. And it breaks their heart more than it does anyone else’s when they know of students who, even after being given all these many chances and with all the effort being put in, are still recalcitrant. Educators jobs aren’t easy. They don’t need people like John Tan casting aspersions on them.

[Featured image from The New Paper]

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