Monday, January 28, 2019

Positive discipline Q&A

By Nadja Linke

© UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Fani Llaurado

What is positive discipline?

Positive discipline is a method of teaching appropriate behaviour by interacting with children in a kind but firm manner. It reinforces children’s rights to protection from violence and uses discipline that respects their dignity. 

To implement positive discipline in schools, the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS) and UNICEF- supported by Sida, Primark and USAID - launched a training programme to sensitize Cambodian teachers and school leaders to the multitude of negative effects on violence against children. Thus, when a child misbehaves during class, instead of resorting to violence, teachers implement positive discipline techniques as part of their classroom management practices. The goal is to maintain a positive and open relationship between teachers and their students. The training also provides teachers with anger management techniques to help better manage poor behavior in the classroom.

For example, at Peam Ror Primary School in Prey Veng, teachers give out yellow and red cards for poor behavior like those used in a soccer match to signal fouls or misconduct. If a child misbehaves they are given a “yellow card” as a verbal warning. A student can receive up to two yellow cards. As a last resort, teachers hand out a “red card” to the student, in which case the child is sent to the school director’s office where a disciplinary committee formally addresses the issue.

© UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Fani Llaurado

Why do we need positive discipline?

No child should be afraid to go to school. Yet for far too many students around the world, school is a dangerous place. In some cases, children have experienced physical, psychological and sexual violence by teachers. According to the Cambodia Violence Against Children survey from 2013, over half of all children surveyed experienced at least one form of violence before they reached the age of 18. The research showed that victims of violence suffer life-long consequences. Violence decreases self-esteem, reduces attendance, lowers grades and leads many children to drop out of school altogether.

When children were asked about incidents of violence they experienced, both, female and male students said they felt “embarrassed”, “sad”, “angry” and “scared”. Some even stated they no longer wanted to attend school. 

© UNICEF Cambodia/2018/Fani Llaurado
Furthermore, children who experience violence are more likely than other children to become perpetrators or victims later in life. Violence against children is also a financial burden on Cambodia’s economy. The annual cost of violence against children in Cambodia is about US$168 million – more than 1 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, according to the 2015 Violence Against Children in Cambodia report. Given this alarming data, it’s crucial that safe learning environment are available to all children in Cambodia.

What are the benefits?

To put an end to violence in schools, five-day pilot trainings as part of the positive discipline programme were carried out in Kampot, Prey Veng, and Battambang in 2015. Based on the success of this pilot, the programme has continued to expand to additional districts across these provinces. The positive discipline programme has now reached roughly 800 schools with participation of more than 5,000 teachers. Up to 320,000 students have benefited from the programme since its launch.

Some schools have already reported an increase in attendance, better promotion and participation rate as well as decreasing school drop-out rates.  Overall, teachers are witnessing a positive behavior change. They reported that students were more engaged in class, showed greater respect and are better, following the classroom rules created by teachers and students. 

With support from Sida, Primark and USAID, more teachers in Cambodia are expected to take part in the programme so that more and more Cambodian children can learn in a positive environment.

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