Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ending Violence in Schools – Teacher Training on Positive Discipline

By Nhean Sroeung and Rachel McCarthy

Students at Vealtrea school in Thmarkaul district, Battambang province
© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Antoine Raab

What is corporal punishment? What makes an effective teacher? How can we develop effective classroom rules for students?

These were just some of the questions addressed in a new training programme for teachers on positive discipline. The programme, supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and UNICEF, is the first ever in Cambodia. It aims to increase awareness in schools about the causes and consequences of different types of violence and the responsibilities that school directors, teachers, students and parents share in preventing violence against children.

The venue for the first training session was Peam Ror Primary School in Prey Veng Province. School directors and teachers from neighbouring schools gathered during the school holidays for the one-week programme.

District training and monitoring teams facilitated the course. There were strong opinions and ideas bouncing back and forth, and teachers were quick to share their thoughts and engage passionately on the subject. Facilitators used tool books to work through each chapter.

The training package includes a revised and updated child-friendly schools manual on preventing violence against children, as well as three accompanying tool books on positive discipline and effective classroom management: 1) A Guide for Facilitators; 2) A Tool Book for Senior School Leaders; and 3) A Tool Book for Primary School Teachers.

Referring to his Guide for Facilitators, the facilitator addressed his audience and moved on to the section, “How we use language”. Thanks to his training, teachers and school directors from four selected schools in Peam Ror district were trained during the week, but the impact did not stop there. Since the start of the new academic year, all schools in Peam Ror district have reportedly implemented most key parts of the Positive Discipline Programme.

Based on strong interest and commitment, many schools in Peam Ror district have conducted their own dissemination programmes with relevant local authorities, the Commune Committee for Women and Children, village chiefs, monks, school support committees and student councils. They used monthly meetings, festivals, events at pagodas and the time during the national anthem session at schools to get the message out.

Most school directors and teachers have developed joint school principles, with teachers and students in each grade being involved in the process.

When asked their thoughts on the contents of the training package, teachers expressed their enthusiasm at the usefulness of the materials. For Mr. Mork Koy, a teacher from Peam Ror district, the training helped teachers concentrate and manage their feelings. “The contents of the training is not only applicable in schools, but also in families and communities,” he said. He has seen strong student interest in the Positive Discipline Programme, especially in developing the joint classroom principles.

He has also been impressed by the use of interesting games in the training to help engage participants. One activity involves a judicial procedure. During the ‘court hearing’ and based on classroom principles and child rights, the teachers are exposed to a mock judicial process. This leads to great awareness of key principles and basic rights.

Grade 1 teacher Ms. Chea Sotheary said creating the joint classroom principles was an encouraging part of the programme. “These principles provide a clear understanding of the school rules for all,” she said. “For example, students, teachers and school directors must all be on time for school.”

Ms. Chea said the programme was especially helpful for school directors in managing the entire school, thanks to improved teacher-student relationships. “Teachers are able to teach better and students approach teachers more easily and have improved behaviour, thanks to enforcement of joint school and classroom principles.”

Given the success of the programme in its pilot phase, MoEYS and UNICEF will scale up the in-service training in 2016 in Prey Veng, Kampot and Battambang Provinces. With Ministry of Education support, positive discipline training will be integrated in pre-service training and may be scaled up to secondary schools. Eventually, positive discipline training may be offered to all teachers in Cambodia, to the benefit of all children.

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