Authority and discipline (control) in high schools : A psycho educational perspective
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Discipline and disciplinary measures in South African public schools are regarded as one of the principal concerns expressed by all stakeholders in the educational process. A study conducted by Thompson (2002:7) suggested a complete breakdown in discipline at primary and secondary schools in South Africa. Disciplinary problems in South African schools range from physical violence, vandalism, verbal abuse, disobedience, assaults, theft, threats, disrespect for authority, violation of the schools' code of conduct, gambling, truancy, gangsterism, rape, alcohol abuse and even murder in and around school premises (Nthite, 2006:3; Fourie, 2006:8). These misdemeanours greatly increased after government abolished corporal punishment in schools. The question therefore arises: Are these misbehaviours merely coincidental? Most educators and principals seem to agree that the authority of educators has, to a large extent, declined due to the abolition of corporal punishment and the reluctance of government officials to deal firmly with the offenders. This is confirmed by Morrel (2003:292) who maintains that discipline has become a serious concern since effective alternatives were not readily available with the banning of corporal punishment in 1996. The abolition of corporal punishment and the resultant poor discipline in schools, as well as learners not considering teaching as a possible profession (Park, 2006:154) sensitised the researcher to the seriousness of the problem. Being a high school teacher himself for many years, the researcher was concerned about the poor levels of respect shown to teachers by the learners, as well as the ill discipline which contributed to unpleasant working conditions, prompted the researcher to undertake this study. This study therefore, investigated the influence that corporal punishment and other disciplinary measures had on the teaching and learning fraternity. In conducting this study, the survey method was used. Literature review consisted of both primary and secondary sources, while questionnaires and interviews were used to gather information from learners, educators, principals/deputy principals as well as parents/SGB members. The population and sample size for the study was drawn from schools in the Mafikeng, Vryburg and ltsoseng areas of the North West Province of South Africa. The investigation involved 400 learners, 100 educators, 20 principals/deputy principals and 60 parents/SGB members. The response rate ultimately was 90% as two schools did not return the questionnaires, while the response rate from the parents/SGB members was 100%.The researcher was guided by the post positivist approach to data analysis and the data collected was subjected mainly to quantitative analysis, but the qualitative approach was also used. Four empirical hypotheses were tested and the first three results showed no significant relationship between the dependent variable (academic achievement, teaching/learning environment, misdemeanours) and the independent variables (teacher authority, abolition of corporal punishment}, while the fourth indicated a significant relationship between motivation and abolition of corporal punishment using the Chi- Square and Pearson Coefficient Correlation tests respectively. The findings of the study revealed that 61% of learners and educators were sceptical about using corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure and strongly believed that the reintroduction of corporal punishment will retard progress. The findings further indicated that 60% of the parents/8GB members were in favour of the reintroduction of corporal punishment as a means of disciplining students at school. The results of this study also pointed out that the abolition of corporal punishment did not diminish the morale and motivation of educators. In view of the find ings, this study highly recommended: The use of alternative interaction techniques which could contribute to better understanding of learners such as giving them advice and curtailing their allowance and perks, rather than applying the traditional punitive measures. • Teachers could use the detention method and place students in isolation for few hours,failing which, the use of physical (corporal) punishment in a very controlled way where permission of the parents concerned is obtained before resorting to any physical beating. Research conducted by Lessing & Dreyer (2007:128) showed that using these alternative interaction techniques had a more pleasant impact on the teaching-learning environment than the use of any other technique. Teachers were quick to realise that a positive approach to ill discipline encourages good classroom behaviour.
- Education