Mailbox: Lessons from cases of teacher misconduct

Mailbox: Lessons from cases of teacher misconduct

It is indeed disturbing to read about another case of a teacher having sex with a student ("Teacher 'used student as sexual plaything'"; June 18), as expressed by Mr Chan Cheng Lin in his letter ("Rise in cases of teachers' sexual misconduct a worry"; Monday).

While I am sure such incidents are in the minority, each case is one too many, and mars the reputation of the education system and the good work other educators do. I wonder if more could be done to minimise the opportunities for teachers and students to cross the professional line.

In the recently reported case, the teacher was in his 30s but was already head of his school's character and citizenship department. Would not a more experienced and "proven" older teacher be more suitable to head the department?

Of course, age, past record and reputation are no guarantee of a person's character, but an experienced teacher would have more maturity and credibility. This may be a good chance to rope in teachers who are retired or close to retirement.

Teachers today are expected to take on multiple roles, such as overseeing co-curricular activities and organising school outings and trips. I wonder if all this has led to more student interaction outside of the classroom, leading to greater personal involvement.

If not handled well, such relationships could get out of hand and put the teacher and student in vulnerable positions. Are our teachers, especially the younger ones, ready to handle students' personal issues? What are the guidelines for teachers?

Teachers are primarily educators. They should not attempt, nor be expected, to play the role of a social worker or counsellor on top of their duties. This should be left to the professionals.

Quek Hong Choon

This article was first published on June 26, 2014.
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