MUCH has been said about how teachers should conduct themselves, but there are few details on a framework of the dos and don'ts for teachers when engaging with students ("Steps to curb sexual crimes involving teachers, students"; Tuesday).
There are a few points that the Ministry of Education (MOE) could consider.
First, it should restrict teachers from using social media to contact students.
Currently, the Central Narcotics Bureau has clear guidelines disallowing its officers from forming "friendships" with former drug addicts under supervision.
Similarly, the MOE can restrict teachers from befriending students.
This will reduce unnecessary communication and the chance of relationships developing beyond school.
Second, the ministry could create a common portal for each school that its students and teachers can log on to to discuss homework or co-curricular activities.
All messages will be archived so information can be traced.
This portal will effectively replace social media platforms now used for communication between teachers and students.
Third, the MOE could restrict communication beyond school hours, so teachers can have their private time.
No teacher should be chatting with or meeting students after school.
If they need to communicate, they can use the school portal.
Lastly, the penalty for overstepping the boundaries ought to be raised.
Teachers found breaching the social media rule by befriending students or meeting them after school hours must provide written explanations.
Further penalties like suspension or even police investigation should be introduced.
There is no telling what impact the growth of social media will have on teachers and students.
The best defence is a clear framework of rules that are enforced, to serve as a guide for teachers.
Chia Eu Foong
This article was first published on July 11, 2014.
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