Study: Students play truant because school is hell to them

KUALA LUMPUR - Most students who habitually play truant actually want to go to school but are turned off by bad experiences.

This is among the surprising findings by two academicians who conducted a 10-month empirical study on truancy among secondary students.

"It's very sad. There is a mismatch between what they perceive school should be and what they experience," said Dr Zahari Ishak.

The Universiti Malaya Edu­cational Psychology and Counselling Department head said truants felt that they could not change what happened at school so they chose not to go.

"School is not heaven but hell to them," he said.

Dr Zahari along with Dr Low Suet Fin, a lecturer at Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Ilmu Khas, Kuala Lumpur, based their findings on a sample of 472 students from 15 schools in the peninsula. The schools include those in urban and rural areas, on islands and in Felda settlements.

They were also surprised to learn that most parents were aware that their children were skipping school.

"These parents prefer their children to stay home rather than wonder in the streets during school hours," he said.

He said the policy of suspending students for truancy was akin to endorsing their actions and should be reviewed.

They also found that students would skip schools during days where a particular teacher was teaching or when there was a particular subject they did not like.

Dr Low said the report was not meant to criticise the teaching profession but provide a reference as to why truancy happens.

"I am a teacher too and lecture at a teacher training institute," she said.

Their research, entitled Senario Ponteng Pelajar Sekolah Menengah, was funded by the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation.