Chief Education Officer (CEO) Dr Peter Smith says a merit/demerit point system is being proposed by the Ministry of Education to help combat school indiscipline and violence. Speaking during a media conference at the ministry’s Port-of-Spain headquarters yesterday, Dr Smith said incidents of violence were plaguing roughly five per cent of the country’s 820 schools. However, he admitted that the incidents they had seen broadcast over traditional and social media are concerning.
There were several incidents of school violence shortly after the return of students to physical classes on April 19.
In response, Dr Smith said a multi-sectoral committee was set up and charged with drafting a school discipline matrix outlining infractions and solutions to curb such incidents. The committee handed in the document recently and among the proposed action for indisciplined and well-behaved students is a demerit/merit point-based system.
“Basically, what it looks at, in some instances, rewarding students for positive behaviour and other instances they are given demerit points for unacceptable behaviours and that’s the gist of it,” Smith said.
Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly noted that the system is not a novel one and currently exists at many schools.
“I remember when I was a student at SAGHS (St Augustine Girls’ High School), we had commendation and order marks. So you were three times late, you got an order mark and so you did your best not to get an order mark and that kept you in line and disciplined,” she said.
“It’s the same type of system, so it’s not a new thing. It’s something that exists in schools and the possibility is whether we can use it at all schools and it’s something that the stakeholders will also be commenting on.”
Dr Smith said 19 areas were identified to determine if schools needed greater attention to addressing their concerns.
Comparing data from 2018/2019 versus 2021/2022, he said the common perpetrators of school indiscipline were a younger demographic, with 54 per cent of incidents occurring at the hands of Form 1 (27 per cent) and Form 2 (27 per cent) students.
In the year identified prior, it was students in From 2 (25 per cent) and Form 3 (23 per cent).
He said the most common infractions students engaged in were fights (with and without weapons), sexual misconduct, drug possession, drug use, use of tobacco and vaping products, disrespect and defiance of authority.
The Chief Education Officer said the data also shows an increase in these acts being committed during the lunchtime period. He said the frequency went from 19 per cent in 2018/2019 to 34 per cent in 2021/2022. He said these figures were switched when it came to the incidents being perpetrated during classes.
He said the occurrence of these acts during break time also decreased.
He noted that males received suspension notices for the year periods under review.
Dr Smith said a meeting with principals of particularly afflicted schools has been carded for June 9 to address challenges and provide any necessary resources, such as safety officers, full or increased complement of security officers, dedicated counsellors, school social workers and special education instructors.